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About the Exhibition אודות התערוכה

 

       
       
       


 

Works of Art Seized by Nazi Organizations


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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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From the outset of the Occupation, the Nazis endeavored to seize valuable works of art in France. From 1940 to 1944, various agencies seized works from the private collections of individuals and from the stocks of art dealers subjected to the implementation of Nazi racial laws.

First to act was the Reich’s Embassy in France, which targeted major collections such as those of the Rothschilds as early as the summer of 1940. The Reich’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs considered using these extremely valuable works as leverage in future peace negotiations.

The Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (Operation Rosenberg Administrative Staff), or ERR, – created by Hitler and placed under the authority of Alfred Rosenberg, a Nazi Party ideologue and exponent of its racial theory – set up a unit in Paris in the fall of 1940, with the aim of systematically looting Jewish art collections. Its activities were directed by Bruno Lohse and Kurt von Behr. Between April 1941 and July 1944, the ERR sent 138 railcars containing 4,174 cases, totaling 22,000 individual works or groups of objects, to Germany.

The Devisenschutzkommando (Unit for Preserving Foreign Currency), in charge of financial matters, seized artworks taken from safe deposit boxes.

Finally, the Dienststelle Westen (Western Office), established in May 1942 by Alfred Rosenberg and directed by Kurt von Behr, carried out the looting of homes. An account dated July 1994 reports the pillage of some 38,000 residences in Paris. The artworks seized in these operations were transferred to the ERR.

The occupying power requisitioned space in the Louvre and Jeu de Paume museums to temporarily store the looted artworks. At a certain point, French museums attempted to stem the loss of their cultural heritage resulting from the pillage of private collections: they implemented preemptive measures, or sought to interfere by registering private collections on the inventory lists of national museums. Such efforts, however, achieved only limited results.

 

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