Date: 30 October 2019    Author: Mariusz Klarecki

Warsaw Jewish collections and their destruction during the German occupation

The consistent and systematic extermination of the three-and-a-half-million population of Jews in Poland was a conscious policy of Germans. During the German occupation, about 370,000 Varsovian Jews were killed. Losses in works of art and antiques within this group of the city population were certainly very high.

Before the war, many rich Jewish families lived in Warsaw. There are no reports of witnesses or sources on which losses in artwork collections could be estimated. Only a few people of Jewish origin who survived the war submitted their questionnaire of losses to the city Wartime Losses Department. The remainder of owners of antiques and collections were murdered during the occupation[1].

Starting from September 1, 1939, Jewish collectors and owners of artworks and material culture were suffering serious losses. During the bombing raids on Warsaw, the headquarters of the Command of the Defense of Warsaw, located in Zamoyski Palace at 67 Nowy Świat St., was the main target. Behind the building, there was so-called “antiquarian quarter” concentrated around Mazowiecka, Świętokrzyska, Nowy Świat, Krakowskie Przedmieście and Traugutta streets[2]. Intensive bombing of this part of the city resulted in major losses in works of art and antiques kept in the antique shops belonging to people of Jewish origin as well.

Nearby residential buildings were destroyed as well. As a result of a five-floor tenement bombing on Czackiego St., Flora Neuman lost her collection. She suffered the most serious losses in paintings. Among destroyed paintings, there were many outstanding works of the greatest Polish painters, e.g. The Angelus by A. Gierymski, Hunt by J. Brandt, Cavalry Review on the Saxon Square by J. Rosen, as well as works of O. Boznańska and J. Malczewski. The collection of 50 miniatures by S. Marszałkiewicz and J.L David had profound artistic value. Paintings and drawings of other Polish and foreign artists kept in the flat were destroyed as well. Furthermore, the collection of handicraft gathered by F. Neuman lost during the bombing included antiques of unique artistic value, such as 48 figures manufactured in Miśnia, two vases from the Belweder manufacture, and a 24-element cutlery, tableware and crockery with the motive of birds and insects from Miśnia as well. High-quality furniture of historic value which had fitted out the flat, including, inter alia, living room furniture set from the times of Louis XV, empire style furniture, and a Gdańsk-style furniture set[3], also had undergone destruction.


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The entire collection of the industrialist, Edward Natanson, assembled in 1850 by Ludwik Natanson, was burnt during the first bombings of the capital city[4]. Edward Natanson lived in a ten-room flat at 10 Królewska St. He lost 60 paintings by, amongst others, Jan Matejko, A. Gierymski, J. Chełmoński, Juliusz and Wojciech Kossak, J. Fałat, S. Wyspiański, J. Brandt, W. Podkowiński, J. Malczewski, J. Lampi, and M. Bacciarelli, on top of great western European painters, such as J.B. Greuze, F. Boucher, G. Reni, Dutch masters and others, all of considerable artistic value. Further damage included many French pieces of furniture from the 18th century, a Gdańsk-style wardrobe from the same period, as well as handcraft; 18 vases from the Royal manufacture of Stanisław August Poniatowski at Belweder and the collection of “Saxon porcelain”, all of which were in the house[5].

As a result of the bombing in September 1939, Jan Leopold Kronenberg Palace located near the “antiquarian quarter” at 4 Małachowski Square had completely burnt down[6]. It is known in detail what the industrialist lost in the fire of the palace in 1939 as Jan Leopold Kronenberg added to a questionnaire “an attachment to the losses suffered in 1939 during the Siege of Warsaw in the flat at 4 Małachowski Square[7]. In the attachment, he listed the following paintings: Śreniawita’s horse, Białonóżka, Battle scene by Juliusz Kossak, Night by J. Chełmoński, Winter landscape by J. Weyssenhoff, Foragers by J. Rosen, Circassian by J. Brandt, two family portraits presenting Mrs. Popielewska and Mr. Winiarski, a portrait painted by J. Lampi.

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Moreover, carpets, silver, crystals, and porcelain, as well as an interesting collection of antique furniture were burnt. The aggrieved enumerates the loss of two bedroom sets in the empire style ‘from the period’, empire style dining set made of walnut wood ‘from the period’, living room set in the style of Luis XVI ‘from the period’ and other valuable pieces of furniture, including an antique rosewood desk[8] in the style of Luis XV.

One of the paintings from the collection of Jan Leopold Kronenberg, Rest in the Tatra Mountains Lodge by W. Gerson, was auctioned in the Sotheby’s auction house in London in January 2004. The sale of the painting was stopped thanks to the joint efforts of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (MKiDN) of Poland and Polish diplomatic posts. Later, the Kronenberg Foundation entered negotiations with the owner of the painting, an individual from the Republic of South Africa. The masterpiece was successfully regained, and, in June 2010, the Foundation placed it in the collection of the Royal Castle in Warsaw[9].

