Leo I. Lessmann’s Lost Judaica Collection

Towards a Collaborative Approach for Judaica Provenance Research

  • Anna-Carolin Augustin (Autor/in)
  • Julie-Marthe Cohen (Autor/in)

Identifier (Artikel)


In 1943, in the midst of the Second World War, one of the most important German private collections of Jewish ritual objects was stolen from a dwelling in the Old Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam. The owner, Leo I. Lessmann, had sent his collection from Hamburg to Amsterdam in 1936 to safeguard it from seizure by the Nazis. Lessmann himself flew from Germany to Palestine in 1939. Lessmann’s postwar efforts to find his collection remained unsuccessful. In the 1960ies, his claim for the vanished collection resulted in partial financial compensation. Three years ago, the authors of this article joined forces to reconstruct the circumstances of the looting and to locate (pieces from) the lost collection. The following report of this so-called quovadience research shows how rewarding an interdisciplinary approach and the use of archival and oral sources can be, albeit with limitations. Furthermore, this article increases our understanding of the often complicated looting processes, broadens our overview of migration paths of Jewish ritual objects, and of postwar claims for restitution or compensation, which always carried a sensitive load.

Keywords: Judaica; provenance research; Leo I. Lessmann; Nazi looting; Amsterdam


Judaica, provenance research, Leo I. Lessmann, Nazi looting, Amsterdam