Special Reports


This is the first part of a series of articles on the history of the international law on restitution by the same author.

"History was frequently written in booty rather than in books, and the upward surge of nation after nation can still be traced through the remains of wartime plunder." D. Rigby

Looking at history shows that wartime looting has always been recognized as a justified 'part of the game'. Moreover, quite frequently it was the only real reason for the hostilities. The only words of criticism or protest can be found in the Bible and in writings of philosophers and scholars. Polybius says: "One may perhaps have some reason for amassing gold and silver. In fact, it would be impossible to attain universal dominion without appropriating these resources from other peoples in order to weaken them. In the case of every other form of wealth, however, it is more glorious to leave it where it was, together with the envy which it inspired, and to base our country's glory not on the abundance and beauty of its paintings and statues but on its sober customs and noble sentiments. Moreover, I hope that future conquerors will learn from these thoughts not to plunder the cities subjugated by them, and not to make the misfortune of other peoples the adornments of their own glory".

Plundering was unrestricted in Antiquity. Under Roman Law, the enemy's wealth, including what is nowadays called cultural property, was considered "res nullius" - ownerless - from the very beginning of war. It became the victor's property when it came into his possession according to ancient "ius praedae" - law of booty. Legal consequences of this rule were so far-reaching, that the former owner could not automatically get his title restituted even if he managed to regain his possession.

For the first time in history, this severe law was restricted by the medieval doctrine of a just war. The idea was that only the belligerent party which had a justified right to wage war had the right to unlimited looting. According to one of the contemporary lawyers of that day, "if one wages war on the guilty because of unavoidable necessity, as in defence of motherland or to reclaim property, whatever is conquered from the enemy is his, and he is not obliged to return it". The prize deriving from unjust war consequently had to be returned, "as the sin cannot be remitted until the loot is given back". Chronicles of the time confirm, that these principles were not only a part of theory but also existed in practice. For example, "injusta possessa" objects had to be given back to the King of Poland according to the Avignon papal adjudigation of 1321 against the Teutonic Knights. The Peace Treaty of 1441 also ordered the return to Venice of "omnes et singulares terras, Castra, Villas et Loca, (...) possessiones et res" by the Duke of Milan.

The described limitation constituted a great step forward in the evolution of the Law of Nations but was of a general character and did not differentiate the booty as such. The only exceptions were ecclesiastical objects, which were particularly protected on religious grounds. A Polish chronicler gives us some details on the case of the Gniezno Cathedral pillaged by the Prince of Bohemia in 1039. The booty of war included relics of saints, sculptures, liturgical vessels and bells. Pope Benedict IX listened to both parties. The Bohemians claimed, that "our Prince Bretislav and the Bohemian people were deeply convinced that it was justified for them to pillage by the right of war they waged against Poles". Hearing that, as the chronicler writes further on, the Pope "scolded the envoys and concluded that their excuse had no sense and was groundless. It is not proper to loot God's churches from their sanctities and articles devoted to God in any war, even if it is a just war. (...) Since wars are waged only against people, not against objects related to the Heavens and worship. Therefore, they should return all relics looted from the Gniezno Cathedral and other Polish churches, or they must be aware of the fact that the Holy See, with all severity, will excommunicate Bretislaw and the Prague bishop, Sewerus."

Gradually, the concept of just and unjust wars lost its importance and the discussion turned to the question of the legality of booty itself. Theories of "praeda licita" - licit prize - and "praeda illicta" - illicit prize - aimed at distinguishing between the justified taking of the enemy's property and ordinary theft.

The substantial change in the analyzed doctrine came with the Renaissance and its admiration for Reason and Beauty according to which works of art were appreciated for their own sake. Consequently, Jakub Przyluski formulated a rule that not only sacred objects, but also works of art and literature had to be protected during war. Although in Latin his most important statement can easily be understood without translation. He argued, that during hostilities "sacra, literarum et artificum nobilium monumenta conservabit integra, cunctis ab injuriis defensa". Being fully a man of his epoch, he even suggested an additional extent of this protection: the lives of men renowned for their virtues and knowledge should also be spared. As good examples of such practice certain facts from Ancient history were given, e.g. the case of the Consul Marcellus who spared Archimedes' life after the conquest of Syracuse.

The history of the Renaissance does not give us evidence of such far-reaching practice but in peace treaties we can find clauses stipulating the restitution of looted cultural objects. In this context it will be sufficient to refer to the well-known return of Raphael's tapestries to Pope Julius III in 1553 by Constable Montmorency. The Pope lost them during the Sacco di Roma in 1527.