Many known antique dealers, such as Abe Gutnajer or Jakub Klejman gathered great collections and developed famous and respected brands in the antiquarian market. The beginning of the war and the Nazi occupation had a dramatic impact on Jewish people’s lives as well as their collections. After the incursion of Hitler’s army into Warsaw, the first year of the occupation saw persecutions, repressions, devastation of Jewish shops, as well as evictions and transfers to the area which would become the ghetto. Both the antique shop and the flat of Abe Gutnajer at 16 Mazowiecka St. were destroyed and burnt during the Warsaw bombing in September. Neither did the second antique shop of Gutnajer at 11 Mazowiecka St. withstand the bombing.

Though the bombing destroyed Abe Gutnajer’s antique shop, it was reconstructed and subsequently closed, with the goods gathered in the shop returned to their owners – all before his relocation to the ghetto in October 1941. After the relocation of the Gutnajer family to the ghetto, Edmund Mętlewicz became their trustee in the antique trade and the entrusted antiques were being sold in befriended “Skarbiec” and “Miniatura” antique shops. The origin of the antiques handled by Mętlewicz is not clear, but they could have been sold by Jewish families before their relocation to the ghetto. However, it is known that the money from the sale of antiques was given to the original owners living in the ghetto[10]. The circumstances of Abe Gutnajer’s death are not obvious. He was probably murdered on July 22, 1942, in the flat at 26 Chłodna St. in the ghetto. On the day of the murder, Abe Gutnajer was operated by a well-known Warsaw specialist in pathophysiology and pathomechanics, Prof. Franciszek Raszeja. That day, the doctor, who operated together with his assistant, received a special pass to the ghetto. When the German soldiers entered the flat, they killed all present flat dwellers together with people performing the operation. Many years after the war, in 2006, in the Christie’s auction house in London, a 17th-century painting probably painted by the Dutch artist P. de Grebber (1600-1652/4) was sold. The painting presented a profile of a reading boy. Before the war, the painting belonged to Abe Gutnajer and was taken by him to his flat in the ghetto. Włodzimierz Kalicki, the author of the article about the history of the painting, suggests that the break-in and the murder of Abe Gutnajer and the other people in the flat was probably a robbery homicide. Almost the entire family of Gutnajer was murdered in 1943 in the Treblinka extermination camp[11].

Humiliation and repressions of Jews started just after the beginning of the Warsaw occupation by Germans. At first, they were burglarizing flats under the pretext of searching for weapons or radio. Entire flats were being looted and valuables, money, paintings, carpets, clothes and food were being taken. Especially in the first months of the occupation, people of German origin already living in the city before the war participated in the looting. Stealing of valuables was usually assisted by Wehrmacht soldiers or SS officers[12]. People of Jewish origin were treated differently – they were being openly robbed without any pretext. Flats were being broken into both by day and by night. Even furniture was being taken by the plunderers[13]. At the end of September 1939, Aleksander Enholc was robbed by German soldiers who broke into his flat in Słowackiego St., where the Polish Bible from 1577, known as Leopolitska, estimated at 10,000 pre-war zloty, was among the stolen valuables. Several English books were stolen from the aggrieved’ book collection as well. The owner described them as “rara avis[14].

A vast collection of Rafał Schermann was stolen to furnish the flats and offices of the German occupying Mayor of Warsaw Ludwig Leist and his subordinates. Schermann was a world-famous parapsychologist and graphologist of Polish origin who in 1936 returned to Poland from the United States. In the article in “As” magazine from 1939, there is a photograph of Schermann surrounded by his impressive collection. He allegedly possessed 400 paintings by, inter alia, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Teniers and van Eyck, with authenticity certificates. In the picture, there is a chest of drawers with a collection of 3,300 fancy bells. He gathered about 350 antique clocks and watches of different kinds. Additionally, he kept 100 snuffboxes and ancient findings in drawers. At first, he deposited his whole collection in a flat at 16 Karmelicka St. in Cracow. A year before the outbreak of WWII, he decided to move to Warsaw to a flat at 19 Koszykowa St. In August 1939, just before the outbreak of the war, the graphologist went to the Soviet Union, leaving his collection in his flat in Warsaw. Rafał Schermann, as well as his extraordinary collection, are missing. It is rumored[15] that the collection was seized in December 1939.

A decree issued by the occupiers in December forbade the Warsaw Jews from changing flats, and in April 1940 the establishment of the ghetto started. All people of Jewish origin coming to Warsaw were allowed to live only within a designated district. In October 1940, Warsaw Jews were forced to move to the ghetto. All dwellers of the Aryan origin had to leave the area of the ghetto. The day after the deadline set by the chief of the Warsaw district, on November 16, 1940, the ghetto in Warsaw was closed. 138,000 Jews were in the forced resettlement and moved to flats left by 113,000 Warsaw dwellers of the Aryan origin[16]. Living conditions in the ghetto were egregiously difficult. Huge overcrowding, of 6-7 people for a room in the beginning, rose to 8-10 people. The streets were disturbingly congested. At the early stage, about 360,000 people were located in a Jewish district of about 307 ha. This number quickly rose to 450,000 when the people displaced from outside Warsaw joined the district. The ghetto was divided into, so-called, Large and Small Ghettos. They were connected with a footbridge over Chłodna St. The Large Ghetto, located in the northern part of the territory, was inhabited mainly by the poor. The territory of the Small Ghetto located to the south of Chłodna St., near Śliska and Sienna Streets, was smaller and the population density was lower. There, the flats of wealthier Jews were located[17].

