Nazi plunder

Nazi plunder

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Nazi plunder refers to art theft
Art theft
Art theft is usually for the purpose of resale or for ransom . Stolen art is sometimes used by criminals to secure loans.. One must realize that only a small percentage of stolen art is recovered. Estimates range from 5 to 10%. This means that little is known about the scope and characteristics of...

 and other items stolen as a result of the organized looting
Looting
Looting —also referred to as sacking, plundering, despoiling, despoliation, and pillaging—is the indiscriminate taking of goods by force as part of a military or political victory, or during a catastrophe, such as during war, natural disaster, or rioting...

 of European countries during the time of the Third Reich by agents acting on behalf of the ruling Nazi Party of Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. Plundering occurred from 1933 until the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, particularly by military units known as the Kunstschutz
Kunstschutz
Kunstschutz is the German term for the principal of preserving cultural heritage and artworks during armed conflict, especially during the First World War and Second World War, with the aim of protecting the enemy's art. It is associated with the image of the "art officer" or "art expert"...

, although most plunder was acquired during the war. In addition to lucre, such as silver and currency, cultural items of great significance were stolen, including paintings, ceramics, books, and religious treasures. Although many of these items were recovered by the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 immediately following the war, many more are still missing. Currently, there is an international effort underway to identify Nazi plunder that still remains unaccounted for, with the aim of ultimately returning the items to the families of their rightful owners.

Systematic Nazi looting


Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 was an unsuccessful artist who was denied admission to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. Nonetheless, he thought of himself as a connoisseur of the arts and, when he became Chancellor of Germany
Chancellor of Germany
The Chancellor of Germany is, under the German 1949 constitution, the head of government of Germany...

, enforced his aesthetic ideal on the nation. The type of art that was favoured among Hitler and the Nazi party were classical portraits and landscapes by Old Masters, particularly those of Germanic origin. Modern art that did not match this was dubbed degenerate art
Degenerate art
Degenerate art is the English translation of the German entartete Kunst, a term adopted by the Nazi regime in Germany to describe virtually all modern art. Such art was banned on the grounds that it was un-German or Jewish Bolshevist in nature, and those identified as degenerate artists were...

 by the Third Reich.

Nazi looting organizations



While the Nazis were in power, they plundered cultural property from every territory they occupied. This was conducted in a systematic manner with organizations specifically created to determine which public and private collections were most valuable to the Nazi Regime. Some of the objects were earmarked for Hitler's never realized Führermuseum, some objects went to other high ranking officials such as Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

, while other objects were traded to fund Nazi activities.

In 1940, an organization known as the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg für die Besetzten Gebiete (The Reichsleiter
Reichsleiter
Reichsleiter , was the second highest political rank of the NSDAP next only to the office of Führer. Reichsleiter also served as a paramilitary rank, for the Nazi Party and was the highest position attainable in any Nazi-Organisation.The Reichsleiter reported directly to Adolf Hitler, in whose...

 Rosenberg Institute for the Occupied Territories), or ERR, was formed, headed for Alfred Rosenberg
Alfred Rosenberg
' was an early and intellectually influential member of the Nazi Party. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by Dietrich Eckart; he later held several important posts in the Nazi government...

 by Gerhard Utikal. The first operating unit, the western branch for France, Belgium and the Netherlands, called the Dienststelle Westen, was located in Paris. The chief of this Dienststelle was Kurt von Behr. Its original purpose was to collect Jewish and Freemasonic books and documents, either for destruction, or for removal to Germany for further "study". However, late in 1940, Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

, who in fact controlled the ERR, issued an order that effectively changed the mission of the ERR, mandating it to seize "Jewish" art collections and other objects. The war loot
War loot
War loot refers to goods, valuables and property obtained by force from their lawful owners via looting during or after warfare. These "spoils of war" differ from tributes or other payments extracted after the fact by a victorious nation in that their extraction is largely arbitrary and immediate,...

 had to be collected in a central place in Paris, the Museum Jeu de Paume
Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume
The Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume is a museum of contemporary art in the north-west corner of the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.The building was constructed in 1861 during the reign of Napoleon III...