In the course of time the obligation to restitution could be better explained with the help of new arguments produced by the emerging Law of Nature. Summarizing the whole doctrine developed by his predecessors, Hugo Grotius says: "If the reason for the war is unjust, all activities resulting from this war are unjust because of their intrinsic injustice, even if the war is waged in the way a formal war should be waged. (...) The obligation to restitution lies with the persons who perpetrated the war, either by starting it, being rulers themselves, or by giving advice to rulers. This obligation extends to all wrongdoings that usually result from war, and even to other misdeeds these people ordered to be done or did not prevent when it was possible. (...) A person who did not do any wrong or did it without guilt, and holds an object that has been taken by someone else in an unjust war, is obliged to give it back, because, according to the Law of Nature, no just reason exists for another person to be deprived of the objects, has he not agreed to this or deserved such punishment, nor is there a need to fulfill any obligation."

Wojciech Kowalski,
Department of Intellectual and Cultural Property Law,
Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Silesia, Katowice


Three recent California cases highlight the growing opportunities in the United States for World War II theft victims to recover their stolen and looted works of art if they can be located.

On December 1st, 1995 the University of California recovered a Stradivari violin missing for 27 years. It was either stolen or misplaced in 1967. The University reported the loss to the missing property registry operated by the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. In 1994 the University learned of the violin's location and made demand for its return. In late October 1994, the University obtained an order requiring the current possessor to deposit the violin in a vault at the University pending a court ruling on title. On December 1st, the University paid $ 11,500 for the Stradivari valued at $ 800,000 to $ 2,000,000. Although there was no judicial ruling, the University clearly prevailed.

On February 1st, 1996 the California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District, decided Naftzger v. The American Numismatic Society, 1996 Cal. App. Lexis 192. In Naftzger the court held that a theft victim's claim to recover stolen art does not accrue until he "actually" discovers the identity of the missing property's possessor. Naftzger in good faith and for fair value had purchased 129 valuable coins in 1973 which had been stolen from the American Numismatic Society prior to 1970. Naftzger claimed the Society could not recover because the right to sue arose when the coins were stolen 25 years earlier and thus the applicable statute of limitations - three years - precluded recovery. The court rejected this argument and ruled that the three year period did not commence until the Society learned of Naftzger's possession of the stolen coins.

Finally, on March 15th, 1996, the California Court of Appeals, First Appellate District, decided The Society of California Pioneers v. Baker, 1996 Cal. App. Lexis 240. Baker had acquired a stolen gold and quartz cane handle in 1991. The Society from which it had been stolen in 1978 thereafter learned of Bakers's purchase and sought recovery.

The Court ruled that the statute of limitations - three years - began to run as to Baker when Baker purchased the cane handle in 1991 and not when it was stolen in 1978. Although finding for the theft victim, the Court warned that constructive notice of the loss and the diligence of the theft victim in making the loss known was material (like the laches defence available under New York law where the test is whether the current possessor suffered prejudice as a result of the theft victim's failure to provide notice of the loss). The Court echoed other state and federal decisions in warning that "the steps a party should take to recover stolen art objects vary according to the facts of each case ...".

The three cases from the most populous state in the United States reflect the New York rule that statutes of limitations generally will not prohibit recovery in the United States by a prior theft victim - whether the theft was 25, 50 or 100 years ago. What can preclude recovery - whether in New York, California or elsewhere - is the ability of the current possessor to show prejudice as a result of the failure of the theft victim to give notice of the loss.

Lloyd Goldenberg, TransArt International,
Willi A. Korte, Historian, Washington D.C.


Leaders in art, antiquities, criminial law, and law enforcement have established The Society to Prevent Trade in Stolen Art, Ltd. (S.T.O.P.), a not-for profit organization based in Washington, D.C. Through educational programs and resource services, S.T.O.P. will combat trade in stolen and fraudulent art, assisting individuals and institutions who have been victimized.

At least five billion dollars of art and antiquities are stolen annually. "Unfortunately, museums often have stolen art in their collections", explains S.T.O.P. founding-member Harry Rand, a senior curator at the Smithsonian Institution. "To make matters worse, museum personnel are too often not trained to deal with the complex issues that stolen art will generate." S.T.O.P. intends to organize a lecture series in cities throughout the United States which will educate the public, art collectors, art dealers, museum personnel, and art collectors and dealers in the rights, risks, and remedies involved with stolen, forged, or faked art. S.T.O.P. will also work with the nation's museums, auction houses, and galleries to inform them of the precautions they should take to avoid purchasing stolen or fraudulent art as well as the legal remedies which are available when confronted with problematic art sales and acquisitions.

