Dr. Michael Berolzheimer

Photo of Dr. Michael Berolzheimer

Michael Berolzheimer was born in Fürth Bavaria on February 22, 1866 into an established family of respected entrepreneurs that resided in Bavaria for several generations.  On September 26, 1903, he married Melitta Dispecker Schweisheimer, and they settled in Untergrainau near Garmische, Bavaria. Berolzheimer was trained as a lawyer but actively pursued a lifelong interest in fine art by serving as a member of the acquisitions committee of the Alte Pinakothek Munich, Graphische Sammlung and the Deutsche Orientgesellschaft.

Between 1900 and 1939, he amassed his own eclectic collection of over 800 works of art.  Although little is known about the source of the drawings in his collection, the bulk of them originated from the Dresden collection of Boguslaw Jolles (Lugt 381), which was sold at Hugo Helbing, Munich on October 31, 1895.

Under the pressure of the Nazi dictatorship, the Berolzheimers began the complicated process of obtaining permission to emigrate in the summer of 1938, which they procured by relinquishing all of their property and bank assets.  On July 25, 1938, they immigrated to Zürich, Switzerland and from there to New York. Dr. Berolzheimer was subsequently required to pay the onerous Judenvermoegensabgabe (Jewish asset tax) and deprived of his citizenship.  He was also compelled to surrender his art collection, which was then sold at the Münchener Kunstauktionshaus Adolf Weinmüller on November 1- December 2, 1938 and March 9-10. 1939.

Immediately after the war, the executor of Dr. Berolzheimer’s estate took up the quest for the recovery of the Berolzheimer art collection which his heirs continue to this day.  Represented by the attorney Robert O. Held, the estate began the process of formally claiming Berolzheimer’s collection with the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section of the Office of Military Government (OMGUS) in 1947. Beginning in January 1947, Held wrote to OMGUS requesting the prompt investigation of two specific works of art and assistance in tracing the confiscated works that were sold at Weinmüller.  In this letter, Held specified that the works of art marked with an asterisk in the March 10, 1939 Weinmüller auction catalogue belonged to Dr. Berolzheimer.  As a result of the OMGUS claim, several art works were recovered.  More recently, the Albertina Museum returned 29 drawings to the Berolzheimer heirs in 2010.


Michael and Melitta Berolzheimer walking in their garden


Picture of dining room from Berolzheimer household


Photo of the Berolzheimer house from 1937


Berolzheimer in his study


Berolzheimer relaxing in his den


Berolzheimer house from 1939


Berolzheimer house from 2011

Recovered Works from the Berolzheimer Collection