. At this collection point worked art historians and other personnel who inventoried the loot before sending it to Germany. Göring also commanded that the loot would first be divided between Hitler and himself. For this reason, from the end of 1940 to the end of 1942 he traveled twenty times to Paris. In the Museum Jeu de Paume, art dealer Bruno Lohse
Bruno Lohse
Bruno Lohse was a German art dealer who, during World War II, became the chief art looter in Paris for Hermann Göring, helping the Nazi leader amass a vast collection of plundered artworks...

 staged 20 expositions of the newly looted art objects, especially for Göring, from which Göring selected at least 594 pieces for his own collection. Göring made Lohse his liaison-officer and installed him in the ERR in March 1941 as the deputy leader of this unit. Items which Hitler and Göring did not want were made available to other Nazi leaders. Under Rosenberg and Göring's leadership, the ERR seized 21,903 art objects from German-occupied countries.
Other Nazi looting organizations included the Dienststelle Mühlmann, which Göring also controlled and operated primarily in the Netherlands, Belgium, and a Sonderkommando Kuensberg connected to the minister of foreign affairs Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

, which operated first in France, then in Russia and North Africa.

Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 later ordered that all confiscated works of art were to be made directly available to him. Art collections from prominent Jewish families, including the Rothschilds, the Rosenbergs and the Goudstikkers
Jacques Goudstikker
Jacques Goudstikker was a Jewish Dutch art dealer who fled Holland when it was invaded by Nazis during World War II, leaving an extensive and significant art collection including over 30 "Old Masters" which was looted by the Nazis...

 and the Schloss Family were targeted because of their significant value. By the end of the war, the Third Reich amassed hundreds of thousands of cultural objects.

In Western Europe, with the advancing German troops, were elements of the ‘von Ribbentrop Battalion’, named after Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

. These men were responsible for entering private and institutional libraries in the occupied countries and removing any materials of interest to the Germans, especially items of scientific, technical or other informational value.

Soviet Union


To investigate and estimate Nazi plunder in the USSR during 1941 through 1945, the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission for Ascertaining and Investigating the Crimes Committed by the German-Fascist Invaders and Their Accomplices
Extraordinary State Commission
The Extraordinary State Commission – fully: "Extraordinary State Commission for ascertaining and investigating crimes perpetrated by the German–Fascist invaders and their accomplices, and the damage inflicted by them on citizens, collective farms, social organisations, State enterprises and...

 was formed on 2 November 1942. During the Great Patriotic War and afterwards, until 1991, the Commission collected materials on Nazi crimes in the USSR, including incidents of plunder. Immediately following the war, the Commission outlined damage in detail to sixty-four of the most valuable Soviet museums, out of 427 damaged ones. In the Russian SFSR, 173 museums were found to have been plundered by the Nazis, with looted items numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

After the dissolution of the USSR
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the disintegration of the federal political structures and central government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , resulting in the independence of all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991...

, the Government of the Russian Federation formed the State Commission for the Restitution of Cultural Valuables to replace the Soviet Commission. Experts from this Russian institution originally consulted the work of the Soviet Commission, yet continue to catalogue artworks lost during the war museum by museum. As of 2008, lost artworks of 14 museums and the libraries of Voronezh Oblast
Voronezh Oblast
Voronezh Oblast is a federal subject of Russia . It was established on June 13, 1934.-Main rivers:*Don*Voronezh*Bityug*Khopyor-Economy:...

, Kursk Oblast
Kursk Oblast
Kursk Oblast is a federal subject of Russia . Its administrative center is the city of Kursk.-Geography:The oblast occupies the southern slopes of the middle-Russian plateau, and its average elevation is from 177 to 225 meters . The surface is hilly, and intersected by ravines...