S.T.O.P. also plans to provide both national and international assistance in law enforcement, including the creation of training programs for American law enforcement personnel. "Through such programs, S.T.O.P. will familiarize law enforcement personnel with the scope of the problem, the legal implications of the crimes, and the forfeiture provisions available in the law", states Whitney Adams, a former Assistant to the U. S. Attorney and founding member of S.T.O.P.

On the state and national level, S.T.O.P. intends to assist in drafting a series of model laws which will codify the types of offenses and penalties involved in trafficking stolen and fraudulent art. On an international level, the organization will contribute to the development of an international uniform legal code for art theft. "Currently, art law differs from country to country, creating a legal environment which actually encourages art theft", says Joshua Kaufman, Esquire, of S.T.O.P. "Once art finds its way into countries with statutes allowing a bona fide purchaser to acquire good title, stolen art can be exported and traded as legitimate."

S.T.O.P. will publish a newsletter detailing key national and international art law cases; its offices house an extensive library of legal cases, books and articles on the topic of stolen and fraudulent art. In this library, S.T.O.P. will maintain and make available to the public a resource service listing the various organizations which provide information and services to victims of art theft. A special division will focus primarily on assisting war victims, be they individuals or nations, in their quest to recover their looted treasures.

Also in the works for S.T.O.P. are a variety of computer services, including a Web Page on the Internet (the site is presently under construction and should be open by March 1st, 1996 - http://www.stop.com ) and an on-line database for pre-1987 auction house records. Such a database will aid individuals wishing to verify the authenticity and provenance of works they intend to or have already purchased.

Joshua Kaufman, Jeff Kleinman,
Art Law Experts, S.T.O.P., Washington D.C.


This year, Schliemann's gold caused a worldwide media sensation. The "Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin" (Museum of Pre- and Early History of the State Museums of Berlin) is the owner of the collection of Trojan antiquities since it was given by Schliemann in 1880 to "the German People for eternal ownership and undivided preservation in the capital of the state" ("dem deutschen Volke zu ewigem Besitze und ungetrennter Aufbewahrung in der Reichshauptstadt").

On April 11th this year, the Heinrich-Schliemann Hall in the Berlin Museum was reopened with its characteristical examples of Heinrich Schliemann's excavation findings in Troy. About 500 exhibits of the approximately 5,000 objects of this unique collection now to be found in Berlin again are on display; they all date back to the time between ca. 3,000 B.C. (layer "Troy 1") until the Roman epoch. Today an estimated 60% of the original collection are gathered in Berlin, only a small part of it was destroyed in the war. Other objects have not been returned to Berlin; among the latter is the materially most significant "Treasure of Priam". Since April 17th this year, the "Treasure of Priam" is on display in the Pushkin Museum as part of an exhibition of trophies.

Little by little Russia begins to open its archives and special magazines and exhibits cultural treasures now which the Red Army found in Germany and carried away into the Soviet Union in the years of 1945 and after. Among those war booties was the Gold of Troy which Heinrich Schliemann in 1873 still referred to as the "Treasure of Priam" and which today stands symbolically for all the cultural objects which have been held back by Russia until the present day. Equally symbolic is the debate on this part of the inventory of the Museum of Pre- and Early History. Unfortunately some colleagues in and out of the country behave destructively regarding the Schliemann collection at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and disregard any right of ownership of the German museum. A group of international researchers, presently continuing Schliemann's excavations in Troy, is putting pressure on the director of the Pushkin Museum in Moscow to allow the drilling of holes into the Trojan objects for material analysis. No permission has been given by the owner, i.e. the "Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz" (the representative of the Museum of Pre- and Early History), and it has never been asked for one either. It is most commendable that Mrs. Antonowa insists to wait with the sampling until the legal situation has been solved.

Archaeology is the science which has to write history for those epochs of which no written tradition exists. Primarily it makes use of the few remains of material culture which have been passed on to posterity. It is dependent upon coherent finds or upon successive layers such as in Troy out of which temporal and cultural conclusions can be drawn by means of contextual comparison. The sum of historical material the archaeologist has to work with could be compared to a history book which is the one and only and is written in an unknown language still to be translated step by step. Through World War II, a few illuminated pages of this sole copy have been moved to Moscow, others to St. Petersburg, and many have stayed at its original place in Berlin or have returned to the city after the war. How can the decipherment, i.e. the historical research, be continued unobstructedly, if, for example, one of the bronze pans of the Treasure of Priam (item no. 1 in the catalogue of the exhibition in Moscow) is spread over three museums? Apart from the pan itself which is at the Moscow exhibition, part of the handle can be found at the exhibition in Berlin and the end part of it is in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg but not (yet) on display. (To our knowledge the Hermitage keeps or kept at least 414 items of Berlin's Trojan collection since 1945.)

