German owners refuse to pay for Holocaust-theft Guarnerius

German owners refuse to pay for Holocaust-theft Guarnerius


norman lebrecht

January 20, 2021

Germany’s ‘advisory commission on Nazi-looted property’, known as the Limbach Commission, has issued a sharp reminder to a Nuremburg foundation to pay up over a Guarnerius violin in its possession.

Five years ago the commission ordered the Franz Hofmann and Sophie Hagemann Foundation to pay 100,000 Euros to the heirs of  Felix Hildesheimer, whose violin was forcibly taken from him in 1939.

The foundation agreed to the Commission’s ruling in 2016. But it has not yet paid a penny to the heirs.

Read on here.


  • James Weiss says:

    Shameful that they have to be reminded. Pay up.

    • Jan Kaznowski says:

      Come on SD readers. Let’s contact the mail below and say exactly that: “Pay up”. I’m going to do it right now:

      Franz Hofmann und Sophie Hagemann Stiftung
      Stiftung des Bürgerlichen Rechts


      • Greg Bottini says:

        I am in total agreement with you, Jan, and James Weiss too.
        As soon as I log off this site I’m E-mailing the Foundation. Thanks for providing the E-dress!

    • James Weiss says:

      4 downvotes? More Nazis around than I expected. Sigh.

      • James Weiss says:

        It’s absolutely amazing to me that in 2021 there are actually people who believe that victims of the Holocaust should not be compensated for property stolen from them during the Nazi era. Stunning.

    • James, this issue, which was reported in Deutsche Welle in 2014 is truly a conundrum. I contend that the German Stiftung knew the provenance of the instrument, and there are recorded efforts of the Stiftung attempting to contact the owners, to no avail until Toby Axelrod a Jewish American journalist living in Berlin brokered a meeting. Prior to this meeting, where the Stiftung agreed to pay the original owners, they put a lot of effort into restoring the violin and even gave it to a student. I’m assuming there are a lot of lawyers involved here to further complicate the issue, so the Stiftung is waiting for the German government to pay up, etc. etc. Calls for a Solomon like decision here and I suggest Ronald Lauder might just be the Solomon here.

  • Micaelo Cassetti says:

    Maybe a comment from Simon Rattle might encourage this “foundation” to do the decent thing.

  • Blessings says:

    Why do people perpetually “living in the past” feel entitled to money from anyone TODAY in the first place

    Which specific individual can they attempt to gain financial satisfaction from?

    Money doesn’t heal anything.

    Simply study history and it’s repetition and renewal.

    People and groups that foment this type of ‘reparations from the deceased’ quest over their lifetime always loose their lives in anger.

    Letting go of your hatred for your fellow man will provide you with the true healing you seek.

    On this Inauguration Day we TURN THE PAGE in history setting pride aside opening up another opportunity for another man to lead and heal as we have done with every single president. Every country has the same relative system in their own way.

    If one truly wants personal fulfillment, it comes from love for yourself and others NOT money.

    • M McAlpine says:

      Sorry but the violin is stolen property. You are saying that stolen property should not be returned?

      • BruceB says:

        That is exactly what s/he is saying. S/he is also agreeing that promises you make should mean nothing if you decide you’d rather not follow through on them.

    • Amos says:

      You’re talking to the wrong audience. Your message is clearly meant for the outgoing POTUS and the fascists who rioted on January 6th in an attempt to overthrow the will of the people of America.

      • Eloise Hellyer says:

        Can we not have a discussion without political references?

        • Amos says:

          Are you honestly suggesting that someone who takes to social media to put forth the notion that the crimes perpetrated during the Holocaust, or more recently during the attempted coup in America, should be forgotten doesn’t have a political agenda? Suggesting that the answer to addressing atrocities is to “let bygones be bygones” is by definition a political effort to excuse criminality.

          • Keith Waring says:

            Today’s Jews expect Christians, Palestinians and Africans to accept the crimes perpetrated by Jews long gone.

            From the murder of Jesus Christ and worldwide financial crimes against so many peoples to stolen Palestinian lands, endless wars and of course the slavery and trade of our black brothers and sisters Jews have much to atone and pay reparations for.