, Pskov Oblast
Pskov Oblast
Pskov Oblast is a federal subject of Russia . Pskov Oblast borders the countries of Estonia and Latvia, as well as Belarus. It is the westernmost federal subject of contiguous Russia . Its major cities are the administrative center Pskov and Velikiye Luki . Area: 55,300 km²...

, Rostov Oblast
Rostov Oblast
Rostov Oblast is a federal subject of Russia , located in the Southern Federal District. Rostov Oblast has an area of and a population of making it the sixth most populous federal subject in Russia...

, Smolensk Oblast
Smolensk Oblast
Smolensk Oblast is a federal subject of Russia . Its area is . Population: -Geography:The administrative center of Smolensk Oblast is the city of Smolensk. Other ancient towns include Vyazma and Dorogobuzh....

, Northern Caucasus, Gatchina
Gatchina
Gatchina is a town and the administrative center of Gatchinsky District of Leningrad Oblast, Russia, located south of St. Petersburg by the road leading to Pskov...

, Peterhof Palace
Peterhof Palace
The Peterhof Palace in Russian, so German is transliterated as "Петергoф" Petergof into Russian) for "Peter's Court") is actually a series of palaces and gardens located in Saint Petersburg, Russia, laid out on the orders of Peter the Great. These Palaces and gardens are sometimes referred as the...

, Tsarskoye Selo
Tsarskoye Selo
Tsarskoye Selo is the town containing a former Russian residence of the imperial family and visiting nobility, located south from the center of St. Petersburg. It is now part of the town of Pushkin and of the World Heritage Site Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments.-History:In...

 (Pushkin), Novgorod and Novgorod Oblast
Novgorod Oblast
Novgorod Oblast is a federal subject of Russia , located between Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Its administrative center is the city of Veliky Novgorod. Some of the oldest Russian cities, including Veliky Novgorod and Staraya Russa, are located there...

, as well as the bodies of the Russian State Archives and CPSU Archives, were catalogued in 15 volumes, all of which were made available online. They contain detailed information on 1,148,908 items of lost artworks. The total number of lost items is unknown so far, because cataloguing work for other damaged Russian museums is ongoing.

Alfred Rosenberg commanded the so-called Einsatzstab Reichleiter Rosenberg [ERR] für die Besetzten Gebiete, which was responsible for collecting art, books, and cultural objects from invaded countries, and also transferred their captured library collections back to Berlin during the retreat from Russia. “In their search for ‘research materials’ ERR teams and the Wehrmacht visited 375 archival institutions, 402 museums, 531 institutes, and 957 libraries in Eastern Europe alone”. The ERR also operated in the early days of the blitzkrieg of the Low Countries. This caused some confusion about authority, priority, and the chain of command among the German Army, the von Rippentropp Battalion and the Gestapo, and as a result of personal looting among the Army officers and troops. These ERR teams were, however, very effective. One account estimates that from the Soviet Union alone: “one hundred thousand geographical maps were taken on ideological grounds, for academic research, as means for political, geographical and economic information on Soviet cities and regions, or as collector’s items”.

Poland


After the occupation of Poland by German forces in September 1939, the Nazi regime attempted to exterminate its upper classes as well as its culture
Polish culture during World War II
Polish culture during World War II was suppressed by the occupying powers of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, both of whom were hostile to Poland's people and cultural heritage. Policies aimed at cultural genocide resulted in the deaths of thousands of scholars and artists, and the theft and...

. Thousands of art objects were looted, as the Nazis systematically carried out a plan of looting prepared even before the start of hostilities. 25 museums and many other facilities were destroyed. The total cost of Nazi theft and destruction of Polish art is estimated at 20 billion dollars, or an estimated 43% of Polish cultural heritage; over 516,000 individual art pieces were looted, including 2,800 paintings by European painters; 11,000 paintings by Polish painters; 1,400 sculptures; 75,000 manuscripts; 25,000 maps; 90,000 books, including over 20,000 printed before 1800; and hundreds of thousands of other items of artistic and historical value. Germany still has much Polish material looted during World War II. For decades there have been mostly futile negotiations between Poland and Germany concerning the return of the looted property.