The same problem, for example, applies to important grave finds which have been torn apart, such as the graves of the nobility in Weimar from the times of the "Völkerwanderung" (Migration Period, 4th-6th cent. A.D.). Burial objects made of ceramic, bronze, iron and glass, even some pieces of silver jewelry are available for research in Berlin, but those objects made of gold arrived undamaged at the Pushkin Museum in 1945; the question is whether they are still there. Hiding these historical evidences contradicts the standards of the Hague Convention of 1954 as agreed upon by the USSR in 1956.

It still remains deplorable that further 1,278 objects or groups of irreplaceable objects of archaeological finds from ancient Europe are not accessible until today - with the exception of the 259 pieces of Schliemann collection of Berlin, shown in Moscow at the moment. The former were all packed into the same boxes, MVF 1 to 3, and were brought to Moscow in 1945; Mrs. Antonowa confirmed the completeness of objects with her signature in July 1945.

A quarter of a century ago, the author began to search systematically for the supposedly missing treasures of ancient Europe from the Museum of Pre- and Early History. At that time some colleagues in East and West believed the venture was doomed to failure. They believed that not a single piece which had not been returned to the then separate museums in East and West Berlin could have survived the war and its aftermath. The preserved lists mention some 3,400 objects which before the war were classified as "irreplaceable". Only 600 of them can be found in the two Berlin museums today and are available in the reunited collections of the Museum of Pre- and Early History in the Charlottenburg Castle in Berlin.

The Pushkin Museum in Moscow currently exhibits 259 pieces from the Troy collection and probably knows about the destiny of most of the other 1,278 precious metal finds. Additionally, further 1,209 objects classified as "irreplaceable" before the war are missing in Berlin. All these treasures are now listed in the catalogue "Dokumentation der Verluste" (Documentation of Losses), volume IV, published by the "Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz" (see bibliography), since there is no longer any reason to assume the destruction of these highly important pieces during the war.

Not only in the common "Europäisches Haus" (European House), which the nations of the continent try to renovate, but also in a new "Haus der Kulturen der Welt" (House of Cultures of the World) it is necessary to further an unprejudiced search for the historically valuable cultural treasures, especially the search for those objects considered to be of national significance and which are missing since 1945. This task should be carried out in trustful cooperation among the staff members of all institutions concerned, museums, libraries, and archives; i.e. cooperation on the "middle" and not on the political level.

Klaus Goldmann,
Senior Curator at the Museum of Pre- and Early History, Berlin


The "Sonderkommando Künsberg" (Special Unit Künsberg) was one of numerous national socialist organizations, which systematically and on a large scale looted cultural treasures from the USSR in the course of World War II. Eberhard Freiherr von Künsberg took command of this unit on behalf of the Foreign Ministry ("Auswärtiges Amt") under the foreign minister of the Third Reich, von Ribbentrop. Apart from museum exhibits, posters and records, mainly archival material, magazines and books were confiscated. In March 1942, the academic staff members of the unit organized an exhibition in Berlin under the title "Examples of the objects taken by the Sonderkommando Künsberg of the Foreign Ministry during the action in Russia". The booty was presented in four categories: 1. regional studies, 2. politics, 3. political files, and 4. valuables saved from destruction.

Detailed catalogues of the exhibition together with written invitations were sent out to selected representatives of highest NS-ministries, such as the "Reichspropagandaministerium" (Ministry of Propaganda) and the "Führerkanzlei" (Chancellery of the Führer). Unlike Himmler's organization "Das Ahnenerbe" (Ancestral Heritage) and unlike the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, whose confiscations were used for their own scientific purposes (e.g. the installation of the Library East and the "Hohe Schule"), Künsberg took art works for the distribution among interested institutions. During the exhibition numerous agreements were reached with the latter.

The "Publikationsstelle Ost" (Publication Office East) handed over a list of requests for books to be confiscated to the Geographical Service, one of the subdivisions of the Sonderkommando. The Headquarter of the Wehrmacht ("Oberkommando der Wehrmacht", OKW) and the Security Service ("Sicherheitsdienst", SD) received from Künsberg maps confiscated in the war-zone and other regional geographic information. The Foreign Ministry alone received 69,135 maps and 75,608 volumes of geographical literature. Originally Künsberg's Sonderkommando was ordered to secure buildings of enemy and neutral diplomatic representatives during the invasion of Poland. Before his action in the Soviet Union the unit was also active in Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, in the Balkans, and in Greece.