            With the dawning of the Biden-Harris administration, Jews better brace themselves for both the same “diversity and inclusion” policies to be forced on them as well as everybody else. Religion is no longer an excuse to discriminate now!

            The real reason Kamala Harris is so elated is that her legal power to enforce equality is now realized. As most Jews are white, and racial equity is ALL Dems focus on besides climate change this will be a painful 4 years. Educators have focused on African-American history which is why so many young people don’t know about the holocaust or even 9/11. When Biden is gone she’ll have full power to enact reparations. It will be pay up or get locked up!!!

            In short, there’s obviously plenty of guilt and sin shared by Jews of their own doing to pay for.

          • You should be locked up somewhere, and the key should be thrown away.

          • Denisha says:

            “That is what insurance is for” so said the BLM and antifa storm troopers who burned, looted and yes murdered during the left’s pity parties over the last 4 years while everyone else followed COVID protocols!

            Those brown shirts got celebrated with no consequences. The Left uses the same tactics with nobody (ie Jews) reigning them in. No examples are made of these groups. It’s supported by the Left who use Hitler’s tactics which negates all of this whining by Jews.

            You want it? Just steal it!
            That’s what we’ve learned from Democrats. Just like the election.

            Blacks have all the power now, not Jews. Get over your white selves!

    • Evelyn Lampert says:

      Beautifully and sincerely put.

      Money never replaced self-respect and love in the annals of history. Petty arguments and wars already taught us this.

      Let go of the past and embrace the joys of today.

      • SVM says:

        Does Evelyn Lampert intend to issue an open invitation to rob her with impunity?

      • BruceB says:

        It’s not about “self-respect” and “love.” It’s about justice.

        • Hannah Tolbert says:

          No, Jews are after money when they need to look at life outside of their religious bubble. They’ve already taken more than enough from others. No doubt the poverty Madoff plunged once wealthy people into has made them fully reconsider trusting one of their own. Their complex about being somehow chosen created a narcissistic mental illness. Fortunately not all Jews think and act that way. However those that continue centuries of lust after money end up alone, broke and despised. Thankfully a paradigm shift is on the horizon with Biden and Harris in the US. A more humble and inclusive path is fast approaching where religion, race, status no longer dictate one’s ego. Self respect and love will trump money and petty justice.

      • HugoPreuss says:

        Could you please post your address? I’d like to come by and see whether there are any valuables I might like. And then I’m sure you’ll let go of the past…

  • fflambeau says:

    Pay up plus interest.

  • V.Lind says:

    Doesn’t seem that much. And I believe that Foundation is wallowing in wealth — they’d never miss it.

    Very surprising. And disappointing.

  • they will never pay up because they are waiting for the survivors to die

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Some of the facts stated above do not agree with the facts as stated in The Strad: that Hildescheimer, a violin dealer, bought the instrument in 1938 but committed suicide in 1939 over his inability to escape from Nazi Germany; his wife was able to flee to France, and the Gestapo then seized her property including this violin (and others?). So it was not forcibly taken from Felix, but it was seized to be sure. I suppose the Gestapo could argue it was abandoned but they made the abandonment of valuable property the only alternative for people who wanted to live. Same as seizing.

    The Strad is however, vague and uninformative as to who held the violin after the Gestapo was no longer an issue. There are 28 or so unaccounted for years involved here and what they knew is of interest. It was purchased in 1974 “in good faith” (a legalistic phrase meaning without knowledge of the illicit origin), and the owner, a violinist, later placed it into the foundation for the benefit of young musicians. I think it would be interesting to know who the sellers in 1974 were and what they knew and what they did with the purchase price money. They should be questioned and perhaps pursued as well it seems to me. Seems there are folks up the chain on this deal that are getting a free pass.

    The fact that the violinist and her foundation purchased the instrument in good faith is evidently why the foundation was only ordered to pay the heirs about 2/3 of the assessed value of the instrument, rather than full value or turn over the instrument itself. And all the articles I find are clear: the Foundation agreed to this deal.

