Fürst, Leo

Leo Fürst


22 July 1873 Baden near Vienna – January 1941 Nice

In 1938, Leo Fürst, who lived at Maria-Theresien-Straße 16/4 in Vienna's 1st district, was director of the Evidenzbüro österreichischer Mineralölfirmen. After the annexation of Austria to the German Reich, unknown persons – according to the testimony of his nephew it was members of the SA – broke into his apartment and stole some of his art collection, including two etchings by Ferdinand Schmutzer and Isidor Kaufmann. Fürst himself was arrested by the Gestapo in June 1938 and detained in the prison at Rossauerlände, because he wanted to press charges for the theft. After his release, he fled in July 1938 first to Opatija, while his assets were expropriated by the German Reich. The Gestapo gave his coin collection (mostly coins of Austrian rulers), which were "reserved by the Führer" as objects of artistic or cultural value, in June 1938 to the Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM) in Vienna for safekeeping and cataloguing. In 1941, the KHM Coin Collection requested the entire collection of 873 objects from the "special representative" Hans Posse, who distributed 401 of the gold coins and 237 silver coins as a "Führer donation" to the coin collections in Graz, Salzburg, Klagenfurt and Innsbruck. The 235 non-precious-metal coins were all given to the Vienna Coin Collection, 227 of which are deemed to have been lost in the war. In a letter of 24 March 1941 to Fritz Dworschak, First Director of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Posse mentioned eighteen gold coins from the Fürst collection, which were earmarked for the "Sonderauftrag". The transaction was never completed, however, and the coins remained in the KHM. At Dworschak's suggestion in 1941, the rest of the Fürst collection was to be given the Kress company in Munich for auctioning, the proceeds being used to cover the cost of setting up the Zentraldepot. There is no documentary evidence of this, however. In the same year, Fürst died in Nice, where he had fled from Opatija.

In 1986, his nephew applied to have the coin collection returned. According to the 2. Kunst- und Kulturgutbereinigungsgesetz (Second Art and Cultural Property Settlement Act), the owners of "heirless" art and cultural assets or their successors could assert their claims with the Austrian Ministry of Finance. The application was refused because at the time it was not known that a large part of the collection was in the KHM. Based on the provenance research by Herbert Haupt, in October 2000 the Art Restitution Advisory Board recommended the restitution of 386 coins, 234 silver coins and one coin made of non-precious metal from the KHM Coin Collection to Leo Fürst's heirs. The 621 coins – not 624 has erroneously stated in the Advisory Board decision – were returned in summer 2002. In that year the Ferdinandeum Innsbruck restituted four coins and the Kärntner Landesmuseum three gold coins, and in 2004 the Joanneum Graz returned on gold ducat. The coins transferred to Salzburg are deemed to have been lost since 1945.

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Publications about the person / institution

Beschluss des Kunstrückgabebeirats, Leo Fürst, 10.10.2000, URL: www.provenienzforschung.gv.at/beiratsbeschluesse/Fuerst_Leo_2000-10-10.pdf (3.12.2020).

Tiroler Landesmuseen, Provenienzforschung, Restitution, URL: www.tiroler-landesmuseen.at/?download=10729&ref=10677 (3.12.2020).

Universalmuseum Joanneum, Münzkabinett Schloss Eggenberg, Restituierte Objekte, An die Erben nach Leo Fürst, URL: www.museum-joanneum.at/muenzkabinett/ueber-uns/restitution/restituierte-objekte/an-die-erben-nach-leo-fuerst (3.12.2020).

N. N. (Redaktion), Münzsammlung Leo Fürst restituiert, in: Der Standard, 16.7.2002, URL: www.derstandard.at/story/1012222/muenzsammlung-leo-fuerst-restituiert (3.12.2020).

Karl Peitler, Zu den Restitutionen des Münzkabinetts am Universalmuseum Joanneum, in: Karin Leitner-Ruhe/Gudrun Danzer/Monika Binder-Krieglstein (Hg.), Restitutionsbericht 1999–2010 Universalmuseum Joanneum, Graz 2010, 213214, URL: www.museum-joanneum.at/fileadmin//user_upload/Presse/Aktuelle_Projekte/Archiv/2010/praesentation-des-re/Restitutionsbericht_01.pdf (3.12.2020).

Online-Edition der Karteien zum sogenannten Zentraldepot für beschlagnahmte Sammlungen in Wien, Sammlung L. F. im Katalog der Beschlagnahmungen, URL: www.zdk-online.org/c/171/ (3.12.2020).


BDA-Archiv, Restitutionsmaterialien, K. 35, M.1, PM Leo Fürst.

KHM-Archiv, 52/KL/1941, 105/KL/1941; XII 163; XIII 55.

OeStA/AdR, E-uReang, FLD, Zl. 10338, Leo Fürst.