Showing posts with label ERR. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ERR. Show all posts

June 11, 2012

Anniversary of Gustave Courbet's Birth and the Number of Stolen Courbet Paintings Reported by Interpol

Courbet's Coastal Landscape in North of France/Interpol
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Huffington Post contributor Priscilla Frank saluted Gustave Courbet's birth on June 10, 1819 with a tribute to the artist and a selection of ten of her favorite paintings.

On the ARCA blog, we've covered a Courbet painting stolen from a gallery in Swansea, Wales in 1957; a landscape stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Art in 1972; and a Nazi-era looted painting of a dead deer.

Interpol's Stolen Art Database lists 10 works by Courbet that remain stolen (identified by their Interpol titles in English): Coast Scene with Cliffs and Breaking Waves (Swansea, 1957); Self-Portrait (Italy, 1971); Landscape with Rocks and Steam (Canada, 1972); Head of a Young (France, 1981); Standing Man (Switzerland, 1984); La Mer (Switzerland, 1992); Stream of Consolation (France, 1997); Landscape (Paraguay, 2002); Coastal Landscape In North of France (Switzerland, 2008); and   Shot Deer (Slovenia, 2010).

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.

To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to The Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.

January 31, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Contributor Patricia Kennedy Grimsted on Plundering Libraries in World War II

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Dr. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted wrote “The Postwar Fate of Einsatzstab Riechsleiter Rosenberg Archival and Library Plunder, and the Dispersal of ERR Records” in the Fall 2010 issue of the Journal of Art Crime. In her abstract, Dr. Grimsted wrote:
“Alfred Rosenberg was one of Nazi Germany’s most successful “looters.” The Einsatzstab Richsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), organized specifically for plunder under his direction, seized cultural property across Nazi-occupied territories. This article traces what happened to the ERR’s hoard of books and archival materials that ended up at war’s end in the ERR evacuation center headquartered in Ratibor (now Polish Racibórz) in Upper Silesia. In contrast to the treasures found in the Western occupation zones of Germany and Austria, a large part of the property in Silesia fell into Soviet hands. Thus plundered a second time, it was held in secret for decades. Only recently has it been possible to find and identify the displaced books and archives, and to raise the issue of restitution. The author also addresses the issue of where and why the ERR’s own records were scattered, as well as current efforts to identify them and make them more accessible to researchers electronically on the Internet.”
Dr. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted is a Senior Research Associate at the Ukrainian Research Institute and an Associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University and an Honorary Fellow of the International Institute of Social History (Amsterdam). She received her Ph.D. in Russian history at the University of California, Berkeley in 1964 and has taught at several universities, including American University and the University of Maryland. Among many fellowships and awards, she was a Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2000-2001), and in 2002 she received the Distinguished Contribution to Slavic Studies Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. Dr. Grimsted is the West’s leading authority on archives of the former Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the other Soviet successor states. She is the author of several historical monographs, documentary publications, and a series of directories and many other studies on Soviet-area archives, including the comprehensive Archives of Russia: A Directory and bibliographic Guide to Holdings in Moscow and St. Petersburg (Russian edition, 1997; English edition, 2000). She currently directs the Internet version of ArcheoBiblioBase, a collaborative electronic directory project with data from the Federal Archival Service of Russia, maintained by the International Institute of Social History (Amsterdam).

She has also written widely on World War II displaced cultural treasures (see below). In 1990 she was responsible for revealing information about the archives from all over Europe that were captured by Soviet authorities after the war and long hidden in Moscow. With Dutch colleagues she edited the volume Returned from Russia: Nazi Archival Plunder in Western Europe and Recent Restitution Issues (Institute of Art and Law, UK, 2007), soon to be released in an updated paper edition. Most recently, she edited and was a major contributor to the collection Spoils of War v. Cultural Heritage: The Russian Cultural Property Law in Historical Context, published as International Journal of Cultural Property 17, no. 2 (2010). She is currently consulting for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and has just completed the guide Reconstructing the Record of Nazi Cultural Plunder: A Survey of the Dispersed Archives of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), soon to be released on the Internet, which is already serving as the basis for virtual display of many dispersed fragments, in cooperation with the Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archives).

