NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — An assortment of rare posters seized by the Nazis from a Jewish collector was up for auction in New York this weekend.
Hans Sachs started collecting posters as a teen and became Germany’s leading private collector with 12,500 posters. He was fascinated by the strong graphics used in promotional posters, and his assemblage was regarded as the first recognized poster collection in the world.
“Among the many categories of posters the young Dr. Sachs sought out covered the worlds of art, propaganda and politics, entertainment (from cabarets and dining to opera and early film), travel, sports, consumer products (from cigarettes to the first automobiles) to scenes of war,” according to Guernsey’s Auctioneers & Brokers, which held the auction.
But in 1938, under the direction of Joseph Goebbels, the Gestapo seized the collection and placed Sachs in a concentration camp. Sachs was able to win release from the camp, but never saw his poster collection again.
He fled Germany for the United States just before World War II, and concluded that the Nazis had probably destroyed the posters, Guernsey’s said.
In 1960, the German government awarded Sachs a small amount of restitution for his loss. He died a decade later.
Sachs’ son, now retired, later discovered that his father’s poster collection had been held for decades in the vaults of a German national museum in Berlin. He tried and failed to retrieve the collection from the museum, leading to a legal battle that eventually went to the highest court in Germany, Guernsey’s said.
Ultimately, Sachs’ grandson, Peter Sachs, succeeded in getting nearly 5,000 posters from the collection back.
“Indeed, many of the posters in the collection are believed to be the sole surviving example of those particular images,” Guernsey’s said.
Just over 1,200 of the posters were put up for sale late last week at Guernsey’s, 108 E. 73rd St. The auction started Friday and was to end Sunday evening.
The collection that went up for auction included a poster that Edvard Munch designed for an exhibit of his own works in Zurich in 1922, an 1898 poster by Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, and James Montgomery Flagg’s 1917 “Uncle Sam” recruiting poster “I Want You For U.S. Army.”
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