Old News is Good News
By: Steven Heller | September 23, 2009
I was searching through old New York Times articles on posters and found the following ArtsBeat blog post about a German design magazine of the ’20s. The post, by Dave Itzkoff and published in February of this year, is titled “Poster Seized by Nazis to Be Returned to Heir.” (See poster below.)
Itzkoff reports on the effort of the son of Dr. Hans Sachs, the publisher of Das Plakat (above), the most influential poster magazine in Germany before World War II, to have his father’s confiscated poster collection returned from a Berlin museum. Over a year ago, I was asked to offer testimony on his behalf, and believed then that the case was destined to fail. The story reads as follows:
A German court has ruled that a rare poster seized by the Gestapo in 1938 from a Jewish collector must be returned to his son, The Associated Press reported. Peter Sachs, a retired airline pilot living in Sarasota, Fla., had sued Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, saying that posters in the museum’s collection were originally property of his father, Hans, a dentist who was put in a concentration camp but later escaped with his family to Boston. In a test case, a Berlin administrative court ruled that a poster for the German satirical magazine Simplicissimus [below] was part of Hans Sachs’s collection and must be returned to Peter Sachs. In January, a German court ruled that some 4,250 posters in the museum’s possession, including prewar advertisements for movies and cabaret shows as well as political propaganda, belonged to Peter Sachs, but held off ruling on whether the museum had to hand over the collection to him.
Nazi minister of propaganda Josef Goebbels believed Sachs’s collection was an invaluable record of German graphic accomplishments. During his years in the United States, Sachs never received any recompense for his incredible loss. Perhaps the only saving grace is that the treasured collection, which includes rare posters of Lucian Bernhard, a major supporter of Das Plakat, survived the war.