ARCA blog: You write about meeting a retired Belarusan professor of French philology, Vladimir Makarov, who had found in Minsk books with autographs of French writers such as André Gide, André Malraux, and Paul Valéry. He told you in 2003 that he had not found anyone else so concerned about the provenance and fate of these books. More than six decades after World War II, what is it about these stolen and misplaced libraries that is so compelling for you? And are you surprised that these volumes have not been destroyed?
Dr. Grimsted: Over the past decade and a half there has been a renewed interest in the fate of cultural valuables looted during the war. I find it tragic that many of these books were looted from Holocaust victims and other prominent individuals in Western Europe, and that unlike countries in Western Europe, the Soviet Union never made any effort to return them to their owners. Only since the 1990s have we learned about the fate of the art, archives, and libraries books looted a second time by the Soviets after the war.

Some of the volumes from Western Europe the Soviets captured were destroyed, but close to half a million survived. The rare books that were hidden away for half a century in Belarus, many with famous autographs, are finally being catalogued. However, Belarus librarians have no interest in returning them to their owners, and prefer to consider them “compensation” for their own war losses..
ARCA blog: You write that owners of half a million plundered books from Western Europe and the Balkans that went to Minsk (and another half million plundered from Soviet libraries) never knew that their books had survived and been “saved” by the Red Army. The information was classified or secret for half a century. You think that even today the Rothschild family or the heirs of Léon Blum, Georges Mandel, or Louise Weiss may not know that some of the treasures from their family libraries traveled to Minsk. Are people making inquiries now that ERR records of plunder are being gathered, digitized and made available on the internet?
Dr. Grimsted: Some of those people have learned about the books that went to Minsk after my articles revealed the story of their fate, and there have been a number of inquiries about them since. There is considerable interest, especially among the families and heirs of Holocaust victims in learning more details, and even the suggestion of setting up a database about the looted collections.
To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.

November 8, 2010

Revisiting the Cultural Plunder Database

Biche more, Gustave Courbet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Revisiting the “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Richsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume”

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

The database of stolen art from Jewish French and Belgian collectors processed through the Jeu de Paume in Paris from 1940 to 1944 has received more than 11,000 visits from 97 countries since its public release three weeks ago.

The database, which can be accessed at, is a Joint Project of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with the cooperation of the Bundesarchiv (The German Federal Archives), France Diplomatie: Diplomatic Archive Center of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, and The United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The website for the database also includes a photo gallery of the Nazi’s “Special Task Force”, the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), processing art works through the center of Paris and another section of works of art considered objectionable (“Degenerate”) by the Nazis – works by artists such as Max Ernst, Salvardor Dalí, and Kees van Dongen.

Users can browse by art owners, by collection, or by artist. Information about the art includes measurements, a title in German, and the name of the owner and the collection and in many cases, whether or not the painting or artwork was restituted to its wartime owner.

An 1857 painting by Gustave Courbet (titled in German Totes Re him Walde or in French Biche morte) entered the Jeu de Paume between September and October of 1942. It was considered for a possible exchange, but was returned to France in 1949. In 1951, the French national museum collection placed it into into the Louvre until 1954 when it was sent to the Musée National Ahmed Zabana in Oran. The painting stayed in Algeria for 31 years until it was stolen in October of 1985.

A painting “considered for exchange” indicates that the ERR staff wanted to trade the painting with art dealers as “payment-in-kind” for works of art desired by Hermann Goering and other Nazi dignitaries for their collections or for the Reich.

Sixteen years later, a reproduction of the same painting, now under the new title of Chevreuil Mort/Dead Deer, appeared in an auction catalogue for a sale scheduled at the George V Hotel in Paris on December 19, 2001. Recognizing the stolen the painting, the French museums rquested that the painting be withdrawn from the sale. It was seized by the police, then transferred to the musée d’Orsay on October 29, 2002.

The ERR Collection Name was “MA-B” or “Möbel-Aktion Bilder”, a category of more than 1,300 matches. "Möbel Aktion" means that it was ‘Operation Furniture’ that the work was removed from a Jewish home. “Bilder” means it was a picture. However, the original owner was not identified by the Nazis and the painting has not been returned to that family.