Leaving their companies, shops and manufactures outside the ghetto was a great loss for the Jewish entrepreneurs. The issued proclamation ordered all entrepreneurs to gather at a given place and time. Men, escorted by the police, were taken outside the ghetto and were told to open their shops to make inventories in the presence of the Chamber of Commerce representatives. After the whole day of waiting for the officials, in the evening, the police came back to take over the keys and took the owners back to the ghetto. A similar situation happened to the property owners, who, not being able to manage their business from the ghetto, were entirely deprived of their incomes. The Jewish community was buying the works of many painters and sculptors living inside the ghetto to help them. Such a financial aid helped the Jewish artists to maintain dignity in the face of the increasing threat of starvation[18].

To rescue their flats and places of employment, Poles were trying to negotiate with German authorities about the change of the ghetto boundaries. Collector Stefan Talikowski recollects that when dwellers of Elektoralna Street found out that it was going to be included in the ghetto, they asked an influential counsel from Berlin to exclude Elektoralna Street from the ghetto territory. The counsel who was supposed to represent the street dwellers ordered them to collect signatures of owners of all small factories, manufactures and shops located in this street and to provide the number of the employees. Entrepreneurs and residents of houses in Elektoralna St. organized a donation and, for instance, the owner of the Fraget factory joined the action. Dwellers of Elektoralna St. prepared a special plan of the district with the proposed boundary of the ghetto according to the guidance of the counsel. All efforts of the Elektoralna St. dwellers, despite the apparent involvement of the German counsel who took the money, turned out to be fruitless. The flat of Stefan Talikowski was included in the ghetto in November 1940. Foresightedly, Stefan Talikowski earlier exchanged flats with Dr. Mamrot – a Jewish dentist who lived in a tenement at 6 Chłodna St., located vis-à-vis the Charles Borromeo Church. Unfortunately, this tenement was included in the ghetto a year later[19].

One can imagine the disorder in the city caused by such a huge resettlement action. The transport of furniture had to be organized and generously paid. A housing office established by Germans gave Talikowski’s family a six-room flat at the corner of Sienna and Sosnowa Streets. Frequent relocations were not easy for the family. Furniture from the 13-room flat was packed into two huge vehicles with a capacity of a railway wagon each. The Hartwig transport company sent 10 men to bear and 2 men to pack the objects. Talikowski notes: “When they tried to move the cupboard in the dining room, it turned out that it is as long as the whole wall, it was made of solid oak wood and richly carved, it could be divided only into two parts, up and down, 8 people lifted it and carried from the first to the ground floor”[20]. Many less valuable pieces of furniture were given to befriended neighbors or otherwise sold.

Wealthier Jewish families which could not take all their goods deposited them. Pianos, furniture, carpets, paintings, crystals and other expensive goods were placed in their friends’ flats from the wealthy intelligentsia and aristocracy living on the other side of the wall. Poorer Jews were giving their goods to caretakers, co-workers and other house dwellers. Sometimes, well-paid transports with Jewish goods were not arriving at their destinations. This may have been caused by pure carelessness or a coincidence which resulted in takeovers of the carrier by Germans[21]. This is how the carriers were cheating their clients and appropriating the Jewish wealth. When it happened, the aggrieved could not even appeal for justice as he could not leave the ghetto. There were cases when the objects which reached the receiver were not willingly given back. Valuables and works of art were being hurriedly sold at a lower price. Accumulated cultural material of many generations was disappearing in this way, but on the other hand, this is also how a part of it had survived via redistribution to other Polish cities. Nevertheless, a seriously large part of valuable works of art and antiques was destroyed and burnt during the Warsaw Uprising or transported by the occupants in the following months.

Before the outbreak of the war, Zygmunt Heilpernia lived in a mansion on Aleja Róż Avenue. He was observing the repressions of Jewish Warsaw dwellers from October 23, 1939. On August 19, 1940, “I was unexpectedly forced by the occupants to leave my flat and furnishing within several hours, they allowed me to take only…underwear” – he recalled. The collection of the aggrieved contained mainly the elements of the mansions’ artistic furnishing. Heilpernia was then forced to live in the ghetto at 5 Orla St., “where looting continued until half of August 1942. They were stealing valuables, jewelry, land bonds, silver, money, bed linen, securities, shares, clothes, cameras, food, they left nothing”. In the middle of August 1942, Zygmunt Heilpernia was forced to leave his flat in Orla St., barely surviving. In the following months, he was forced to change his place of living over 20 times “until he lost all [of his wealth], saving only photographs”[22].

