Apr 27, 2020

Tracing the Nazi extermination of Jewish art collectors with Wikidata Sparql Queries

How to represent the impact of the Holocaust?

Inhumanly huge numbers defy our capacity to understand.

How to depict both the fates of individuals and the larger context, without losing sight of either?

In this next series of posts we attempt to find a way to show what happened to Jewish art collectors and their world during and after the Holocaust.

Timeline from Wikidata Query

As Jewish art collectors, dealers, artists, curators, historians  and museum personnel were being targeted for persecution, robbery and murder by Germany's Nazi government, covetous eyes fixed upon their precious art collections. 

How can we document and visualise this massive double movement: the persecuted people on one hand and their possessions on the other?

We will begin with the people. Those who did not manage to flee, and who ended up murdered in Nazi camps or ghettos.

Each and every one of these individuals had a story: a family, friends, business and social relations, activities, passions, beliefs, enthusiasms, achievements, foibles; a life filled with events and people and - in the case of the individuals whose stories we trace here -  art.

How can we gather the huge amount of information and comprehend how it all fits together and what it means? 

This is not a small challenge.

One of the best tools for dealing with large amounts of linked information, such as relationships between people, places, things and events, is Wikidata.

Why Wikidata?


Because Wikidata is open yet structurally rigorous where it matters.
Wikidata has built into it a linked data structure that can be read by both humans and machines. 

Wikidata can be used for querying not only what is referenced in Wikidata itself, but also for linking to information that is held outside of Wikidata which shares a reference or authority file.


For the art world and the Holocaust, Wikidata has remarkably rich data. Though still a work in progress with much that remains to be done, Wikidata is already far more reliable and complete in the topics that concern us than any other database, authority file or linked dataset that I know of.


The task of telling the story of the Jewish art world and what happened to the people and the artworks during and after the Holocaust is too big for any one person or institution. There are so many people and events and places and objects, so many photos and documents, so many sources, so many languages. It is a job for every individual of good faith who wants to contribute to the sum of our knowledge.


Because Wikidata is driven and maintained and enriched by very clever and hardworking people, and whatever innovations and advances are achieved become available to all of us, for free, where amazingly powerful tools cost only the effort of learning how to use them.

In this next series of posts, I hope to share some ideas and practical tips for using Wikidata Sparql queries to better understand the fates of Jewish art collectors and their collections, both collectively and individually. 

I hope that Holocaust scholars, art historians, provenance researchers, families and their advocates will find some of this useful, and that Sparql mavens will engage with the queries to improve them for the benefit of all.

(My apologies in advance to people who actually know how to write Sparql queries, and my thanks in advance for improving upon these amateurish efforts.)


Sparql Query for above image

#With pictures

#art collectors, art dealers, art historians, curators, museum directors, restorers, galleries...
#died in Auschwitz-Birkenau Q7341
#died in Theresienstadt Q160175

SELECT ?item ?itemLabel ?pic ?datedied ?placediedLabel ?placedied ?birth ?place_birth ?VIAF_ID ?GND_ID ?Library_of_Congress_authority_ID ?ULAN_ID ?child ?childLabel ?ownedby ?ownedbyLabel ?depicts ?depictsLabel ?depictedby ?depictedbyLabel ?countryLabel ?ownerof ?ownerofLabel ?spouse ?employer ?employerLabel ?spouseLabel ?mother ?motherLabel ?father ?fatherLabel ?sibling ?siblingLabel ?sigperson ?sigpersonLabel ?party ?partyLabel ?partner ?partnerLabel WHERE {
{ ?item wdt:P106 wd:Q1792450.} UNION { ?item wdt:P31 wd:Q1007870. } UNION { ?item wdt:P106 wd:Q173950.} UNION { ?item wdt:P921 wd:Q328376.} UNION { ?item wdt:P106 wd:Q10732476.} UNION { ?item wdt:P106 wd:Q446966.} UNION { ?item wdt:P106 wd:Q22132694.} UNION { ?item wdt:P106 wd:Q674426.}

SERVICE wikibase:label { bd:serviceParam wikibase:language "en" }
{?item wdt:P20 wd:Q7341.} UNION {?item wdt:P20 wd:Q160175.}
  ?item wdt:P18 ?pic.
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P127 ?ownedby. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P570 ?datedied. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P20 ?placedied. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P180 ?depicts. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P921 ?plunder. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P1830 ?ownerof. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P108 ?employer. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P569 ?birth. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P40 ?child. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P214 ?VIAF_ID. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P19 ?place_birth. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P244 ?Library_of_Congress_authority_ID. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P227 ?GND_ID. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P245 ?ULAN_ID. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P26 ?spouse. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P27 ?country. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P3342 ?sigperson. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P102 ?party. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P1327 ?partner. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P25 ?mother. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P22 ?father. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P3373 ?sibling. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P1299 ?depictedby. }
OPTIONAL { ?item wdt:P39 ?position. }
FILTER (YEAR(?datedied) >= 1933 )
LIMIT 20000


Link to Sparql Query


Permalink to this post: https://www.openartdata.org/2020/04/visualising-nazi-extermination-Jewish-art-collectors.html

Next Posts in this series:

Tracing Jewish Art Collectors and other #LostArtPeople by Place of Death


How information about Jewish art  collectors who died in the Holocaust goes missing in the semantic web of linked data.


Open Art Data

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