This Lithyalin glass perfume bottle was once part of the collection of Wilhelm Perlhoefter. The Bohemian glass bottle was one of at least four objects that had been looted from Perlhoefter’s renowned collection in Breslau, Germany in 1939. Finally repatriated to the family more than 80 years later, it is the only piece of Nazi-era looted artwork in the Sydney Jewish Museum’s collection.
Wilhelm Perlhoefter, a Jewish merchant from Breslau, started collecting at the age of 12. In 1907 he married Helene Schaefer and together they grew their collection to include 1,000 pieces of antique Venetian and Bohemian glass; 400 of which were Lithyalin pieces. Lithyalin glass was developed in Bohemia by Friedrich Egermann (1777-1864), famous for its opaque, marbled surface resembling semiprecious stone.
Following ‘Kristallnacht’, the pogrom unleashed in Germany and Austria in November 1938, Perlhoefter was arrested and deported to Buchenwald concentration camp where he spent four weeks. After his release, he made plans to escape the Nazi terror.
Formal permission was required from the Nazi authorities to take belongings out of Germany, which essentially allowed the government to claim what they liked and profit from forced immigration. Thus, before Jews were expelled or murdered, they were also robbed. These lucrative raids were called ‘Aryanisations’. Museum directors from Breslau, Görlitz and the surrounding areas were ‘invited’ to choose any items from Perlhoefter’s collection they wished to have for their museums.
Four Lithyalin glass items belonging to the family were recently identified in the Görlitz Museum of Cultural History in Germany. The Görlitz Museum sought to trace the heirs of these pieces and were contacted by Wilhelm Perlhoefter’s grandchildren. They came to an arrangement, whereby three of the Lithyalin vessels remained in Germany while the fourth would be repatriated to a grandchild in Sydney, who generously offered to donate it to the Sydney Jewish Museum.