Andrzej Rotwand used an interesting idea to hide his collection. The idea to construct a locker under his house at 8/10 Chocimska St. was given to him by his friend, Władysław Michalski, a collector and architect as well, who earlier made a similar locker under his own house. Rotwand deposited more precious paintings in the National Museum, sculptures and handcraft, where in turn, he hid under his house. His collection of Polish paintings only consisted of over 150 paintings, including many masterpieces. The pre-war art collection gathered mainly by Andrzej’s father – Stanisław Rotwand, was considered as one of the greatest private collections in Poland. The collection of paintings disappeared during the Warsaw Uprising. The locker under the house was not discovered by Germans and looters and remained untouched. Only rainwater which entered the trench caused minor damage. Andrzej Rotwand survived the war hiding from persecutions. His wife, Maria Rotwand provided him with a proper hiding place and care. After the war, in the questionnaire of losses Andrzej Rotwand included a list of 153 paintings and 6 sculptures “exported or destroyed by Germans”. His overall loss was estimated at PLN 41,200. The entire collection of paintings was probably exported by Germans in the same transport which carried paintings taken from the National Museum of Warsaw. After the war, some elements of Rotwand’s collection were found among paintings belonging to the National Museum of Warsaw found in Germany. Subsequently, the paintings were kept as a private deposit in the National Museum. Many of them have decorated the Gallery of Polish Painting for many years (e.g. Death of Ellenai by J. Malczewski, Alarm and Skirmish by J. Brandt). Some paintings went to the Rotwand’s flat. A major part of the regained collection of paintings together with property rights to missing works of art were sold in 1995 by a widow Maria Rotwand[23].

Andrzej and Maria Rotwand, Warsaw, 1938. @NAC

The owner of the “Sirius” machine factory, Józef Jakobsfeld, was arrested for the first time on October 17, 1939. During his imprisonment, the 60-year-old man was severely beaten – “when I left the prison, I had to undergo treatment and I stayed in bed for 3 months”. During the sweep on August 22, 1942, he was beaten again “they were beating in the head, I could not speak”. The entrepreneur was hiding for six years and paying for subsequent hiding places. Jakobsfeld paid for the freedom of his daughter Alicja, imprisoned in Pawiak in 1942, and paid for rescuing his son and daughter-in-law’s lives. Racial persecution was accompanied by the seizure of property. In August 1940, a factory and a flat in Złota St., including movables, were seized “even with the provision for Schmittburg and exported by him. He left blank walls”. In the industrialist’s flat, there were paintings by, amongst others, F. Żmurko, W. Hoffman, W. Wodzinowski, F. Wygrzywalski; additionally “a set of Chinese porcelain – a present from General Zajączek and different souvenirs from the times of Stanisław August Poniatowski” as well as other artistic objects[24].

A Dr. of Psychology, Róża Baumgarten, who before the war lived in Koszykowa St. on her own, was forced to move to the ghetto in Ogrodowa St. same as all Warsaw dwellers of Jewish origin. In the ghetto, she was forced to work arduously in Schulz’s factory on Nowolipie St. During the liquidation of the ghetto in 1943, together with other Jews, she was put into a train wagon transporting people to Auschwitz (Oświęcim) for death. She managed to escape to the Aryan side “just before the final burning of the ghetto”. During the resettlement in 1940, she lost the entire artistic furnishing of her flat, including a collection of paintings represented by such artists as J. Fałat, J. Stanisławski, H. Szczygliński and others[25].

Before the war, Mieczysław Michelson-Walicki, a Jewish merchant, lived on Ujazdowskie Avenue. In 1940, the Germans deprived him of two big paintings by Józef Ryszkiewicz. One of them – Death of a victualer was about 20 square meters in size and its value was over PLN 25,000. The second painting was 8 square meters in size and was valued by the author at PLN 10,000. Additionally, 11 Persian carpets were taken from the flat, 30 square meters each and their value was estimated at PLN 45,000. Another Jewish merchant, Andrzej Weintal, in 1942, lost all movables taken from his flat, including paintings: Sailboat by M. G. Wywiórski, Disappointed woman by W. Wodzinowski, Ulan and a Girl by W. Kossak, bronze sculpture „Gladiator” and a period English clock.[26]

One of the methods to preserve the goods before moving to the ghetto was to sign them over to neighbors or friends of the family. Monika Żeromska describes the case of Mortkowicz couple who in 1940 signed their business over to Monika’s mother, Anna Żeromska to save their publishing house and a bookshop from Germans. The legal document was predated by three years and according to it, the company’s assets were signed over to a widow of a writer to cover the debts of the publisher. Before the war, Mortkowicz’s company was publishing books of Stefan Żeromski. Hence, Anna Żeromska deposited some books from the vast collection of Mortkowicz family among her friends. During the occupation, the bookshop business was profitable. It employed several people and maintained two Jewish families, Mortkowicz and Beylin, which were hiding near Warsaw. Part of the money was also given to “the constantly following racketeers. After taking the extorted money, they were leaving, but it was obvious that they would come back in a few days. So it was necessary to look for another place to hide. Monika [Żeromska] was the one who organized new places, at first with the help of her current husband, Bronisław Zieliński, later thanks to her own contacts with the AK[27].

