The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU (JMOF-FIU) debuted a newly curated exhibit earlier this month featuring the posters from the renowned collection of Dr. Hans Sachs.
Confiscated by the Nazis in 1938, the posters were just recently returned to his son, Peter Sachs. The exhibit will be on display through December.
Dr. Hans Sachs was a German Jewish dentist who amassed the largest and most significant private poster collection in the world at the time, totaling 12,500 posters in 1938.
The extensive collection of posters includes mostly small original print runs of art, propaganda, politics, entertainment, travel, sports, consumer products, and scenes of war, some dating back to 1885. The collection features works by notable artists such as Mucha, Steinlen, Cassandre, Cheret, Bernhard, Edel, Gipkens, Klinger, Carlu, Schnackenberg, Dufau, Grasset, Fennecker, Hohlwein, Kainer, Pechstein, Scheurich, Biro, Leyendecker, Christy and Flagg among others. Dr. Sachs organized the first poster collecting society and in 1911, published Das Plakat (The Poster), an international magazine which quickly developed a devoted following.
Before World War II, Sachs displayed the posters as mounted exhibits, open to the public, through a society of friends. After Nazi occupation, Joseph Goebbels, chief of Nazi propaganda sent police to Sachs’ home to confiscate the entire collection, telling him it would be transferred to a new museum.
Years later, Sachs detailed the experience in a report.
“The day after next, three giant trucks appeared. The blackest day of my life had begun. With my own hands, I took 250 aluminum arms, each containing 50 posters, from their supports, removed the bibliography with its 80 larger works and hundreds of single articles, carried 12 full card indexes boxes with 1,000 cards each and the entire miniature graphic to the trucks, where they were carried off – never to be seen again.”
For the next 75 years, the Sachs family did not know the fate of the collection. When pieces were seen in East Berlin in 1966, the family began their pursuit to locate the posters and have them returned. However, each attempt was met with contention from the German art organizations and courts. Dr. Sachs died in 1974. In 2009, his son won a test case at Berlin’s administrative court over one poster. But the German Historical Museum, which admitted to holding 4,000 of the posters, appealed. Previously, the museum claimed possession of 8,000 of the posters. In 2010, the German judicial system affirmed that the posters belonged to the Sachs family, but said the collection must remain in Berlin. The case eventually went to the Constitutional Supreme Court of Germany where it found the family was the rightful owner.
In 2013, the German Historical Museum finally released what remained of the collection, an estimated 4,259 posters. Some of the posters will go to museums, including the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU and The Wolfsonian-FIU. Others will be auctioned.
“There’s, of course, no practical way that I could frame and hang 4,300 posters, so I just didn’t see any other alternative than to do what we’re doing,” Peter Sachs recently told the Huffington Post. “But I don’t feel guilty in any way whatsoever — even with them being auctioned I think it’s far preferable that they will wind up in the hands of people who truly enjoy them and appreciate them rather than sitting in a museum’s storage for another 70 years without seeing the light of day.”
The value of the collection is estimated to be between $6 million and $21 million.