Mar 3, 2018

Red Flags in Art History: Zacharie Birtschansky or Birshansky

Annunciatory Angel, 16th Century  Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA)
Provenance: Paris, Z. Birtschansky (dealer-1939), by whom given to the DIA in 1939.
Nazi Era Provenance Internet Portal

Art Dealer Zacharie Birtschansky, NARA the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Center, Vaucher Commission Lists, July 16, 1945, FOLD3 

Who was Zacharie Birtschansky? What does finding his name in a provenance mean?

According to French documents, Zacharie Birtschansky was born on May 27, 1889 in Moscow and was an art dealer with a gallery at 88 rue Faubourg Saint Honoré in Paris. Wanted for dealing in stolen art by the French, he escaped to the United States where he was thought to have stored « art treasures ».  The OSS Art Looting Investigaton Unit mentions Birtschansky numerous times, in particular in connection to Wendland and Fischer and to his partner Mandl. The name Birtschansky and Z Birtchansky appears in numerous provenances in US museums, notably the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum (DIA), to which he sold or gifted several artworks, such as Saint George and the DragonAnnunciatory Angel, and Mountain Landscape, the NGA (Bacchus and Ariadne Madame Stumpf and Her Daughter) and LACMA (KAUFFMANN, ANGELICA Half-length Portrait of the Duchess of Courland; MANDYN, JAN St. Christopher and the Christ Child

« Subject may have art treasures stored in the United States »

The French "Journal Officiel" mentions Zacharie Birtschansky's birth in Moscow, his naturalisation as a French citizen and his profession as an "antiquaire".

  • Birtschansky (Zacharie) , antiquaire, né le 27 mai 1889, à Moscou (Russie), demeurant à Paris, 9, rue du Boccador, naturalisé Français par décret du 9 juin 1931 (source:  Bulletin municipal officiel de la Ville de Paris - 1882-1985)
  • Birtschansky (Zacharie), 88, rue du Faubourg- Saint-Honoré, à Paris(...)Pour les entreprises: Birtschansky (Zacharie)', 88, rue du FaubourgSaint-Honoré, à Paris (source:

A person named  Zacharias Birtschansky. Paris.  appears on the list "Art dealers involved in wartime trading in looted art in France" (see:;Y)

Birtschansky has several mentions in the Red Flag List of Names compiled by the Art Looting Investigation Unit in 1945-6 as well as in the Detailed Interrogation Report of Hans Wendland. His partnership with Mandl and Rochlitz is noted, as is his indictment by the French government for dealing in stolen goods.

(From ALIU Red Flag List)

Birtschansky, Zacharie. Paris, 281 rue du Fbg St Honore. Dealer. Dealt with Hofer, Lohse, Josef Muehlmann and Dietrich. Partner of Mandl and Rochlitz. Indicted with Klein by French Government for receiving stolen goods (Seine Tribunal, Judge Jaquinot).***
Klein. Paris, rue Pantievre. Bought several ERR-confiscated paintings from Rochlitz. Indicted with Birtschansky by French Government for receiving stolen goods (Seine Tribunal, Judge Jaquinot).
Makowski. Paris. Associate of Birtschansky and Mandl. Dealt with Lohse and the German museums.
Mandl, Victor. Paris, 9 rue du Boetie. German refugee dealer, formerly active in Berlin. Highly important figure in German art purchases in Paris. Close contact of Wendland, Dietrich, Voss, Goepel, Muehlmann, Lohse, Loebl, Perdoux, Birtschansky and Wuester. Indicted by French Government for collaborationist activity.

HOFER has stated that during the war WENDLAND was a kind of unofficial "king" of the Paris art world. During his frequent visits to Paris, WENDLAND made his headquarters at the Ritz, where he continued to play his role of entrepreneur, commission man and art agent. Capitalizing upon his German citizenship in a land occupied by Germans, and upon his wide pre-war acquaintanceship in the Paris art market, WENDLAND became a kind of advisor and guide to many of the French dealers anxious to do business with [p. 7] Germans. He gradually formed an informal syndicate of the French dealers, BOITEL, PERDOUX, and LOEBL. HOFER states that the was connected with the DEQUOY-FABIANI combination, and he is known to have had interests in the MANDL-BIRTSCHANKSY group. Just how formalized were these dealing syndicates formed by or participated in by WENDLAND is difficult to ascertain....

WENDLAND states that it was only after late November 1942, when he made the acquaintance of LOHSE, that he began to understand the workings of the ERR. Until that time, he says the secrecy of the affair had kept it well concealed from him. However, if he had no personal friends among the ERR staff at first, WENDLAND was at least intimately acquainted with men like DINGLAGE, von BEHR's cousin, and the collaborator BOITEL, who would have been well able to describe to him the German activities in the Jeu de Paume. He had extensive business relationships with such dealers as ROCHLITZ, BIRTSCHANSKY, LOEBL and others, many of whom have since been indicted by the French government as collaborationists and dealers in looted art. Finally he had, while in Switzerland or during his journeys through unoccupied France, the opportunity of knowing Jews whose property had been confiscated or was in danger of it, and, in fact, he points out that he took what he describes as daring steps to rescue this property. It is therefore difficult to believe that a person in WENDLAND's circumstances could have remained completely and innocently unaware that Jewish owned property was being confiscated and used as loot for exchange purposes. Whether he was aware or not, the basic fact remains that WENDLAND acted as a party to at least four exchanges in which he, alone or in connection with Theodor FISCHER, received works of art which had been looted by the Nazis from private art collections....