The Führermuseum


After Hitler became Chancellor, he made plans to transform his home city of Linz, Austria into the Third Reich’s capital city for the arts. Hitler hired architects to work from his own designs to build several galleries and museums, which would collectively be known as the Führermuseum
Führermuseum
The Führermuseum was an unrealized museum complex planned by Adolf Hitler for the Austrian city of Linz to display the collection of art plundered or purchased by the Nazis throughout Europe during World War II.-Design:...

. Hitler wanted to fill his museum with the greatest art treasures in the world, and believed that most of the world’s finest art belonged to Germany after having been looted during the Napoleonic and First World wars.

The Hermann Göring Collection


The Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 Collection, a personal collection of Reichsmarschall
Reichsmarschall
Reichsmarschall literally in ; was the highest rank in the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II after the position of Supreme Commander held by Adolf Hitler....

 Hermann Göring, was another large collection including confiscated property, consisted of approximately 50 percent of works of art confiscated from the enemies of the Reich. Assembled in large measure by art dealer Bruno Lohse
Bruno Lohse
Bruno Lohse was a German art dealer who, during World War II, became the chief art looter in Paris for Hermann Göring, helping the Nazi leader amass a vast collection of plundered artworks...

, Göring's adviser and ERR representative in Paris, in 1945 the collection included over 2,000 individual pieces including more than 300 paintings. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration's Consolidated Interrogation Report No. 2 states that Göring never crudely looted, instead he always managed "to find a way of giving at least the appearance of honesty, by a token payment or promise thereof to the confiscation authorities. Although he and his agents never had an official connection with the German confiscation organizations, they nevertheless used them to the fullest extent possible."

Nazi storage of looted objects


The Third Reich amassed hundreds of thousands of objects from occupied nations and stored them in several key locations, such as Musée Jeu de Paume in Paris and the Nazi headquarters in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

. However, as the Allied forces gained advantage in the war and bombed Germany's cities and historic institutions, Germany "began storing the artworks in salt mines and caves for protection from Allied bombing raids. These mines and caves offered the appropriate humidity and temperature conditions for artworks."

Post war recovery effort


Although most of the stolen artworks and antiques were documented, found or recovered "by the victorious Allied armies ... principally hidden away in salt mines, tunnels, and secluded castles", many artworks have never been returned to their rightful owners. Art dealer
Art dealer
An art dealer is a person or company that buys and sells works of art. Art dealers' professional associations serve to set high standards for accreditation or membership and to support art exhibitions and shows.-Role:...

s, galleries
Art gallery
An art gallery or art museum is a building or space for the exhibition of art, usually visual art.Museums can be public or private, but what distinguishes a museum is the ownership of a collection...

 and museum
Museum
A museum is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical importance and makes them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. Most large museums are located in major cities...

s world-wide have been compelled to research their collection's provenance
Provenance
Provenance, from the French provenir, "to come from", refers to the chronology of the ownership or location of an historical object. The term was originally mostly used for works of art, but is now used in similar senses in a wide range of fields, including science and computing...

 in order to investigate claims that some of the work was acquired after it had been stolen from its original owners. Already in 1985, years before American museums recognized the issue and before the international conference on Nazi-looted assets of Holocaust victims, European countries released inventory lists of works of art, coins and medals "that were confiscated from Jews by the Nazis during World War II, and announced the details of a process for returning the works to their owners and rightful heirs." In 1998 an Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n advisory panel recommended the return of 6,292 objets d'art to their legal owners (most of whom are Jews), under the terms of a 1998 restitution law.


