When Peter Sachs was only a year old in 1938, the Nazis seized his father's collection of 12,500 rare posters on the orders of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.
Sachs' father, Hans — a Jewish dentist — was then thrown into the Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin. After his wife managed to secure his release, the family fled to Boston — leaving the posters behind.
Today, some 4,000 of the posters, worth at least euro4.5 million ($5.9 million), are in the possession of the German Historical Museum in Berlin, largely in storage. Peter Sachs goes to court Tuesday to try to get them back.
"I think that any disposition of the posters would be preferable to their languishing in a museum for 70 years without ever seeing the light of day," Sachs told the AP in a telephone interview from his home in Sarasota, Florida.
The posters include advertisements for exhibitions, cabarets, movies, and consumer products, as well as political propaganda — all rare, with only small original print runs. One jewel of the collection was a 1932 poster for "Die Blonde Venus" — The Blonde Venus — a film starring Marlene Dietrich. It formed the basis for Sachs' suit when he filed it last year, but museum officials say it is not part of the Sachs collection they have.
Only a handful of the posters on display at any given time but museum officials say they form an integral part of its 80,000-piece collection. The museum also points out that those in storage are regularly viewed by researchers.
The suit at the Berlin administrative court is the latest step in a case that has dragged over several years.
Sachs, 71, lost his first attempt to have the posters returned through a German restitution panel, known as the Limbach Commission, which ruled in 2007 that the museum was the rightful owner. But Gary Osen, Sachs' Oradell, New Jersey-based attorney, said he is more confident of recovering the posters through the German legal system at Tuesday's one-day hearing.
It could be a difficult claim for Sachs, as his father accepted compensation in the 1960s of approximately $50,000, and the elder Sachs apparently viewed the sum as an appropriate payment.