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Statement of the German Association of the Holy Land regarding the Father Schmitz Collection

Over the past few days, it has been alleged in several publications that the Schmidt’s Girls College in Jerusalem donated the collection of stuffed animals by the late Father Ernst Schmitz to The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.

The German Association of the Holy Land, as the legal owner of the stuffed animals collected by the late Father Schmitz, would like to state the following:

The collection has never been owned by Schmidt’s Girls College and the school is and has never been authorized nor entitled to decide about it. Fr. Ernst Schmitz, a well-known zoologist, lived in Jerusalem in 1908 (he is not to be confused with the man whom the school was named after). He brought a collection of stuffed animals from the island of Madeira. During his period in Jerusalem, he expanded this personal collection with stuffed animals from the Holy Land. After Fr. Schmitz’s death in 1922, the collection came into the possession of the German Association of the Holy Land (DVHL), whose administration chose to have the collection on display in a small museum situated in the St. Paul’s Guesthouse opposite Damascus Gate. After 1948, when Schmidt’s Girls College was hosted in the Guesthouse, students from the school had the chance to visit the exhibits. This continued when the new Schmidt’s School building was erected adjacent to the Guesthouse.

More than 25 years ago, it came to the attention of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History that the DVHL owns a historical collection of stuffed animals from all parts of the Holy Land.

Their experts discovered the deteriorating state of the collection and pointed out to the Association that the animals were stored under unsuitable conditions in respect to their preservation. At that time, the Association’s main concern was to protect such a valuable and unique scientific collection showing species that are extinct nowadays. Due to the fact that the Association lacked the means for the necessary restorations, and to avoid moving the collection outside the Holy Land, it arranged with the museum to have the collection maintained and restored at the expense of the museum. DVHL gave its consent that the animals are temporarily exhibited to the general public, so as to shed a spotlight on the fauna and historical species found in the Holy Land.

The DVHL has always been the legal owner of the entire collection, and on request of the Association, a small part of it was returned to the museum in the Guesthouse where it is on display for the public.

The Museum has been asked already to avoid the misunderstanding in the explanation at the showcase, which gives the impression that the collection was once owned by Schmidt’s Girls College and to make clear that the German Association is still the legal owner.

The Schmidt’s Girls College prides itself in having played a large and influential role in the Palestinian community since its inception 150 years ago and it will continue to provide the best education possible for the young women who attend this school.

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