Pieces of art looted by the Nazis can still be found in Russian/Soviet and American institutions: the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a renowned art museum in New York City. Its permanent collection contains more than two million works, divided into nineteen curatorial departments. The main building, located on the eastern edge of Central Park along Manhattan's Museum Mile, is one of the...

 revealed a list of 393 paintings that have gaps in their provenance during the Nazi Era, the Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is one of America's largest accredited independent schools of art and design, located in the Loop in Chicago, Illinois. It is associated with the museum of the same name, and "The Art Institute of Chicago" or "Chicago Art Institute" often refers to either...

 has posted a listing of more than 500 works "for which links in the chain of ownership for the years 1933-1945 are still unclear or not yet fully determined.", the San Diego Museum of Art
San Diego Museum of Art
The San Diego Museum of Art is a fine arts museum located in Balboa Park in San Diego, California that houses a broad collection with particular strength in Spanish art. The San Diego Museum of Art opened as The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego on February 28, 1926, and changed its name to the San...

 and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is an art museum in Los Angeles, California. It is located on Wilshire Boulevard along Museum Row in the Miracle Mile vicinity of Los Angeles, adjacent to the George C. Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits....

 provide lists on the internet to determine if art items within their collection were stolen by the Nazis.

Stuart Eizenstat, the undersecretary of state and head of the U.S. delegation sponsoring the 1998 International conference on Nazi-looted assets of Holocaust victims in Washington conference stated that "From now on, ... the sale, purchase, exchange and display of art from this period will be addressed with greater sensitivity and a higher international standard of responsibility."

After the conference Association of Art Museum Directors
Association of Art Museum Directors
The Association of Art Museum Directors is an organisation of art museums in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.Established in 1916 by the directors of twelve American museums, the Association formally incorporated in 1969. At that time the Association also hired an employee, and increased the...

 developed guidelines which require museums to review the provenance or history of their collections, focusing especially on art looted by the Nazis. The National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden is a national art museum, located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW, in Washington, DC...

 in Washington identified more than 400 European paintings with gaps in their provenance during World War II era. One particular piece of art, "Still Life with Fruit and Game" by the 16th century Flemish painter Frans Snyders, was sold by Karl Haberstock, whom the World Jewish Congress
World Jewish Congress
The World Jewish Congress was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in August 1936 as an international federation of Jewish communities and organizations...

 describes as "one of the most notorious Nazi art dealers." In 2000 the New York City's Museum of Modern Art still told Congress that "[they] are not aware of a single Nazi-tainted work of art in our collection, of the more than 100,000 [they] hold".

However, restitution efforts initiated by German politicians have not been free of controversy either. As the German law for restitution applies to "cultural assets lost as a result of Nazi persecution, "which includes paintings that Jews who emigrated from Germany sold to support themselves, pretty much any trade involving Jews in that era is affected, and the benefit of the doubt is given to claimants. German leftist politicians Klaus Wowereit
Klaus Wowereit
Klaus Wowereit is a German politician, member of the SPD , and has been the Mayor of Berlin since the 2001 state elections, where his party won a plurality of the votes, 29.7%. He served as President of the Bundesrat in 2001/02. His SPD-led coalition was re-elected in the 2006 elections...

 (SPD, mayor of Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

) and Thomas Flierl (Linkspartei) were sued in 2006 for overly willing to give away the 1913 painting Berliner Straßenszene of expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was a German expressionist painter and printmaker and one of the founders of the artists group Die Brücke or "The Bridge", a key group leading to the foundation of Expressionism in 20th century art. He volunteered for army service in the First World War, but soon suffered a...

 which was in Berlin's Brücke Museum
Brücke Museum
The Brücke Museum in Berlin houses the world's largest collection of works by Die Brücke , an early 20th century expressionist movement.-Origins:...

. On display in Cologne in 1937, it had been sold for 3,000 Reichsmark by a Jewish family residing in Switzerland to a German collector. This sum is considered by experts to have been well over the market price. The museum, which obtained the painting in 1980 after several ownership changes, could not prove that the family actually received the money. It was restituted to the heiress of the former owners, and she had it auctioned off for $38.1 Million.

The Allies created special commissions, such as the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) organization to help protect famous European monuments from destruction, and after the war, to travel to once-Nazi-occupied territories to find Nazi art repositories. In 1944 and 1945 one of the greatest challenges for the "Monuments Men" was to keep Allied forces from plundering and "taking artworks and sending them home to friends and family"; When "off-limits" warning signs failed to protect the artworks the "Monuments Men" started to mark the storage places with white tape, which was used by Allied troops as a warning sign for unexploded mines. They recovered thousands of objects that were pillaged by the Nazis.