Could the family who owned that painting make a claim for the return of their painting today? We asked this question to Marc Masurovsky, the project’s director and a consultant to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

“If it is the same painting and was not recovered by a legitimate owner and there is someone who can attest to be the rightful owner of the work, that person can make a claim for the unrecovered object,” Masurovsky wrote in an email. “As you know, the database is a work in progress and much information still needs to be added, especially with respect to the postwar fate of many of the works and objects described in the database.”

October 18, 2010

Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume

By Catherine Sezgin

During World War II in Nazi-occupied Paris, more than 20,000 art objects were systematically looted from over 200 Jewish families, and either sold or transported to Germany. Seventy years later, at least half of the objects have not yet been restituted to the owners, or their heirs, in accordance with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The Claims Conference and the United State Holocaust Museum have just released an online database of art objects that were processed from 1940 to 1944 in the center of Paris at the Jeu de Paume on the Place de la Concorde.

As the Nazis’s special task force the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) confiscated paintings, sculptures, objets d’art, and antiquities from private collections. More than sixty people at the Jeu de Paume inventoried, photographed, and arranged for the transportation of the artworks on 120 railways coaches from France to Germany. Every looted painting was registered and stamped by the Nazis. The French national, Rose Volland, a volunteer at the museum before the war who observed the operation, kept a secret account of everything the Nazis stole and where they planned to deliver the art. Using secret couriers during the war, she notified the Allied Forces of the Nazis’s activities. After the defeat of the Third Reich, much of the stolen art was found and returned to their countries of origin to be reunited with their owners. However, many families, who were devastated by the Holocaust, did not have the records to identify or claim artworks.

Now the Claims Conference, working with the technical support of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, has transferred the information from the index cards, or inventory lists, to a database “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume.”

“Decades after the greatest mass theft in history, families robbed of their prize artworks can now search this list to help them locate long-lost treasures,” said Julius Berman, Claims Conference Chairman [in a press release]. “It is now the responsibility of museums, art dealers, and auction houses to check their holdings against these records to determine whether they might be in possession of art stolen from Holocaust victims. Organizing Nazi art-looting records is an important step in righting a historical wrong. It is not too late to restore art that should have been passed down within Jewish families instead of decorating Nazi homes or stored at Nazi sites.”

The public can access the newly released online database on Nazi looted art from Paris through the URL: Users can search by collection, owner, artist, and type of art object (paintings, works on paper, sculpture, decorative arts or antiquities). Information in the database will be regularly updated, according to Project Director Marc Masurovsky, a consultant to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Masurovsky used some ARCA graduates to assist in the inputting of the datasets.

Masurovsky, the co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), which began in 1997, spoke about documenting and recovering Nazi looted art last March at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment for ARCA’s exhibit “The Dark Arts: Thieves, Forgers and Tomb Raiders” in Washington, DC this past February. He also spoke about “Nazi Plunder of Looted Cultural Property and Its Impact on Today’s Art Market” at ARCA’s International Art Crime Conference in July in Amelia, Italy.

In the future, users will be able to find individual datasets through Google by typing specific artists’ names in the search box, Masurovsky wrote in an email. Each object in the database is described based on the information from the card that the Nazis filled out and includes any images that may have been taken. The database also provides information about whether or not the artwork was returned to France and if it was restituted to its owner. For example, Arthur Levy’s collection of 125 artworks has not been returned to the family. Database users can even search by Artist. For example, a landscape by Vincent van Gogh from the collection of Alfred Weinberger in Paris was photographed and measured (60 x 100 cm) when it was brought to the Jeu de Paume in 1941 on December 4.

The Jeu de Paume as a looted art center was of particular interest to the German army’s second-in-command, Hermann Göring who spent two days there during the war looking at the art. He then asked that photographs of the art be sent to Hitler for him to make selections from the spoils of war. Unfortunately, in July 1942, the Jeu de Paume collection center was overburdened. Paintings declared unfit for German collections and too degenerate to be sold on the art market were burned in the garden. Rose Volland was said to have cried at the destruction of works by Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Jean Míro and Salvador Dali.