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The Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR)’s Exchange Operations


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About the Exhibition
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Works of Art Seized by
Nazi Organizations

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The ERR’s Exchange
Operations

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Post-War Restitutions
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Works Purchased on the
Paris Art Market

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Works of Unknown Origin
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Works Returned to
France by Germany in 1994

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Investigations conducted immediately after the war by a unit of the United States’ Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU), focused special attention on the exchange operations conducted by the ERR (Operation Rosenberg Administrative Staff). The interrogation of key German dealer Gustav Rochlitz provided such precise information about these operations that it was possible to reconstruct the lists of exchanged works. From February 1941 to November 1943, the ERR conducted twenty-eight exchange operations with six people, eighteen of these with Rochlitz. While a few were conducted on behalf of Hitler or Ribbentrop, most were intended for Göring.

The need for these exchanges arose from the impossibility of transferring to the territories of the Reich modern works that were deemed “degenerate art” by Nazi ideology. Paintings by Picasso and Matisse, of which there were many among the confiscated stocks – notably those of Paul Rosenberg, who had long been Picasso’s art dealer – were thus exchanged for works, often Dutch and Flemish, that conformed more closely to the taste of their intended recipients. A considerable number of these works were recovered immediately after the war in the stocks of the ERR or those of Gustav Rochlitz. Paul Rosenberg was personally able to retrieve some of these from art dealers, notably in Switzerland. Others were identified more recently–thus, for example, Fernand Léger’s Woman in Red and Green, which was discovered to correspond to a painting designated at the time as Knight in Armor. In September 2003, the work was restituted by France to Paul Rosenberg’s beneficiaries.

 

 

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