Sometimes, there were more mediators for fear of denouncing a Jewish business by Germans. A. Ryszkiewicz recalls the antique business of N. Sakiel located in Lilpop’s house at 7 Mazowiecka St. Most likely, Zofia Leśniewska was the trustee of Sakiel’s interests as in 1940 she opened an antique shop in the same building. The shop specialized in handcraft and was named “Zofia Leśniewska and Company”. Leśniewska’s shop was definitely one of the biggest and best-equipped antique shops on Mazowiecka St. Many classy Nazi soldiers, including Governor-General Hans Frank, were supposed to be the shop’s clients. In the ghetto newspaper “Gazeta Żydowska” (Jewish Journal) Sławomir Bołdok found an announcement with information: “Art Gallery – Z. Leśniewska and Co. […] through its representatives in the Jewish district purchases paintings, designer furniture, carpets, works of art and antiques […] we pay the full price immediately in cash”. This piece of information shows how Leśniewska was acquiring works of art and antiques to her shop. The authors of the book “Getto Warszawskie” claim that Leśniewska’s business was a cover for organizing escapes of Jews from the ghetto. They also mention Leśniewska’s associate, Weinstein, who together with his wife was organizing help for the ghetto refugees. Therefore, Leśniewska’s antique shop played an important role in trade contacts between the ‘Aryan’ side and the ghetto which resulted not only in her income but also in the financial help for people in the ghetto. Moreover, Leśniewska’s business contributed to saving the lives of many Jews. Natan Sakiel, thanks to receiving a title of an honorary consul of one of the South America states, avoided being closed in the ghetto[28].

Helena Szerszewska in her reminiscences described one of the antique shops in the ghetto which was rather a little shop with various items. It belonged to the pre-war antique seller from Świętokrzyska St. – Kleisinger: “There was a small display with several old plates, two silver sugar bowls, a cord of amber, a Turkish shawl. And an ivory miniature and a chessboard with figures […] there was nothing to look at. But I was stopping and staring at those unwanted things, so incompatible with the surrounding harsh reality of the ghetto[29].

Persecuted Jews were being rescued by Poles who risked their own lives and entire belongings. Hiding Jews could receive the largest financial help from the Council to Aid Jews (Żegota). they spent over PLN 37 million and USD 50 thousand for this purpose in 1943-1944 alone. After the closure of the Jewish district, about 20 thousand people were hiding in Warsaw, 4 thousand were aided by Żegota[30]. Ludwik Munk, engineer and contractor, was hiding in a three-room flat in Berezyńska St. In 1940, as a result of a denunciatory note, the flat was taken over by Gestapo but the persecuted Jew managed to escape. The man lost his valuables, including 22 paintings of J. Fałat, S. Filipkiewicz, F. Ruszczyc, J. Pankiewicz, L. Gottlieb and others. Moreover, his handcraft was seized as well: Persian carpets, old porcelain, glass, silver and cabinet furniture, “very valuable antiques”[31].

Adam and Aniela Uziembło were two of those Poles who helped the Jews preserve their valuables and works of art. Jewelry and money hidden in pouches were given in parts to the owners when necessary. “There were also works of art, Zak’s paintings, among others. These were damaged during the Warsaw Uprising. But there were mainly small things”. The Uziembło couple describe also the cases of takeovers of Jewish companies by trusted Poles. Sometimes, Jews in the ghetto were able to perfectly manage their businesses on the ‘Aryan’ side of the wall. In their diary, Adam and Aniela Uziembło describe a Jewish family which perfectly managed to sell furniture from their old flat in Cracow[32].

Before the outbreak of the Ghetto Uprising, impoverished Jewish families had no valuables. Works of art and antiques were sold in the first place to buy food and medicines to survive. Residents of the ghetto who had remaining valuables in their flats were especially exposed to invasion and robbery by policemen or soldiers. They were taking mainly works of art, carpets, chandeliers, jewelry, valuable furniture and other goods. Zofia Wróblewska describes another terrifying possibility of Jews in the ghetto to escape their tragic fate: “Sabina started to persuade people to sell everything… What? – chandeliers, paintings, a cupboard. Then, buy a lot of food, eat dinner together and take cyanide. Nobody thought then that this was, in fact, the most dignified solution”[33]. The history of the artistic objects which were being sold in exchange for food to the “other side of the wall” ended a year later together with the destruction of the rest of Warsaw.

During the pacification of the ghetto, a huge area of the city was destroyed. A terribly large part of artistic objects belonging to Jews was stolen and destroyed by the German occupants or brought into the circulation of the antique market in the Aryan side. Due to the total destruction of the ghetto and seizure of even the smallest objects during  transportation to death camps, preservation of valuable antiques was not possible. Alongside with the Jewish community, people killed included those connected with culture and art, and also enthusiasts, including antique sellers and collectors. Most of them, after being gathered at Umschlagplatz, were transported to the Treblinka death camp. The rest died or was murdered during the uprising[34] which broke out in the Jewish district on April 19, 1943.

