Prologue: Selected Articles
Summer 2002, Vol. 34, No. 2
Nazi Looted Art
The Holocaust Records Preservation Project, Part 3
By Anne Rothfeld
|This painting was one of many discovered in the Merkers salt mine and removed by U.S. troops in April 1945. (111-SC-374692)|
1 In March 1996 a researcher was sent to the National Archives to look for information about Jewish dormant bank accounts in Swiss banks, and in May 1997 a report to Congress was prepared on the discovery of dormant claims and gold. Also in 1997, research into unpaid insurance policies, non-monetary gold (i.e., victims gold from the death camps), and looted art began. In March 1998 the National Archives and Records Administration published a finding aid that describes Holocaust-era assets available in the National Archives at College Park. In fall 1998 President Clinton signed the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, calling for all federal agencies to recommend for declassification records relating to Holocaust-era war crimes, war criminals, Axis persecution, and looted assets, including art and cultural property. In regards to looted art, American art museums have begun the tedious task of researching the provenance of each item in their holdings.
2 If conducting art provenance research, please refer to Nancy H. Yeide, Konstantin Akinsha, and Amy L. Walsh, The AAM Guide to Provenance Research (2001), a useful guide to archival holdings worldwide.
3 Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas ("The Roberts Commission"), Record Group (RG) 239, National Archives at College Park (NACP). The Roberts Commission records contain index card boxes divided into different subjects, including art looting suspects, looted art objects, repositories and collectors suspected of receiving or storing looted art objects, and firms involved in art looting. The records also contain two large series of photographs taken by the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFA&A) and the Signal Corps.
4 ERR's full name is der Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg für die Besetzten Gebiete, the Reich Leader Rosenberg Task Force for Occupied Territories.
5 OSS Art Looting Investigation Unit Reports, 1945-46 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1782), Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, and Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, RGs 239 and 38, NACP.
6 Art Looting Investigation Unit's Detailed Interrogation Reports (DIRs), 1945-1946, entry 74, boxes 84-84A, Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, RG 239, NACP. Arranged numerically by report numbers 1-13, with report number 8 not being used. "Investigation of Dr. Kajrtan Muehlmann, 1945-1948," a separate report by the Dutch Officer Jan Vlug, can be found in Restitution Research Records, 1933-1950, box 435, Ardelia Hall Collection, OMGUS, Records of U.S. Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260, NACP.
7 Art Looting Investigation Unit's Consolidated Interrogation Reports (CIRs), 1945, entry 75, boxes 85-85A, Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, RG 239, NACP. Arranged numerically by report numbers 1-4, with report number 3 never completed. The final report is titled Report of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (1946).
8 Benjamin C. Sax and Dietar Kuntz, Inside Hitler's Germany: a Documentary History of Life in the Third Reich (1992), pp. 219-220. Also see Dietrich Orlow, The History of the Nazi Party, 1919-1933 (1969); George L. Mosse, Nazi Culture (1981); John Willett, Art and Politics in the Weimar Period: The New Sobriety, 1917-1933 (1978); and Jonathan Petropoulos, Art as Politics in the Third Reich (1996).
9 Dietrich Orlow, A History of Modern Germany, 1871 to Present (2nd ed. 1999), pp. 136-140; Shearer West, The Visual Arts in Germany, 1890-1937: Utopia and Despair (2001), pp. 159-205. See also Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich (1992); and Stephanie Barron, "Degenerate Art": The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany (1991).
10 Lucy S. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945 (1975), pp. 95-106. On June 14, 1938, the Nazis defined a Jewish business by issuing the "Third Decree to the Reich Citizenship Law": "A business enterprise is considered Jewish if its owner is a Jew." Dawidowicz, p. 96.
11 Lynn H. Nicholas, The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War (1995), p. 31.
12 See two works by Petropoulos, Art as Politics in the Third Reich and The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany (2000), and also Nicholas, The Rape of Europa. These books describe in detail the Nazi methods of looting and plundering private art collections and public national cultural treasures. Elizabeth Simpson, The Spoils of War: World War II and Its Aftermath: The Loss, Reappearance, and Recovery of Cultural Property (1997), contains accounts of American civilian and military personnel involved in the recovery and restitution of stolen art works.
13 More than 5,000 pieces arrived from the various Rothschild families, 1,200 from the Alphonse Kann collection, 2,600 from David-Weill of Levy de Benzion, and 550 from Seligmann art merchants. According to ERR's paperwork, from 1940 to 1944 it confiscated approximately 10,800 paintings and other pictures, 580 sculptures, 2,400 furniture pieces, 5,800 objets d'art, and more than 1,200 Asiatic articles.
14 Following the alphabetical abbreviation indicating the collection name was the number assigned to the object (placed consecutively), i.e. R1522, the 1,522nd object in the Rothschild collection. CIR No. 1, "Activity of the Einsatzstab Rosenberg in France," attachment 10, box 85, RG 239, NACP.
