"The other 1742 Guarneri del Gesu with questions surrounding its Holocaust-era provenance once belonged to the partly Jewish Wittgenstein family of Vienna, which was forced to turn over money and possessions to the Nazis. This was the same family whose ranks included the brilliant 20th Century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and his brother, the esteemed concert pianist Paul Wittgenstein. Their father, the industrialist Karl Wittgenstein, in 1897 purchased one of the most famous instruments ever made--the 1742 Guarneri del Gesu played by the Italian composer-violinist Antonio Bazzini.
The violin was the least of the Wittgenstein family's concerns when the Nazis in 1938 classified the Wittgensteins as having "mixed blood"--they were partly Jewish. Several family members fled Vienna, but two of the daughters of Karl Wittgenstein accepted an offer made by the Nazis, according to documents located by the Tribune in the Wittgenstein Archive of Cambridge University in England.
By turning over to the Nazis the Wittgenstein fortune, which Karl Wittgenstein had invested in the United States, as well as some musical instruments and manuscripts, their classification as Jews was modified to allow them to remain safely in Vienna.
"You could say the violin is a casualty of the war," said Gerhard Eisenburger, an heir of the Wittgenstein family, speaking in his Vienna home.
Survivors of the Wittgenstein family do not know how the family lost possession of its 1742 Guarneri del Gesu instrument, or whether the violin was part of the negotiations with the Nazis.
The family never has filed a claim for the instrument, and it's possible the Wittgensteins maintained possession of the instrument and sold it themselves.
The Guarneri del Gesu ended up in Paris in the violin shop of Emile Francais, according to Francais' nephew, New York violin dealer-restorer Gael Francais. Upon Emile Francais' death in Paris in the 1970s, his unsold instruments were divided between his two sons, one of whom was the noted New York violin dealer Jacques Francais.
But Jacques Francais will not acknowledge owning the instrument for the past several decades, nor will he say where, when or from whom his father acquired it.
"I don't remember if we have the `Bazzini'," said Beatrice Francais, speaking for her husband. She has declined to speak further about the instrument.
Without information from the Francais family, the Wittgenstein heirs will find it nearly impossible to learn how the instrument left the family's hands and whether they are entitled to get it back."
How Nazis targeted world's finest violins, Howard Reich & William Gaines, Chicago Tribune, Chicago
"M.B. [ Michael Baumgartner]:Die ex Baron von Wittgenstein ist sauber! Sie wurde von Bazzini an Wittgenstein verkauft und kam von dieser Familie direkt on die Geigerin Steffi Geyer, selbst Ungarin und Jüdin."
Geraubte Streichinstrumente, Mark Wilhelm, Geraubte Streichinstrument - ein vernachlässtiges Kapitel der Naziherrschaft
"The violinist Joseph Joachim, a pupil of Mendelssohn and the first to play Brahms' Violin Concerto, was a first cousin of Karl's and he (remembering to pick from among his many violin the famouos Guarneri del Gesù violin of 1742 that Karl had generously loaned him) played always two or three times a year at the Palais. . ."
The House of Wittgenstein: A Family At War, Alexander Waugh, The House of Wittgenstein: A Family At War, London