The allies found these plundered artworks in over 1,050 repositories in Germany and Austria at the end of World War II. In summer 1945, Capt. Walter Farmer became the collecting point's first director. The first shipment of artworks arriving at Wiesbaden Collection Point included cases of antiquities, Egyptian art, Islamic artifacts, and paintings from the Kaiser Friedrich Museum. The collecting point also received materials from the Reichsbank
Reichsbank
The Reichsbank was the central bank of Germany from 1876 until 1945. It was founded on 1 January 1876 . The Reichsbank was a privately owned central bank of Prussia, under close control by the Reich government. Its first president was Hermann von Dechend...

 and Nazi-looted, Polish, liturgical collections. At its height, Wiesbaden stored, identified, and restituted approximately 700,000 individual objects including paintings and sculptures, mainly to keep them away from the Soviet Army and wartime reparations.

The Allies collected the plundered artworks and stored them in a Central Collection Point in Munich until they could be returned. The identifiable works of art were returned to the countries from which they were taken, and the governments of each nation would then return the objects to the proper owners. When the Munich collection point was closed, the owners of many of the objects had not been found. Nations were also unable to find all of the owners or to verify that they were dead.

Effects of Nazi looting today


Approximately 20% of the art in Europe was looted by the Nazis, and there are well over 100,000 items that have not been returned to their rightful owners. The majority of what is still missing includes everyday objects such as china, crystal or silver.

Some objects of great cultural significance remain missing, though no one knows how many. This is a major issue for the art market
Art sale
An art auction is the sale of art works, in most cases in an auction house.In England this dates from the latter part of the 17th century, when in most cases the names of the auctioneers were suppressed...

, since legitimate organizations do not want to deal in objects with unclear ownership titles. Since the mid 1990s, after several books, magazines, and newspapers began exposing the subject to the general public, many dealers, auction houses and museums have grown more careful about checking the provenance of objects that are available for purchase in case they are looted. Some museums in the United States and elsewhere have agreed to check the provenance of works in their collections with the implied promise that suspect works would be returned to rightful owners if the evidence so dictates. But the process is time-consuming and slow, and very few disputed works have been found in public collections.

In the last two decades, information has become more accessible due to political and economic changes as well as advances in technology. Privacy laws in some countries have expired so records that were once difficult to obtain are now open to the public. Information from former Soviet countries that was previously unobtainable is now available, and many organisations have posted information online, making it widely accessible.

The International Foundation for Art Research
International Foundation for Art Research
International Foundation for Art Research is a non-profit organization which was established to channel and coordinate scholarly and technical information about works of art. IFAR provides an administrative and legal framework within which experts can express their objective opinions...

 (IFAR), a not-for-profit educational and research organization, has helped provide information leading to restitution.

See also

  • Amber room
    Amber Room
    The Amber Room in the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg is a complete chamber decoration of amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors...

  • Art theft and looting during World War II
    Art theft and looting during World War II
    Art theft and looting occurred on massive scale during World War II. It originated with the policies of the Axis countries, primarily Nazi Germany and Japan, which systematically looted occupied territories...

  • Berlinka (art collection)
    Berlinka (art collection)
    The Berlinka is the Polish name for a German collection of historic material which was originally kept at the Preußische Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, the Prussian State Library at Berlin, but which is now kept in the Jagiellonian Library in Kraków....

  • Héctor Feliciano
    Hector Feliciano
    Dr. Hector Feliciano, PhD. is a Puerto Rican journalist and author whose book The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World's Greatest Works of Art has shed light on an estimated 20,000 works of art plundered by the Nazis; each one is owned by a museum or a collector somewhere.-Early...

