Hilde Schramm, the daughter of Hitler’s chief architect and Armaments Minister Albert Speer1, inherited three valuable paintings in 1992 from her father that she suspected had been stolen from Jewish families during the Nazi era. She conducted an exhaustive search for the original owners. When they could not be traced, she sold the paintings and used the money to start the Return Foundation for the Promotion of Jewish Women in the Arts and Sciences (Zurückgeben: Stiftung zur Förderung jüdischer Frauen in Kunst & Wissenschaft). She then used the foundation as a platform to raise awareness about the huge amount of property that had been stolen from Jewish families from 1933 to 1945 and, in many cases, still remains in the possession of Germans today.
Since its creation in 1994, the foundation has awarded 500,000 euros in grants, enabling more than 150 Jewish women living in Germany to pursue projects that have raised public consciousness about the country’s Jewish legacy.
On January 21, 2019 in Berlin, Schramm was among the recipients of an Obermayer German Jewish History Award for raising awareness of Germany’s once-vibrant Jewish history and culture.
In an interview, Schramm explained:
When Jews were expelled from their jobs, of course non-Jewish Germans could take their job. It’s not only the question of real objects being robbed but their whole existence … this is to raise awareness that it did reach almost every family, a kind of involvement or profiting.
After the war, Speer was tried and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was released in 1966.↩