Commemorative meeting on the occasion of the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust and the Prevention of Crimes Against Humanity, January 27, 2023, Prague. Former prisoner of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau Dita Krausová, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Markéta Pekarová Adamová (TOP 09).
Prague – Descendants of the interwar industrialist Johann Bloch, who lost his property during the Second World War, today in Prague took over art objects returned by the Czech state after 84 years. He returned them to them as part of an effort to alleviate the grievances of the Holocaust and after two years of preparations and cooperation by organizations from the Czech Republic and the USA. Four paintings were issued to the descendants of the Brno businessman by the National Gallery Prague, and ten liturgical vestments were returned to the Museum of Applied Arts in Prague.
Johann Bloch, like many others, was forced to deposit part of his collection in public institutions during his planned emigration before the Nazis and in the hope that he would be able to collect them in the future. On behalf of the Bloch family, today Johanna Bloch's great-granddaughter Anne Claire von Huene and Cheryl Bernstein, who is the daughter of Bloch's granddaughter Elizabeth Scholtz, who was unable to attend the presentation, took over the art objects.
“The Czech Republic is helping to lead the way to global tolerance, understanding and kindness. We must all work together to strengthen humanity and take care of it, because that is the hope for the future, for our children's children and for the preservation of the world,” said von Huene at the ceremony of handing over the artworks.
“Restitution is not about returning things, it is a tangible acknowledgment that our family members have been wronged, and also a reminder that we should all continue to work to ensure that these tragic events never happen again,” Bernstein emphasized.< /p>
Johann Bloch was born on June 7, 1869 in Brno, and since 1900 he has been running a leather processing and leather goods factory after his father. He was also an art collector and amassed a large collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture, textiles and antiques. After the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the company E. Bloch and sons was Aryanized. Johann Bloch planned to emigrate with his wife Erna, in which case the Jews had to deposit more valuable property with one of the designated banks. Only then was it possible, but not certain, to receive permission to travel.
In the spring of 1940, Bloch and his wife applied for permission to emigrate to Switzerland. They wanted to travel together with Johann's brother Felix and his wife Luisa. But Johann and Erna Bloch did not receive permission to travel. Neither did his brother and his wife. Felix Bloch perished in the Chelmno extermination camp in 1942, his wife Luisa perished the same year in Łódź. Their children probably managed to travel.
Before emigration, Bloch's property was assessed by several institutions, and the National Gallery recommended the granting of an export permit on the condition that Johann Bloch donate four selected paintings to the gallery's collections. This also really happened, only today Bloch's descendants got the paintings back. Johann Bloch did not have time to export his collection, he died of angina pectoris in December 1940. His wife Erna was deported to Terezín in 1942 and later to Riga, where she perished in August of the same year. The rest of Bloch's collection, which was intended for export to England, has not yet been located and it is possible that it was transferred to the Empire as a posthumous possession.
The National Gallery is returning four paintings from the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries to the descendants of the Bloch family. These are two works by an unknown northern Italian painter, which represent a very popular type of landscape with views of a sea bay at the time. In Antonín Mánes's early work Landscape with a Spruce Tree, the motifs of 17th-century Dutch painting and contemporary vedutes are connected. The portrait of a young man in a fur cap is probably the work of an artist active in the first half of the 19th century in Vienna. He was inspired by Rembrandt's works for the portrait.
Johann Bloch donated liturgical vestments from his collection to his daughter Hermina Gertrude Fleischner, who married Robert Charles Fleischner. In 1939, before leaving for England, Fleischner deposited a collection of liturgical vestments in the Museum of Applied Arts in Prague. The Fleischners came to the USA via England. In 1942, they changed their surname to Foster.
In the Czech Republic, the Center for Documentation of Property Transfers of Cultural Assets of Victims of World War II, which was established by the Ministry of Culture in 2011, deals with the return of objects stolen or confiscated during the Second World War. In February 2020, the center was approached by a representative of the New York office who was helping the heirs of Johann Bloch to search for his property. The center then turned to the NGP and the UPM, which last year granted the heirs' request to return the objects.
“I want to thank everyone who participated in unraveling the story of the Bloch family collection. Thanks to the hard work of many professionals from a wide range of institutions, the artifacts This and many other cases that are gradually being unraveled represent how the fate of many families in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s emerges from the work of researchers, because the so-called spoliations affected practically the entire Jewish population, not just a few dozen individuals, as can sometimes be the case wrongly perceived,” said Minister of Culture Martin Baxa (ODS).