On 1 August 1940, the Reich Ministry of the Interior issued a decree ordering the Vienna Gestapo to expropriate the assets and property stored with transport companies or in public warehouses of emigrated Jews who came under the provisions regarding the annulment of German citizenship and the forfeiture of their assets. Families fleeing from Nazi persecution had stored their removal goods – from household items to linen and valuable furnishings – with transport companies for packing and shipment. With the beginning of the Second World War, goods could no longer be shipped from Vienna, and containers that had already been transported to ports remained there. With this decree, the Vienna Gestapo was interested in creating an organization to dispose of these removal goods. In addition, the NSDAP wanted to bring these goods, which were in short supply, back onto the market for controlled consumption. Karl Ebner, deputy head of the Vienna Gestapo, contacted Karl Herber, director and Vienna agent of the Reichsverkehrsgruppe Spedition und Lagerei, who stated his willingness to cooperate and to set up an accounting office by arrangement with representatives of the transport companies. It was called the Gestapo Office for the Disposal of the Property of Jewish Emigrants, or Vugesta for short (working title: VJU, initially also Vugestap), headed by Herber. It had a staff of around twenty, including several assessors such as Bernhard Witke, Leopold Berka, Julius Fargel, Anton Grimm and Adolf Wawra and was also able to employ Jewish forced labourers. Its headquarters were in Herber's office at Bauernmarkt 24 in Vienna's 1st district. By agreement with the Reich Security Main Office and Moabit West tax office, Vugesta started operation on 7 September 1940. It functioned thereafter as an extension of the Vienna Gestapo, although representing the interests of transport companies and operating within the private economy. In return for its work, it was paid 2 per cent, later 3 per cent, of the proceeds. In addition, the overheads and storage costs until the goods were disposed of were also to be refunded. In the following years, Vugesta staff disposed of the removal goods of around 5,000 families for the benefit of the Reich treasury. The transport companies storing the removal goods had first to report to Vugesta, which checked the data and obtained information with the aid of political dockets issued by the Gestapo from various institutions such as the central registration office, housing department and tax office to determine whether the removal goods were subject to seizure. The files were then presented to the Gestapo. Once the goods had been declared seized, Vugesta could dispose of them. Seized goods were sold initially at auctions organized by the Dorotheum. As it could not handle the huge amounts of household goods and to make these goods accessible at a reasonable price to others, from early 1941 Vugesta organized private sales in the Rotunde in the Vienna Prater, and then in the Vienna exhibition centre and Sophiensäle. Goods with an estimated value of over 1,000 Reichsmarks were passed on to the Dorotheum. The group allowed to participate in the private sales was limited, with socially deprived and large families being given priority – as an example of the Nazi welfare policy. But members of the transport companies, Gestapo, Vugesta and NSDAP also benefited from the massive redistribution of household items. In this way, art and cultural objects that had already been released for export once again came under the control of the Nazi regime. The sales were subject to the "Führervorbehalt" ("Führer reserve"). If this was not applied, others had their turn. Cronyism flourished: high-up Nazis and their favourites and those connected with Vugesta and the Gestapo acquired furniture, antiques and works of art very cheaply. Assessors such as Bernhard Witke, Anton Grimm and Leopold Berka, who had their own antiques businesses alongside their work for Vugesta, filled their depots with seized removal goods. Pictures were sold by Vugesta in the premises of the former Hagenbund in Zedlitzgasse and in those of the Reichsstatthalterei at Herrengasse 13 in the 1st district. When the systematic deportation of Viennese Jews started later, the possessions they left behind in the Sammelwohnungen (collective apartments) they had been herded into were sold if not directly by Vugesta then by an affiliated organization, Möbelverwertungsstelle Krummbaumgasse, headed by the two assessors Bernhard Witke and Anton Grimm. Some business ran through Vugesta, such as the payment of workers and secretaries at Möbelverwertungsstelle Krummbaumgasse. Herber had apparently refused to take responsibility for the sale and processing of the deportees' possessions, and Karl Ebner therefore assigned this task directly to Bernhard Witke. In the case of the collection belonging to Gisela and Ernst Pollack – who were Herber's neighbours – Herber showed fewer scruples. He took responsibility for clearing their valuable interior furnishings after their deportation in June 1942 and acquired numerous works of art for himself in this way.
It is not clear when Vugesta closed down. The private sales probably ended in late 1943/early 1944 and the activity of Vugesta as a whole at the end of 1944. It is estimated that goods worth 10 million Reichsmarks were sold through the Dorotheum and 5 million Reichsmarks in private sales. Only one file and the associated ledgers have remained as historical source material. They contain the names and addresses of the former owners and a summary list of the proceeds of auctions in the Dorotheum and private sales; only in rare instances are the buyers or the precise date of the sale mentioned. Even today not all of the accounts, figures and payment codes have been deciphered. Because of the paucity of original sources, other source material needs to be consulted to investigate Vugesta, in particular the files of the Volksgericht trials after 1945 of members of Vugesta and the Gestapo.
Provenance research today is hampered by the absence of source documents and the massive redistribution by Vugesta, which was involved in the "disposal" of countless Viennese art collections, including those of Bernhard Altmann, Richard Beer-Hofmann, Hugo Blitz, Oscar Bondy, Caroline Czeczowiczka, Hans Engel, Ernst Egger, Josef Freund, Elsa Gall, Robert Gerngross, Daisy Hellmann, Bruno Jellinek, Siegfried Kantor, Gottlieb Kraus, Klara Mertens, Moriz und Stefan Kuffner, Stefan Mautner, Oskar Reichel, Louise Simon and Siegfried Trebitsch. Practically all Austrian state and provincial museums and collections obtained artworks from Vugesta during the Nazi era, and even today items appear on the art market that belonged to the removal goods of emigrated Jews.