Wolf, Alfred. Reise- und Versandbuchhandlung, Antiquariat und Export

Alfred Wolf. Reise- und Versandbuchhandlung, Antiquariat und Export


Antiquariat Alfred Wolf – Reise- und Versandbuchhandlung, Antiquariat und Export was founded on 22 December 1938 at Schottenring 35 in Vienna's 1st district by Alfred Wolf, a former employee of the antiquarian Hans Peter Kraus, and existed until 1970 at this site. Together with his associate Richard Friedrich Riedmann – like Wolf an NSDAP member – Wolf developed the antiques business from the stocks of liquidated and Aryanized antiques business. Wolf and Riedmann were supported by the auditor of the Vermögensverkehrsstelle (Property Transaction Office) Gottfried Linsmayer, who liquidated at least twenty-seven antiques dealerships and bookshops in Vienna. Riedmann stated retrospectively that within a short time the stock had been increased to around 600,000 books stored in four depots: Schottenring 33 and Zelinkagasse 12 in the 1st district, Untere Augartenstraße 36 und 38 in the 2nd district and Kolingasse 7 in the 9th district. The inventory consisted originally of the stocks belonging to Hans Peter Kraus and those of the mail order bookseller Leo Weiser (Tuchlauben 5 in the 1st district), which was Aryanized in 1938 by Riedmann as provisional administrator, who transferred stocks to Wolf. Further additions came from antiquarian stocks "liquidated" by Linsmayer, including books from the Akademische Verlags- und Versandbuchhandlung Emil Haim & Co. and acquisitions from private libraries owned by Viennese Jews who had been forced to sell their assets to finance their emigration. Wolf also had around 200,000 maps – according to a valuation in 1946 – of unclear origins, some of which came from Hans Peter Kraus.

After Alfred Wolf was conscripted into the Wehrmacht, the company was transformed in January 1943 into an "offene Handelsgesellschaft" (general partnership), with Wolf and Riedmann each having a 50 per cent share. They did not do retail business but concentrated on export. Apart from contacts in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia, their main connections were with Germany. The prominence of the antiques business can be seen from the impressive sales achieved by it: from 23,933 Reichsmarks in 1939 there was a tenfold increase by 1944. Customers included around 2,000 mostly public libraries (state and municipal libraries, archives, university and institute libraries), government authorities and NSDAP offices, but also many private customers, including prominent Nazis such as Martin Bormann.

Wolf and Riedmann did intensive business with German NSDAP bodies (Party chancellery, main NSDAP archive, Reichstag and Reichsgericht libraries). According to Riedmann, it also had business relations with Kanzlei Alfred Rosenberg. From 1943 the most valuable books were transferred to depots to protect them from damage through air raids and also the threatened seizure by the Allies. Riedmann stated in his Volksgericht trial that depots were established in Aschaffenburg and Homburg an der Saar and also in hiding places with books for Hitler's library in Straubing and on the Grundlsee. Further objects were secured from Riedmann's private apartment at Hockegasse 96 in Vienna's 18th district. Riedmann described himself as a buyer for Hitler's private library and the main NSDAP library and as a supplier for the "Führer library" in Linz. Wolf disappeared after the war, but Riedmann continued to run the antiques business until summer 1946, arranging for the transfer of more books to Germany.

In July 1945 the Vienna city councillor Leo Cornelius Friedländer and the Korporation der Wiener Buch-, Kunst- und Musikalienhändler called for verification of the antiques business to check for its involvement with the Nazis and for the appointment of a public administrator. In December 1945 Friedrich Köhler, the lawyer representing Hans Peter Kraus, filed criminal charges against Alfred Wolf under Sections 6 and 7 of the War Criminals Act (Illegal enrichment and denunciation) and demanded the securing of his assets. When the 3rd Restitution Act came into force in 1947, Kraus and Weiser made applications for restitution. After the Republic of Austria – represented by the Federal Ministry of Securing Property and Economic Planning – refused to appoint a public administrator, the US military government arranged on 23 August 1946 for the appointment of Erwin Kuffler with power of attorney to represent the interests of Kraus and Weiser. As both Wolf and Riedmann were Germans, the business was deemed to be "German property". By 1949 Riedmann had brought about the replacement of Kuffler by Alexander Bachzelt, a colleague of Wolf since 1943, who since 1945 had been representing Wolf's interests in absentia. Bachzelt and Riedmann attempted to prevent the restitution of books from Hans Peter Kraus and to cover up their illegal acquisition. They were supported by the political section of the Bundesministerium für Vermögenssicherung und Wirtschaftsplanung (Federal Ministry for Securing Property and Economic Planning). After Kuffler had been recalled on 11 January 1949, several public administrators were appointed for Wolf's 50 per cent share. In February 1949 Riedmann was authorized to work again in Antiquariat Wolf – as managing director from March 1950 to June 1953. From this time, further books were transferred to Germany. A restitution settlement was agreed between Kraus and Riedmann in 1950 (return of the "reference library"), with the public administration being limited to Wolf's share. In 1953 a public administrator was appointed again for the entire business. Weiser's restitution claim in the Restitution Commission of the Landesgericht für Zivilrechtsachen (provincial court for civil law matters) was finally settled in December 1956. The judgment confirmed Weiser's claim, making him proprietor of the business. Riedmann died on 19 November 1957 in Kiefersfelden, Upper Bavaria. Anna Marie Ottilie Lawatschek, Riedmann's sister and authorized signatory of Antiquariat Wolf since 1941, had already purchased the business from Weiser on 1 September 1957 and continued to run it until 1970 under the name Alfred Wolf. The expropriated books were on sale without interruption on Schottenring from 1939 until the closure of the business in 1970. This continuity also applied to some of the clientele who had helped build up the company between 1938 and 1945.


The research was subsidized by MA 7 – Culture Department of the City of Vienna, Science and Research Subsidy.

Author Info
Publications about the person / institution

Walter Mentzel/Harald Albrecht, Die "Antiquariats- und Exportbuchhandlung Alfred Wolf" – ehemals Hans Peter Kraus und Leo Weiser. Die Geschichte eines Raubunternehmens, in: Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie (2012) Sonderband 108, NS-Raubgut in Museen, Bibliotheken und Archiven (= Viertes Hannoversches Symposium), 441–454.

Wolfgang Saxon, Hans Peter Kraus, 81, Book Dealer and Collector, in: The New York Times, 2.11.1988.


Archiv der Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, Gewerbeakt, Hans Peter Kraus.
Archiv der Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, Gewerbeakt, Alfred Wolf.
Archiv der Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, Gewerbeakt, Leo Weiser.
Archiv der Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, Gewerbeakt, Alfred Wolf – Richard Friedrich Riedmann.

OeStA/AdR, E-uReang, FLD, Zl. 8436/1949, Leo Weiser.
OeStA/AdR, E-uReang, VVSt, Handel, Zl. 5003, Leo Weiser.
OeStA/AdR, E-uReang, VVSt, VA 50691, Hans Peter Kraus.
OeStA/AdR, ZNsZ, Gauakt, Zl. 56333, Alfred Wolf.
OeStA/AdR, ZNsZ, Gauakt, Zl. 121205, Richard Riedmann.

WStLA, Öffentliche Verwaltung (ÖVA), A 23-72, Firmen, Gesellschaften 1951–1968, Alfred Wolf 1946.
WStLA, Volksgerichtsakt A1, Vg 4 Vr 2939/1945, Friedrich Richard Riedmann.
WStLA, M.Abt. 119, A41, VEAV, 1947 MBA 1, C 290, Hans Peter Kraus.