15 CIR No. 4 Linz, pp. 2-4, and attachments A and B, boxes 85-85A, entry 75, RG 239, NACP.
16 CIR No. 2 Goering, chap. V, Confiscations, boxes 85-85A, entry 75, RG 239, NACP.
17 Consolidated Interrogation Report (CIR) No. 4 Linz: Hitler's Museum and Library, attachment 1, boxes 85-85A, entry 75, RG 239, NACP. See Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, and Petropoulos, Art as Politics in the Third Reich, for further discussion of Posse and Voss.
18 CIR No. 4 Linz, p. 16 and attachment 1, boxes 85-85A, entry 75, RG 239, NACP.
19 Ibid., p. 18.
21 Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, p. 171.
22 Detailed Interrogation Report No. 12 "Hermann Voss," p. 7, boxes 84-84A, entry 74, RG 239, NACP (hereinafter cited as DIR No. 12 Voss).
23 Ibid., pp. 22-23.
24 DIR No. 12 Voss, pp. 6-20, boxes 84-84A, entry 74, RG 239, NACP. Author's conversation with ALIU member S. Lane Faison, Jr., Williamstown, MA, Apr. 6-7, 2002.
25 DIR No. 12 Voss, attachment 4, entry 74, RG 239, NACP.
26 CIR No. 2 "The Goering Collection," Sept. 15, 1945, by Theodore Rousseau, boxes 85-85A, entry 75, RG 239, NACP (hereinafter cited as CIR No. 2 Goering).
27 Ibid. For additional information on Nazi gift giving, see Petropoulos, Art as Politics in the Third Reich, pp. 264-282.
28 CIR No. 2 Goering, pp. 32-148, outlines the ERR's procedures for sales, exchanges, purchases, and confiscations. Boxes 85-85A, entry 75, RG 239, NACP. See also "The Plunder of Art Treasures," in Office of United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, vol. I ("Red series") (1946), pp. 1097-1116.
29 Hofer's correspondence shows his understanding of how Göring operated and which pieces suited Göring's art tastes. For example, in his letter to Göring dated Sept. 26, 1941, Hofer tells of nineteenth-century French paintings he selected for Göring and states that the degenerate art in the Paul Rosenberg collection would be suitable for exchanges. CIR No. 2 Goering, pp. 10-13 and attachments 1, 17, boxes 85-85A, entry 75, RG 239, NACP.
30 The Roberts Commission, RG 239, NACP. See Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, for a narrative account of the commission's contributions to recovering, protecting, and restituting looted artworks.
31 The American Defense Harvard Group had a major interest in protecting art collections and European refugee professors who had seen the confiscation and destruction of national treasures firsthand. U.S. government agencies like the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) used the group to its own advantage since these university communities had the networks to supply intelligence necessary for a successful European campaign. See Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, for a narrative of the American Defense Harvard Group contributions.
32 Chief Justice Harlan Stone to President Roosevelt, Dec. 8, 1942, p. 1, folder "American Commission-Organization," Correspondence, 1943-1946, box 12, entry 7, RG 239, NACP.
33 Cordell Hull to President Roosevelt, June 21, 1943, p. 2, folder "American Commission-Organization," Correspondence, 1943-1946, box 12, entry 7, RG 239, NACP.
34 Cordell Hull to David Finley, director, National Gallery of Art, July 16, 1943, folder "American Commission-Organization," box 12, Correspondence, 1943-1946, entry 7, RG 239, NACP.
35 Other Roberts Commission members included William B. Dinsmoor, president of the Archaeological Institute of America; former governor of New York Herbert Lehman, who resigned in 1942 in order to serve as the first director of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) (see the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance web site, http://motlc.wiesenthal.com/text/x14/xr1426.html); Archibald MacLeish, Librarian of Congress; Paul Sachs, associate director of the Fogg Museum; Archbishop Francis J. Spellman (Spellman replaced Alfred E. Smith of New York when Smith died); Francis Henry Taylor, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Charles H. Sawyer, secretary to the Roberts Commission; Sumner Crosby, Roberts Commission representative in London; and John Walker, chief curator at the National Gallery of Art and special adviser to the commission.
36 During the Roberts Commission's first meeting in August 1945, it created seven subcommittees: Committee on Definition of Works of Cultural Value and Property, chaired by Finely; Committee on Administration, chaired by Finley and Cairns; Committee on Books, Manuscripts, and Other Printed and Written material of Cultural Value, chaired by Archibald MacLeish; Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas and the American Defense-Harvard Group, chaired by ACLS; Committee on Collection of Maps, Information, and Description of Art Objects, co-chaired by Dinsmoor and Sachs; Committee on Personnel, chaired by Sachs and Constable; and Committee on Art instruction in Military Government Schools, chaired by Finley. See Records of the Roberts Commission Subcommittees, entries 42-59, RG 239, NACP.
37 For additional information on the Monuments Men, see the MFA&A records in the Roberts Commission records, Field Reports, 1943-1946, entry 62, boxes 56-74, RG 239, NACP. Janet Flanner wrote a series of New Yorker articles on the MFA&A, which are reproduced in Flanner, Men and Monuments (1990).