    It is by the way a 1706 Giuseppe Guarneri “filius Andreae.” But somehow 100,000 Euros seems far too little for such an instrument — I mean, that’s what Paganini played! I wonder if it is an “attributed to” example or is in some other way of uncertain origin. But it could still be an exceptional instrument.

    • Mvarc says:

      “ it was not forcibly taken from Felix, but it was seized”??? Please explain.

      • Colin says:

        According to the account above, Felix Hildesheimer was dead (suicide) and his wife was in France. Thus it was seized (in their absence), not forcibly taken. Have I missed something?

        • BruceB says:

          Yes, you managed to miss the very next sentence in David’s comment: “I suppose the Gestapo could argue it was abandoned but they made the abandonment of valuable property the only alternative for people who wanted to live.”

    • Bill says:

      Although he did own a violin by Giuseppe ‘filius Andreae’ Guarneri, Paganini’s most famous violin is by Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesu’, who was a son of Giuseppe Guarneri ‘filius Andreae’. Andrea was the father of ‘Joe filius’.as well as Pietro Guarneri of Mantua, who was the elder son, and something of a black sheep. Pietro Guarneri of Venice was the brother of ‘del Gesu’.

      Pietro of Mantua was not only a skilled maker of instruments, but also a violinist in the court of the Duke of Mantua. He’s the only maker from the golden period of violin-making that was also renowned for his ability to play.

    • Mike Aldren says:

      Giuseppe Guarneri “filius Andreae was the father of Giuseppe ‘del Gesu’ and it was the latter who made Paganini’s violin and was the only violin maker comparable to Strad.

  • JussiB says:

    I wouldn’t pay either. NPR reported expensive and cheap violins sound the same; only the name brand changes people’s perception. Is an Audi really better than a Mazda?

    • This has nothing to do with the issue at hand (am I perhaps feeding the troll here…?)

      The foundation agreed to pay the amount, and now they should fulfill the agreement. It is like a contractual obligation: If you decide to rent a flat, sign a contract for it, move in and then decide not to pay the rent, what do you think would happen?

      In this particular case, it is reported that the Limbach Commission has no legal authority to enforce such agreements, but one could argue that the “Franz Hofmann und Sophie Hagemann Stiftung” (current owners), having agreed to the terms mentioned, are not acting in good faith and therefore could be prosecuted (but I am not a lawyer and do not even live in Germany).

      As to this:
      “NPR reported expensive and cheap violins sound the same; only the name brand changes people’s perception.”

      That is quite silly!

      They would indeed sound the same to people who cannot hear the difference. And comparisons of violins like this are certainly not as simple as comparing pianos — too many variables involved. For example, not every bow sounds as good with every violin, either; they must match in quality and be suited for one another. I agree that there are probably very expensive instruments which, sadly, are in poor condition due to various things; even the day-to-day weather can have an adverse effect on such instruments.

    • Bill says:

      They don’t sound the same, though the differences are not always obvious. Do an FFT of the output and you see that the ear doesn’t always give a reliable report.

    • fflambeau says:

      Yes to your question about an Audi.


    In a journey through 7 countries, this film takes the audience into the violent whirlwind of fanaticism, greed, and warfare that threatened to wipe out the artistic heritage of Europe. For 12 years, the Nazis looted and destroyed art on a scale unprecedented in history. Luckily, the heroic young art historians and curators from America and across Europe fought back with an extraordinary campaign to rescue and return the millions of lost, hidden and stolen treasures.

  • Dave says:

    I guess I don’t understand. If the German STATE seized the property back then, shouldn’t the German STATE be the one to compensate the victim? Why is the current owner, who apparently purchased the item without knowledge of the earlier seizure, be the one to pay?

  • Wiener says:

    Die Sache ist etwas komplizierter als die einseitige Sicht von Hr. NL ,wenn man deutsch kann und die Zeitungen liest.

  • Only 100,000 for a Guarnieri?

    That’s still a steal.

  • Gerald Martin says:

    Why not just just give the violin back to the family?