From evidence presented in DIR 4 and CIR1 of the OSS Art Looting Investigation Unit, the background of this affair may be reconstructed as follows: At the time that WENDLAND arrived on the scene, negotiations were already in progress between LOHSE of the ERR and ROCHLITZ, who had the Titian (?) and Weenix on commission from BIRTSCHANSKY. On 17 February [p. 15] ROCHLITZ had visited the Jeu de Paume and had chosen the 11 modern and impressionist paintings which he wished to receive as payment, and the following day, UTIKAL had written to the Reichsleiter ROSENBERG stating that "LOHSE has proposed an exchange of the Titian for paintings which, according to our German conception, are out of the question for transfer to Germany," and concluding, "In view of its essential importance, I beg to request you, esteemed Reichsleiter, to declare the recommended procedure effective in all future instances." But difficulties had arisen. BIRTSCHANSKY, who held the major interest in the Titian, demanded cash payment, preferably American dollars, rather than payment in pictures. Perhaps too, he balked at the risk involved in receiving confiscated art. The entrance of WENDLAND into this affair at this moment of impasse was, therefore, providential for the Nazis. Without seeing the Titian (which at that time was probably at the Jeu de Paume for Goering's inspection) WENDLAND agreed to buy BIRTSCHANSKY's share (for 12,000 dollars) and to receive, upon consummation of the exchange, six of the eleven modern pictures. These pictures, according to ROCHLITZ' statement in DIR 4, were delivered to WENDLAND in Paris. They were as follows:Corot Mother and Child (Rosenberg-Bernstein Collection)
Degas Madame Camus at the Piano (Kann Collection)
Braque Still Life (Kann Collection)
Matisse Women at a Table (Rosenberg-Bernstein Collection)
" Still Life ( " )
" Sleeping Woman ( " )
WENDLAND's version of the affair presents substantial differences with that outlined above. He insists that he received only four pictures [p. 16] from ROCHLITZ, namely: the Corot, the Degas, the Braque and one other which he cannot remember, but is sure was not a Matisse. The others went to ROCHLITZ as a commission. WENDLAND states that the exchange had already been effected when he arrived and that he was given to understand that the exchange had been transacted with one of the Rhineland museums. He states that he did indeed wonder which of the museums was involved but felt that it would be indiscreet to ask too many questions. He never did pay BIRTSCHANSKY the full amount promised in American dollars but at some later date made a settlement of the unpaid balance in terms of French francs.
Two years later, according to WENDLAND's version, while visiting at the Berlin apartment of HOFER, WENDLAND was asked to admire a Titian. "That Titian is not authentic" he said, "Where did you get it?" " It came from ROCHLITZ." "Good God," WENDLAND reports himself as having exclaimed, purportedly overcome by the belated realization of the role he had been playing, "then the Titian was intended for Goering and the modern paintings must have been confiscated works of art!"...

Exchange No. 3
This exchange was negotiated in Paris and Berlin early in 1942, during approximately the same months that Exchange No. 2 was occurring. WENDLAND sold to HOFER for 400,000 Swiss Francs: a Rembrandt, "Portrait of an Old Man with Beard", and two Flemish tapestries of the 16th century, de- [p. 20] signed by Lucas van Leyden. The Rembrandt has an unclear history and varying explanations of its acquisition have been reported. WENDLAND states that he first saw it in Nice, in the studio of a man whose name he forgets, "a British subject with an Italian name". Involved in the sale were the son of Leon BIRTSCHANSKY and August L. MAYER, famous art historian who had fled Germany; and WENDLAND states that, as far as he can remember, the sale price was 5,000,000 French francs.

Plundered Art has an interesting article on the strange history of a Corot painting that passed through Birtschansky (Birtchansky).

01 May 2011

The strange odyssey of Mme. Stumpf and her daughter

Rochlitz provided Goering with two Old Masters—one by Jan Weenix and another from Northern Italy. He turned around and provided it to a man named Zachariah Birtchansky. Together with his brother, Birtchansky operated from several addresses in Paris, including the rue Royale. Although of Jewish descent, the pair had established itself as art brokers on the Paris art scene for many years prior to the Second World War and had cultivated shady relationships with a number of unsavory pro-Nazi art dealers, especially Gustav Rochlitz, Hans Wendland, and Karl Haberstock. 


FOLD3, where photos from the National Archives can be consulted, contains many documents that mention Birtschansky.

(One can get an overview from Google by searching for Birtschansky )
However, not all the Birtschanskys concern Zacharie (or Zacharia). There is also mention of a Leon. This, according to NARA archives, is Zacharia's or Zacharie's brother.

« The two brothers, Leon and Zacharias Birtschansky, were latecomers among Paris picture dealers and never enjoyed a good reputation. »


For a selection of more information on Zacharie Birtschansky (or Birshansky), see:

Historical sources and archives dealing with looted art

Artworks which mention Birtschansky in the provenance

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