Only a few managed to survive the war. Marian Fajertag-Dąbrowski, owner of the antique shop “Museion” at 1 Warecka St. was one of them. Artistic objects in his antique shop were partly damaged during the bombing in September 1939. In the same year, when Germans invaded Warsaw, the antique shop was robbed by the occupants. In 1940, Fajertag-Dąbrowski’s business was probably seized due to the Jewish origin of the owner. The aggrieved wrote: “in 1939, brilliants and pearls worth about PLN 100,000 were stolen”. In the attachment to his questionnaire, he presented an impressive inventory of his shop consisting of 278 paintings of remarkable Polish painters as well as 67 miniatures. The list included losses in porcelain and furniture also. The antique seller possessed a detailed inventory of lost collections as he included in the questionnaire a note: “Briefly enlisted works of arts are very extensively described in my catalogue which I can present at any request[35].

Dr. Jakub Klejman, a graduate of the medical department in Paris also survived the war. He devoted his whole life to antiques. Before the war, he opened an Art Galery at 1 Mazowiecka St. in Warsaw and became one of the most appreciated antique dealers of the times: “he possessed such a knowledge of works of art, especially paintings, that he was an indisputable authority” in the matter. In pre-war Poland, an antique dealer was providing works of art to museums, ministries and representative governmental buildings. When the war broke out, Klejman closed his antique shop. He was hiding outside the Jewish district in a flat and conservation workshop of Henryk Kucharski at 5 Oboźna St. This place was a former workshop of a painter Wojciech Gerson. To make a living, he was selling paintings in art galleries “Skarbiec” and “Miniatura”. Stefan Talikowski recalls that during the occupation, Klejman was holding long social meetings which could have ended in a tragedy. Fortunately, Jakub Klejman survived the war and was one of the first to open his own antique shop in 1945 in Szpitalna St. which lasted until 1950. He probably moved to England and then to the United States where, according to Talikowski, “the most respected specialists in art were consulting him and wanted to hire him[36].

No antique shop survived the destruction of the ghetto. No Jewish antique dealer, except for J. Klejman, decided to reconstruct his business in post-war Poland. Antique objects shared the fate of the city. Few people returned to ruined houses and shops after the war and such as Klejman managed to save remnants of the antique treasures from the rubble. After the war, J. Klejman’s antique shop in Szpitalna St. was visited by an owner of the antique shop “Skarbiec”. According to her, Klejman said: “Mrs Żalińska, you sold my paintings for a great price – And what have you done with the money? – I asked – I bought paintings from an old school. They all burnt during the Uprising”[37].


[1] E. Bergman, Żydzi nie tylko na Nalewkach, [in:] W. Fałkowski, Straty Warszawy 1939-1945. Raport, the Capital City of Warsaw, Warsaw 2005, p. 197; The National Library Of Poland (BN), H. Bryskier, Żydzi pod swastyką czyli getto w Warszawie wieku XX, sign. Rps. III 7938,  p. 303-308; N. Davies, Powstanie`44, Cracow 2006, p. 168-169.

[2] S. Bołdok, Antykwariaty artystyczne salony i domy aukcyjne, Warsaw 2004, p. 138-139.

[3] State Archive of the Capital City of Warsaw, Municipal Executive, the War Damage Department (hereinafter referred to as APW ZM WSW), sign. 136, nr kw. 4054, p. 263. All losses in works of art were estimated by Tadeusz Neuman at PLN 326,300.

[4] Ludwik Natanson (1822-1896), Polish doctor of Jewish origin, one of the most active and respected doctors in Warsaw. He especially contributed to the Warsaw dwellers during the cholera epidemic in 1848-1852. He was also known as a doctor of families with high material status, such as Zamoyski family, see: T. Ostrowska, Natanson Ludwik (1822-1896), [in:] Polski Słownik Biograficzny (PSB), vol. XXII, Ossolineum 1977, pp. 605-607.

[5] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 91, nr kw. 15268, p. 74, see: E. Chwalewik, Zbiory polskie. Archiwa, biblioteki, gabinety, galerie, muzea i inne zbiory pamiątek przeszłości w ojczyźnie i na obczyźnie w porządku alfabetycznym według miejscowości ułożone, vol.2. Warsaw-Cracow 1927. vol. 2, p. 407; K. Estreicher, Straty Kultury Polskiej. Katalog strat kultury polskiej pod okupacją niemiecką 1939-1944, London 1944, [in:] Straty kultury polskiej pod okupacją niemiecką 1939-1944 wraz z oryginalnymi dokumentami grabieży, Cracow 2003, p. 395; A. Tyczyńska, K. Znojewska, Straty wojenne. Malarstwo polskie. Obrazy olejne, pastele, akwarele utracone w latach 1939-1945 w granicach Polski po 1945, vol. I, Poznań 1998, pos. 39, 89, 134, 236. The aggrieved estimated the loss in the collection of paintings at PLN 350,000.

