February 22, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Patricia Kennedy Grimsted on "Reconstructing the Record of Nazi Cultural Plunder"

Dr. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted most recent publication, Reconstructing the Record of Nazi Cultural Plunder: A Survey of the Dispersed Archives of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), will soon be launched on-line by the International Institute of Social History (IISG/IISH) in Amsterdam . Issued in association with the Netherlands Institute of War Documentation (NIOD), with generous support of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) it describes the archival remains of the ERR in 29 repositories in 9 countries – from Washington and Brussels to Moscow and Kyiv.

Dr. Grimsted’s article “The Postwar Fate of Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg Archival and Library Plunder, and the Dispersal of ERR Records,” appeared in the fourth issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

As Dr. Grimsted writes, “The Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), the ‘Special Task Force’ headed by Adolf Hitler's leading ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, was one of the main Nazi agencies engaged in looting cultural valuables in Nazi-occupied countries during the Second World War. The detail with which the ERR documented the art, archives, books, and other Judaica they plundered has proved essential for the recovery of cultural valuables after the war and their return to victims or heirs.”

Dr. Grimsted's new extensive international survey serves as a preliminary guide to documents generated by the ERR as well as records by postwar agencies seeking to return the ERR loot. Links are provided to many dispersed materials now available on the Internet or in microform. These include the recent efforts of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the German Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv), and other repositories, with additional digital contributions expected soon, providing improved access to a major component of the record of wartime cultural plunder and retrieval.
A discussion with Dr. Grimsted about her article, "The Postwar Fate of einsatzstaf Reichsleiter Rosenberg Archival and Library Plunder, and the Dispersal of ERR Records", published in the same issue can be found on the ARCA blog on January 31.

Currently, Russian museums are withholding art previously scheduled for travel to the United States for exhibitions due to a conflict over books and archives from a Jewish library now held in Russia. The Schneerson Library of 12,000 books assembled by the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement over two centuries was nationalized after 1917 and is held today in the Russian State Library in Moscow. Their related collection of 50,000 religious documents taken to Poland prior to World War II was stolen by the Nazis, and then found by the Soviet Army and taken to Moscow, where it has been held in secret for decades in the Soviet Union.

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