  • Jacques Goudstikker
    Jacques Goudstikker
    Jacques Goudstikker was a Jewish Dutch art dealer who fled Holland when it was invaded by Nazis during World War II, leaving an extensive and significant art collection including over 30 "Old Masters" which was looted by the Nazis...

  • List of missing treasure
  • Bruno Lohse
    Bruno Lohse
    Bruno Lohse was a German art dealer who, during World War II, became the chief art looter in Paris for Hermann Göring, helping the Nazi leader amass a vast collection of plundered artworks...

  • Looted art
    Looted art
    Looted art has been a consequence of looting during war, natural disaster and riot for centuries. Looting of art, archaeology and other cultural property may be an opportunistic criminal act, or may be a more organized case of unlawful or unethical pillage by the victor of a conflict."Looted art"...

    • The Rape of Europa
      The Rape of Europa
      The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War is a book and a subsequent documentary film of somewhat related material. The book, by Lynn H. Nicholas, explores the Nazi plunder of looted art treasures from occupied countries, and the consequences...

    • Rescuing Da Vinci
      Rescuing Da Vinci
      Rescuing Da Vinci is a largely photographic, historical book written by American author Robert M. Edsel, published in 2006 by Laurel Publishing.- Summary :...

  • Nazi gold
    Nazi gold
    Nazi gold is the gold transferred by Nazi Germany to overseas banks during the Second World War. The regime executed a policy of looting the assets of its victims to finance the war, collecting the looted assets in central depositories. The occasional transfer of gold in return for currency took...

  • Royal Casket
    Royal Casket
    The Royal Casket was a memorial created in 1800 by Izabela Czartoryska. The large wooden casket contained 73 precious relics that had once belonged to Polish royalty...


Further reading

  • Feliciano, Hector. The Lost Museum, Harper Collins, New York, 1997
  • Hadden, R.L. 2008. "The Heringen Collection of the US Geological Survey Library, Reston, Virginia". Earth Sciences History : Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society. 27, no. 2: pages 242-265.
  • Harclerode, Peter and Pittaway, Brendan. The Lost Masters: WWII and the Looting of Europe's Treasurehouses, Orion Books Ltd, London, 1999
  • Löhr, Hanns Christian: Das Braune Haus der Kunst: Hitler und der Sonderauftrag Linz, Akademie-Verlag, 2005 ISBN 3-05-004156-0
  • Nicholas, Lynn. The Rape of Europa
    The Rape of Europa
    The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War is a book and a subsequent documentary film of somewhat related material. The book, by Lynn H. Nicholas, explores the Nazi plunder of looted art treasures from occupied countries, and the consequences...

    , Macmillan, London, 1994
  • Petropolis, Jonathan. Art as Politics in the Third Reich, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1996
  • Petropolis, Jonathan. The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany, Penguin Press, London, 2000
  • Roxan, David and Wanstall, Ken. The Jackdaw of Linz; the Story of Hitler's Art Thefts. London, Cassell, 1964.
  • Schwarz, Birgit: Hitler's Museum. Die Fotoalben Gemäldegalerie Linz, Wien, Böhlau Verlag, 2004 ISBN 3-205-77054-4
  • OSS Report: Activity of the Einsatzstab Rosenberg in France, 15 August 1945
  • Aly, Götz
    Götz Aly
    Götz Aly is a German journalist, historian and social scientist.-Biography:After attending the German School of Journalists, Aly studied history and political science in Berlin...

    : Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State. Metropolitan Books. January, 2007 ISBN 0-8050-7926-2, ISBN 978-0-8050-7926-5
  • Nancy Yeide: Beyond Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection. Laurel Publishing. 2009. ISBN 978-0-9774349-1-6 (Foreword by Robert M. Edsel)
  • Robert M. Edsel
    Robert M. Edsel
    Robert M. Edsel is an American writer and businessman. He is the author of the non-fiction books, Rescuing Da Vinci and about art treasures preserved during and after World War II and the heroes who saved them...

     (Contributions by Brett Witter): Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. Center Street. 2009. ISBN 978-1-59995-149-2

External links