The Monuments Men

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Hans C. L. Jaffé ( 1915-1984 )

Hans Ludwig Cohn Jaffé was born in Frankfurt in 1915 to Jewish parents. In 1933, he left Nazi Germany and immigrated to The Netherlands, where he began studying art history at the University of Amsterdam. In 1935, he began working at the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam while also teaching art history at the Nieuwe Kunstschool in Amsterdam. Jaffé fled to Lucerne, Switzerland in 1942, where his parents lived in exile.

In 1945, he began serving as a Dutch MFAA officer of the Netherlands Liaison Office for Restitution. In this capacity, he was authorized to examine the contents of the Collecting Points and identify paintings which had been looted from Dutch public and private collections.

In 1947, Jaffé returned to the Stedelijk Museum where he worked as a curator. By 1953, he had risen to the title of Deputy Director, a position which he held until 1961. During his tenure as Deputy Director, he also accepted a position as privaatdocent at the University of Amsterdam in 1958, and was later appointed extraordinarius Professor of the History of Modern and Contemporary Art in 1963.

In addition to being the first professor of modern art in the Netherlands, Jaffé gained international acclaim for his 1956 doctoral dissertation, De Stijl 1917-1931: the Dutch Contribution to Modern Art.

He died in 1984 just one week before his official retirement from the University of Amsterdam.