[6] Kronenberg Palace was burnt inside, but the front elevation was maintained in a good condition until the end of the war – see: L. Sempoliński, Warszawa 1945 – fotografie, Warsaw 1975, il. 156, p. 180. Photo of the burnt Kronenberg palace – see: W obiektywie wroga. Niemieccy fotoreporterzy w okupowanej Warszawie, 1939-1945, Warsaw 2009, p. 120 and the aerial photo of this object, p. 128.

[7] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 119, nr kw. 22297, no pagination. The monumental palace was erected at the request of Kronenberg family in 1869, designed by Hitzig. – see: T.S. Jaroszewski, Dzieje pałacu Kronenberga, Warsaw 1972; J. Zieliński, Atlas dawnej architektury ulic i placów Warszawy, vol. 10, Warsaw 2004, p. 61. Leopold Jan Kronenberg was born on February 14, 1891, in Warsaw, died in Los Angeles in 1971. Kronenberg in his questionnaire described the loss of his whole family. His wife was killed by a bomb on September 6, 1944, his daughter was killed during the Warsaw Uprising, his son died as a partisan in November 1945.

[8] Edward Chwalewik in Zbiory Polskie mentions the collection of Kronenberg family, listing mainly extensive archives and paintings, such as: Łazienki by Canalett, Aquarelle scenes of Warsaw by Z. Vogel, Interior of Łazienki by A. Gryglewski and “family portraits, collection of miniatures, Polish antiques” –  E. Chwalewik, vol. 2, op. cit., p. 397-398. Karol Estreicher in a book Straty Kultury Polskiej published during the war also enumerated Kronenberg’s collection damaged during the bombing and fire in 1939 in Małachowski Square. The collection included paintings of foreign artists, such as: 17th-century Dutch painter J. Jordaens, signed with A.H. monogram, A girl feeding birds by A. Gierymski, Starry night by J. Chełmoński and Theatre in Łazienki by H. Siemiradzki – K. Estreicher, op. cit., p. 393. see:  Straty Wojenne. Malarstwo polskie, Poznań 1998, op. cit., pos. 71.

[9] See: A. Tyczyńska, K. Znojewska, Straty wojenne. Malarstwo polskie. Obrazy olejne, pastele, akwarele utracone w latach 1939-1945 w granicach Polski po 1945, Warsaw 2012, vol. II, poz. 372; A. Tyczyńska, K. Znojewska, Straty Wojenne. Malarstwo polskie, vol. I, op. cit., pos. 71.

[10] S. Bołdok, op. cit., pp. 229, 233, note 41.

[11] With relation to the mysterious death circumstances – see: S. Bołdok, op. cit., p. 229; W. Kalicki, Świadek tylko czyta, Gazeta Wyborcza, 21.04.2008, no. 15/774; B. Engelking, J. Leonciak, Getto Warszawskie. Przewodnik po nieistniejącym mieście, Warsaw 2001, p. 666. In March 2006, an anonymous owner brought a painting Young man reading by the Dutch painter Pieter der Grebber (1600-1652/54), which belonged to Abe Gutmajer into the London branch of the Christie’s auction house. It was discovered by experts from Art. Lost Register, and the Polish MFA joined the negotiations. The painting was sold on April 25, 2008, for 46,100 pounds. The profit was divided into two parts between the seller from Latvia and Abe Gutnajer’s heirs.

[12] C. Łuczak, Polityka ludnościowa i ekonomiczna hitlerowskich Niemiec w okupowanej Polsce, Poznań 1979, p. 250.

[13] J.S. Majewski, Śródmieście i jego mieszkańcy w latach niemieckiej okupacji: październik 1939 – 1 sierpnia 1944. Dzień powszedni, [in:] W. Fałkowski, Straty Warszawy 1939-1945. Raport, The Capital City of Warsaw, Warsaw 2005, p. 71.

[14] APW, ZM WSW, sign.. 159, nr kw. 9992, p. 978.

[15] Ilustrated Weekly Magazine „As”, 5 March 1939, p. 14-15; Robert J. Kudelski, Zrabowane skarby. Losy dzieł sztuki na ziemiach polskich w czasie II wojny światowej, Cracow 2012, p. 34.

[16]  J. Adamska, J. Kaźmierska, Getto warszawskie opisane przez hitlerowca. „Kronika Warszawy” 1983, nr 1/53, p. 70 as cited in: E. Bergman, Żydzi nie tylko na Nalewkach, [in:] W. Fałkowski, op. cit., p. 197; see also: K. Dunin-Wąsowicz, Warszawa w latach 1939-1945, Dzieje Warszawy, vol.5, Warsaw 1984, p. 282. M. Getter claims that the whole resettlement action touched about 220,000 people, see:  M. Getter, M. Getter, Władze niemieckie okupowanej Warszawy, [in:] W. Fałkowski, op. cit., p. 215.

