Inventory No. 1938

© Technisches Museum Wien
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Fiat 522C

© Technisches Museum Wien

Cars, radios and hot-water heaters: the looting raids conducted by the Nazis did not stop at objects of everyday life. Since 1998 the TMW has been combing through its collection for items once looted by the Nazis, and it has been trying to track down their rightful owners.

The public debate over provenance research is dominated by questions surrounding the restitution of valuable artworks such as paintings and drawings. It usually overlooks the fact that the Nazis mainly stole objects of everyday life from those persecuted on ‘racial’ and/or ‘political’ grounds: radio sets and cameras, furniture, bicycles, musical instruments, linen, motor vehicles and motorcycles. Since it was first established, the Technisches Museum Wien has always collected objects of everyday life, and its collection, too, has been found to comprise objects previously in Jewish ownership. The exhibition explains the day-to-day practice of Nazi raids, reconstructs the life stories of those deprived and despoiled, and documents the search currently underway to trace the rightful heirs, who are now dispersed all around the world.

Inventarnummer 1938 [Inventory No. 1938] is the first permanent exhibition of its kind on the subject of ‘provenance research’ by a museum in the German-speaking countries, and it documents the ‘Aryanisation’ of everyday objects around 1938. A database on vehicles looted by the Nazis gives visitors an opportunity to carry out some investigative research of their own.

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