Alfred Sommerguth was born on September 23, 1859 in Magdeburg and began collecting art while he was the director and co-owner of Loeser and Wolff, one of the largest tobacco factories in existence before WWII. In 1920, he became an official in the Ministry of Interior in Berlin in charge of town planning. He resided in Berlin with his wife Gertrude Sommerguth at Warmbrunner Strasse 22 and was a prominent member of Berlin society. The Sommerguths amassed an eclectic art collection of 106 artworks, which included Dutch and Italian Renaissance masterpieces as well as works by various French Impressionists.
The persecution of the Sommerguths began in the late 1930s at which time Alfred Sommerguth was forced to register his assets and compile a list of his artworks for the Nazi authorities. In 1941, to avoid deportation to a concentration camp, the Sommerguths fled Germany to Cuba, where Mr. Sommerguth was hospitalized for more than a year with typhus, and ultimately settled in New York. However, prior to their departure from Berlin, in order to pay the requisite “flight tax” that was imposed on those who sought to leave Germany, Sommerguth was forced to sell the bulk of his art collection at the February 7, 1939 Hans W. Lange auction entitled Eine Berline Privatsammlung: 28 Gemälde, Gouachen, Aquarelle und Handzeichnungen von Adolf von Menzel, Gemälde deutscher Meister des 19. Jahrhunderts.
Alfred Sommerguth died in New York on October 15, 1950, and his wife Gertrude passed away on April 8, 1954, never again to see the art collection they so assiduously assembled. In recent years, the Sommerguth heirs, with the diligent assistance of their representatives, have had several notable successes in recovering works that were sold at the 1939 Lange sale.