[17] E. Bergman, Żydzi nie tylko na Nalewkach, [in:] W. Fałkowski, Straty Warszawy 1939-1945. Raport, The Capital City of Warsaw, Warsaw 2005, p. 197; BN, H. Bryskier, op.cit., p. 156- 157; K. Dunin-Wąsowicz, op. cit., p. 286.

[18] H. Szerszewska, Krzyż i mezuza, Warsaw 1993, p. 46-47; L. Tyszka, Wspomnienia z warszawskiego getta, Biuletyn ŻIH, Warsaw, 1974, nr 1 (89), p. 116, as cited in S, Bołdok, op. cit, p. 171.

[19] BN, S. Talikowski, op. cit., p. 397. The following change of the ghetto boundaries took place on September 26, 1941, and the relocation of several dozen of the included territory dwellers ended on November 8, 1941. – M. Getter, Władze niemieckie…, op. cit., p. 215-216; K. Dunin-Wąsowicz, op. cit., p. 282-283.

[20]BN, S. Talikowski, Kronika rodziny Talikowskich –Talikowiczów, BN, sign. akc. 11061, p. 397.

[21] BN, H. Bryskier, op. cit., p. 156- 157.

[22] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 46, nr kw. 3832, p. 395.

[23] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 147, nr kw. 6967, p. 896, zał. do kw. see: K. Estreicher, op. cit., p. 399.

[24] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 75, nr kw. 1111, p. 494. „Sirius” machine factory was located at 51 Zamojski St. During the bombing on September 8, 1939, it burnt. In the years 1940-41, the entrepreneur reconstructed the factory and fixed part of machines. His daughter Alicja Jakobsfeld was hurt in 1939 during the bombing. Józef Jakobsfeld’s wife died, his brother Gustaw was shot and his wife Cecylia was taken to Treblinka. His father-in-law

Henryk Bergson died in the ghetto.

[25] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 142, nr kw. 5468, p. 910. Róża Baumgarten was working in Schulz factory from July 22 to December 3, in 12-hour mode, sewing uniforms for German soldiers. According to her, she was placed in barracks. Difficult working conditions caused „severe heart deficiency and hearing disorder”.

[26] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 205, nr kw. 1112, p. 564.

[27] M. Żeromska, Moja ulica Mazowiecka, Rocznik Warszawski, r. XXV, 1995, Warsaw 1996, p. 225; Ibidem, Wspomnień ciąg dalszy, op. cit., p. 42, 76, 94, 103. Chwalewik described the collection of J. Mortkowicz who lived before the war at 5 Okólnik St. see: E. Chwalewik, vol. 2, op. cit., p. 406. There is a preserved letter in which Marshal Józef Piłsudski thanks Jakób Mortkowicz, as in e.g. Zbiory Polskie – E. Chwalewik: „Books published by You honour the Polish publishing art” – a photo of the document [in:] J. Olczak-Ronikier, op. cit., p. 195. J. Olczak-Ronikier, W ogrodzie pamięci, Cracow 2001, p. 270. After her return to Warsaw, the mother of J. Olczak-Ronikier in a letter to her family in New York wrote: „Library, the Old Town are a pile of rubbles and ashes. No book was preserved…”. Ibidem, p. 298.

[28] A. Ryszkiewicz, Handel dziełami sztuki w okupowanej Warszawie 1939-1944, [in:] Kryzysy w sztuce, Materiały sesji Stowarzyszenia Historyków Sztuki w Lublinie, Warsaw 1988, p. 227; S. Bołdok, op. cit., p. 277, 327; M. Żeromska, Moja ulica Mazowiecka, Rocznik Warszawski, XXV, 1995, Warsaw 1996, p. 208.

[29] H. Szereszewska, Krzyż i mezuza, Warsaw 1993, p. 62. The antique shop in the ghetto was located in Śliska St.; S. Bołdok, op. cit., p. 169.

[30] W. Borodziej, A. Chmielarz, A. Friszke, A. K. Kunert, Polska Podziemna 1939-1945, Warsaw 1991, p. 247.

[31] APW, ZM WSW, sign. 93, nr kw. 14772, p. 86.

[32] BN, A. Uziembło, Kanwa i na kanwie, sign. akc. 14619, pp. 64-65.

[33] BN, Z. Wróblewska, Póki my żyjemy, sign. akc. 14055, p. 3.

[34] E. Bergman, Żydzi nie tylko na Nalewkach, [in:] W. Fałkowski, op. cit., p. 197; BN, H. Bryskier,

  1. cit., p. 303-308; N. Davies, op. cit., pp. 168-169.

[35] APW ZM WSW sign. 147 nr kw. 6952, p. 834, zał. do kwest., pp. 835-836.

[36] BN, S. Talikowski, op. cit., p. 408; S. Bołdok, op. cit., pp. 169, 305.

[37] W. Czernic-Żelińska, Salon Sztuki „Skarbiec” w Warszawie. Kalendarz działalności w latach 1940-1950, RMNW, X, 1966, p. 486.

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