38 "Special background guidance for handling all information concerning the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas," dated March 1945, folder "American Commission-Organization," Correspondence, 1943-1946, box 12, entry 7, RG 239, NACP.
40 Hammond's reports are in Records Concerning MFA&A Officers (MFA&A), 1945, box 56, entry 60, RG 239, NACP. Other MFA&A members included Capt. Bancel LaFarge, Lt. George Stout, and First Lt. James Rorimer. See Gerald K. Haines, "Who Gives a Damn about Medieval Walls?" Prologue: Journal of the National Archives 8 (Summer 1976): 97-106; Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, chaps. 10 and 11; and James J. Rorimer, Survival: The Salvage and Protection of Art in War (1950).
41 Webb was the Slade Professor of Fine Arts at Cambridge University. Other Monuments Men included Lt. Lamont Moore, National Gallery of Art; Lt. Calvin Hathaway, Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration; Pfc. Lincoln Kirstein, art patron; Capt. Robert Posey, architect; Capt. Walker Hancock, Prix de Rome sculptor; and Lt. James Rorimer, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
42 MFA&A Field Reports, 1943-1946, entry 62, boxes 56-74, RG 239, NACP. See Nicholas, The Rape of Europa.
43 See MFA&A Field Reports, boxes 56-74, entry 62, RG 239, NACP.
44 Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, pp. 328-331.
46 Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, pp. 346-350. Alt Aussee's estimated contents included 6,577 paintings, 2,300 drawings and watercolors, 1,200-1,700 cases of books, and over 250 cases of unknown objects.
47 Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, p. 338.
48 Ibid., pp. 337-339. Paul von Hindenburg, 1847-1934, was a German general and statesman; Frederick II, the Great, 1712-1786, ruled 1740-1786; and Frederick William II, 1744-1797, ruled 1786-1797.
49 Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, p. 342.
50 See Bradley F. Smith, The Shadow Warriors: O.S.S. and the Origins of the C.I.A. (1983). See also R. Harris Smith, OSS: the Secret History of American's First Central Intelligence Agency (1973).
51 Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, p. 282.
52 Memorandum dated Nov. 21, 1944, from Lt. J. S. Plaut, USNR, and Lt. T. Rousseau, Jr., USNR, to James R. Murphy, Chief X-2 Branch, Subject: Fine Arts Project-"ORION", pp. 1-2, X-2 Branch, folder 1747, box 532, RG 226, NACP.
53 Nicholas, The Rape of Europa, p. 282.
54 James S. Plaut, the ALIU's director, was director of Boston's Institute for Contemporary Art. Theodore Rousseau, ALIU's Operations Officer, was a curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. S. Lane Faison Jr., an ALIU officer and later director of the Munich Central Collecting Point, was a professor of fine arts at Williams College in Massachusetts. Additional staff members included Otto Wittman, the unit's liaison officer in Washington, DC, and John Phillip, the liaison officer in the ALIU's London office.
55 See Michael Kurtz, Nazi Contraband: American Policy in the Return of European Cultural Treasures, 1945-1955 (1985), which examines the politics of restitution of the Allied organizations and describes the failed attempt to create one repatriation policy in the postwar period.
56 For further reading on the collecting points, see Craig Hugh Smyth, Repatriation of Art from the Collecting Point in Munich after World War II (1988); Walter I. Farmer, The Safekeepers: A Memoir of the Arts at the End of World War II (2000); and Thomas Carr Howe, Jr., Salt Mines and Castles: The Discovery and Restitution of Looted European Art (1946).
57 Lt. Craig Hugh Smyth directed the Munich collecting point. See Smyth's book for a first hand account of the challenges Smyth faced trying to establish the collecting point in 1945. See Munich's Administrative Records in the Records of the Munich Central Collecting Point in the Ardelia Hall Collection, boxes 263-277, OMGUS, RG 260, NACP. S. Lane Faison, Jr., former ALIU member 1944-1946, returned to Munich in 1950 to assist in closing Munich collecting point. Author's conversation with Faison, April 6-7, 2002, Williamstown, MA.
58 Col. Seymour Pomrenze directed the Offenbach Archival Depot. See Records of the Offenbach Archival Depot in the Ardelia Hall Collection, boxes 250-262, OMGUS, RG 260, NACP. Offenbach reports are located in the Monthly Consolidated Field Reports in the Records of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point in the Ardelia Hall Collection, boxes 136-139, OMGUS, RG 260, NACP.
59 A collecting point property card number consists of the shipment number, origin of the shipment, and the number of the specific item being shipped. For example, a painting arriving to Munich from the mine at Alt Aussee would have the shipment number 23/Aussee 9, the ninth object on the twenty-third shipment from Alt Aussee. Property cards were created for the Marburg, Munich, and Wiesbaden collecting points and are now part of the Ardelia Hall Collection, RG 260, OMGUS, NACP.
Anne Rothfeld was an archivist with the Holocaust Records Project at the National Archives and Records Administration.
Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.