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Dr. Ismar Littmann

Ismar Littmann was born on July 2, 1878 in Gross Strehlitz, Upper Silesia (present- day Strzelce Opolskie, Poland) to businessman Adolf Littmann and Charlotte Littmann, born Eisner. After studying law in Breslau and Berlin, he received his doctorate in 1901 from the University of Rostock. Dr. Littmann settled in Breslau (present-day Wrocław, Poland) in 1906 and was admitted to the practice of law in the District Court. The following summer, on August 1, 1907, Dr. Littmann married Käthe Fränkel, daughter of Julius Fränkel and Rosa Fränkel, born Schirokauer. 

From that time forward, Dr. Littmann had his own practice in Breslau. In June 1921, Dr. Littmann was appointed as a notary. Around that same time, he partnered with Max Loewe and together managed the Law Firm of Littmann and Loewe.

Dr. Littmann was a strong supporter of the arts and especially local contemporary artists associated with the Academy of Fine Art in Breslau. In the late 1910s, Dr. Littmann began collecting artworks predominately works on paper – watercolors, drawings, and prints. His collection consisted of works by renowned German Fauvist, Impressionist and Expressionist artists, including Otto Mueller, Käthe Kollwitz, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, Alexander Kanoldt and Lovis Cornith, some of whom he knew personally. Before the collapse of the global economy in 1929 forced Dr. Littmann to suspend his collecting, he had amassed a collection of nearly 6,000 individual works of art.

Photo of Dr. Ismar Littman

Dr. Littmann's persecution began almost immediately after the NSDAP's rise to power in 1933, as Jewish professionals practicing law in Breslau were among the first groups targeted by the Nazi regime.  At the end of March 1933 the number of Jewish lawyers, notaries, and judges able to carry out their trade was severely curtailed. Far reaching restrictions imposed on Jewish legal practitioners had a direct and immediate effect on the Littmann family.

As of the spring of 1933, neither Dr. Littmann nor any of his children were able to pursue their careers of choice. By decree on April 5, 1933, Dr. Littmann was forced to seek readmission to the Bar and could no longer act as a notary. From that time until June 1, 1933 when he was granted limited access to the court system of Breslau, Dr. Littmann was forced to stop practicing and was boycotted by his clientele. 

Dr. Littmann lost all hope for his professional and personal future resulting in a level of despair that culminated in his suicide. Dr. Littmann died on September 23, 1934; he was survived by his wife and four children who were fortunately able to flee Nazi Germany for Israel and the United States of America.

The Littman Collection and the HCPO

Two paintings from the Littman collection were recovered in 2001 as part of a settlement arranged by the HCPO. Mrs. Ruth Haller and her husband Chaim, Holocaust survivors living in Israel, filed the claim and were presented both paintings by then Governor George Pataki. The two paintings are entitled "Portrait of Charlotte Corinth," by Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) and "Seated Nude on Blue Cushion" by Karl Hofer (1878-1955). The Hofer painting was exhibited as part of the Nazi’s infamous exhibition of "Degenerate Art" in Munich.

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"Seated Nude on a blue Cushion" displayed at the Nazi’s exhibition of "Degenerate Art" in Munich

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Left to Right: Superintendent (Banking Department, 2000-2003) Elizabeth McCaul, Monica Dugot, Ruth Haller, Jane Lerner, Catherine Lillie, and Chaim Haller all pose with "Seated Nude on a blue Cushion."

Read the full press release announcing the 2001 return: Two Paintings Returned to Heirs of Holocaust Victims - Recovered Paintings Returned to Only Living Child and Holocaust Survivor

Recovered Works from the Littmann Collection

 

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