A German commission tasked with ruling on whether works of art or other cultural items were seized from their owners during Nazi rule has concluded that a 1706 Guarneri violin in the possession of a music foundation was likely stolen from its owner.
The instrument was owned by Felix Hildesheimer, who worked as a seller of musical instruments in the 1930s. But in 1939, one year after purchasing the violin, Hildesheimer committed suicide after failing to escape Nazi Germany. Some of his family members managed to emigrate.
The commission spent several years researching to confirm whether the Nazis confiscated the Guarneri or compelled Hildesheimer to sell it. It came to the conclusion that neither possiblity could be confirmed. However. However, it ruled that the probability of the Nazis having confiscated the instrument was very high.
The commission stated further that the Franz Hofmann and Sophie Hagemann Foundation, which has been in possession of the classical violin music since 2010, should be allowed to keep the Guarneri. Although the commission’s findings are not legally binding, the foundation has agreed to pay €100,000 to the heirs of Hildesheimer and promised that the young musicians who use the Guarneri will perform a number of memorial concerts to commemorate the life of Felix Hildesheimer.
The Guarneri violin will continue to be used at Nuremberg’s college of music and was described by the foundation as an instrument of reconciliation.