Alfred Fortmüller

Alfred Fortmüller's exlibris

Signature: "Alfred Miller"

Customs declaration from 1943, filled out by Paul Merker

The restituted book: Snyder - Hitlerism, 1932.

Since 2017 two books and an exlibris of Alfred Fortmüller could be returned.

Alfred Fortmüller was born in 1903 in Hahnenklee. He worked as a tool & precision instrument maker in Lower Saxony and later as a teacher. He had joined the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in 1919 and emigrated to the USA in 1929, from where he emigrated to Mexico in 1937 under threat of extradition to the German Reich. There Fortmüller, also known as Alfredo Miller or Alfred Müller, was the correspondent of the Daily Worker, a member of the foreigners group of the Communist Party, a member of the League for German Culture ("Liga für deutsche Kultur") in Mexico and a founding member of the Free Germany Movement ("Bewegung Freies Deutschland") in Mexico. Fortmüller died on 29 November 1943 in Mexico City.

The last owner of the ex-libris was possibly his wife Hanna Fortmüller née Grust, later married Bertholet. Hanna Fortmüller was born in Hanover in 1901, where she also trained as a secretary. She was a member of the Internationalist Youth League and the International Socialist League (ISK). She also worked for the ISK organ "Der Funke" in Berlin before emigrating from there to Paris in 1933. There she continued her work and married the Swiss anti-fascist René Bertholet. In 1939 Hanna Fortmüller fled from the Nazis to Switzerland. She returned to Germany in 1946 and later became director of the publishing houses Öffentliches Leben and Europäische Verlagsanstalt. She died in 1970.

The ex-libris was part of the ex-libris collection of the Berlin City Library, the route of access into the collection is unclear.

An autograph "Alfred Miller" contained in a restituted book could unmistakably be assigned to Alfred Fortmüller. Fortmüller had emerged in the USA and Mexico as Alfred Müller, Alfred Miller and Alfredo Miller.

The fact that Alfred Miller must be Alfred Fortmüller is documented by the attached customs declaration. The declaration concerns a shipment of books filled out only months before Fortmüller died of heart failure in Mexico. The sender is Paul Merker (1894 - 1969), politician and KPD official and from 1942 in exile in Mexico. Until his escape in 1941, Merker had been interned in the camp Les Milles in southern France. In Mexico, he served as secretary of the Free Germany Movement, which Fortmüller had co-founded.

The books listed on the customs declaration are most probably all editions of the German exile publishing house "El Libro Libre", works by German exile writers who were also active in the Free Germany Movement in Mexico.

The book was demonstrably sent to Mexico in 1943, recipient unknown. It was also not possible to trace the way to the holdings of the Berlin City Library. It was found there in unprocessed depot holdings and was never part of the active holdings.

"Hitlerism" is a work published in 1932 by the American historian Louis Leo Snyder under the pseudonym Nordicus, an early analysis of the rise and future of the NSDAP, in which he predicted, among other things, its assumption of power, the cooperation of a National Socialist Germany with Fascist Italy, and the persecution of the Jews.

The ZLB would like to thank the Commission for Looted Art in Europe for its support regarding this restitution.

Additional information