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Archival Descriptions
Hoffmann, Heinrich, 1885-1957
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Robert I. White Papers

  • TxAM-CRS 1136
  • Collection
  • 1907-2004

The Robert I. White Papers are almost entirely concerned with a set of court cases whose background and context began life in early 20 thcentury Europe, where a penniless amateur artist named Adolf Hitler honed his art skills as well as his political magnetism and influence. They then move through Hitler’s rise to national power and his tyrannical grip over Germany, which ended after an unimaginably brutal war and the liberation of Europe’s suffering peoples by Allied armies in 1945. The scene then shifts to the United States, to which four watercolors painted by Hitler and a valuable archive of photographs taken by one of his few friends, Heinrich Hoffmann, were removed by the U.S. Army to the victorious United States as seized spoils of war.

In Texas a man named Billy F. Price, interested in Hitler’s artistic life and career, then joins forces with the wife and children of Hitler’s friend to have the seized materials returned to them, claiming that the U.S. government acted illegally. Robert I. White, of Houston, was Price’s lawyer in the resulting litigation. The case – which evolved into a number of separate actions - spent over 20 years meandering through different federal courts from Texas to Washington, DC before Price and his fellow litigants were finally turned down in their final appeal by the Supreme Court in 2009.

The White Papers chronicle the journey of Price and the Hoffmann heirs’ case from its beginnings in 1982, when the plaintiffs first requested the return of the Hitler watercolors from U.S. Army custody, to 2004. They consist primarily of the legal documentation generated for and by the lawsuit, including briefs, depositions, exhibits, motions, pleadings, orders, and writs. Also included are files of supporting correspondence. Audio-visual materials in the collection include audiotapes of phone conversations and witness depositions, videotapes of witness dispositions, and photographs.

The collection is divided into series based around the individual numbered cases. An additional sub-series, Series IIIA, consists of specific physical exhibits that were used in the initial case, Civil Action H-82-3712.  Note that documents recur in multiple series, because they were used as pieces of evidence or sources of background information for different cases.

One box of materials contains bound volumes of White's legal and other notes made durng his undergraduate and law school education.

White, Robert I.