Künsberg also fulfilled special requests from von Ribbentrop himself. In France he had already confiscated art works for him. In 1941, he was asked to go to Moscow and Leningrad in order to get hold of works of art ("Sicherstellung") not further specified. Künsberg had the impression that this order might put his entire organization at risk. He was afraid that the "Oberkommando des Heeres" (OKH, Headquarter of the Army) would get knowledge of this operation. The OKH, the Security Service, the Security Police and the Foreign Ministry tried to foil Künsberg's special actions in particular by means of a command given on June 11th, 1941. The action of the Sonderkommando should be limited explicitly to the confiscation of records of the embassies and legations. Eventually von Ribbentrop withdrew his special orders. The exhibition in Berlin showed, however, that the confiscations of the Sonderkommando went far beyond the before mentioned instructions of the OKH order.

Research concerning its financing and its status revealed that the SS-Sonderkommando (Secret Service Special Unit) of the Foreign Ministry Group Künsberg ("Gruppe Künsberg", this was the official title) is a typical example for the Darwinism of authorities in national socialist Germany. Academic institutions, such as the North-East and South-East German Research Community, financed by the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of the Interior, took charge of Künsberg's academic staff. For the action of the Secret Military Police ("Geheime Feldpolizei", G.F.P) in the West, the Künsberg group was classified by the OKW as "u.k." ("unabkömmlich" - indispensable). Despite their reluctance, they were detailed for the attack of the Soviet Union by the SS. The logistic equipment was partly financed by the Waffen-SS.

Comparatively well equipped, the Sonderkommando operated in the front line under the command of the military units North, Centre, and South. With the seizure of the cities the onslaught on cultural institutions began. The entrances of occupied buildings were marked with special seals of the military unit. Already in 1941, different organizations were competing for the confiscation of cultural treasures. In 1942, the situation became more serious after the civil administration had been set up. The trophy actions of the different NS-institutions became absurd. One of the cultural institutions in Tallin was searched through by seven different organizations. There was no clear line in the confiscation policy of the special unit of the Foreign Ministry. It altered according to the situation on the spot. The officials in charge were uncertain which objects to pack for transport into the Reich. Their instructions alternated between "take all that could be of any use to us" and "do not take anything which is in stock five times already". Offices of the Sonderkommando Künsberg, where the war booty was prepared for transport, were spread over the entire region of the Soviet Union, from the Baltic States in the North to the Crimea in the South.

On July 4th, 1942, as a result of the exhibition in Berlin, the Sonderkommando received an order from the OKW, which put 20,000 people of the National Socialist Motor Vehicle Corps ("Nationalsozialistische Kraftfahrzeugkorpsstaffel", NSKK) at Künsberg's disposal when required. At the same time the order legitimized a broader spectrum of confiscations. On August 1st, 1942, the Sonderkommando was entirely integrated into the Waffen-SS, and the name was changed to "Batallion der Waffen-SS z.b.V." (Batallion of the Waffen-SS at special disposal). Künsberg who had made too many decisions by himself had lost von Ribbentrop's sympathies. After talks between Himmler, Jüttner, and a representative of the Foreign Ministry, he was reprimanded and suspended from his post as battalion commander.

During the winter of 1942, the section in Berlin was closed down. By that time 304,694 pieces of art had already been handed over to other institutions. Apart from different sections of the Foreign Ministry, the main addressee of the objects was Alfred Rosenberg's Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Regions. It was he who received the exceptionally valuable books from the libraries of the Russian Tsar Castles south of Leningrad. This concerned 10,000 volumes from the 18th to the 20th century of Tsarskoe Selo, 11,500 volumes from the library of the Pavlovsk Castle, and another 16,000 books from Gachina. The Rosenberg ministry also received 60,000 books taken from the Hebraica and the Judaica collection of Kiev. These four important collections alone add up to 97,500 books.

By the middle of 1943, the Sonderkommando was completely dissolved. A few staff members now worked on the instructions of the "Reichssicherheitshauptamt" (Main Office of Reich Security). The expansion of the SS-Sonderkommando of the Foreign Ministry, Group Künsberg would have been unthinkable without Künsberg's diverse initiatives. Today, the letters of thanks, responses to Künsberg's gift parcels (e.g. for the 100 books from the library of the Pavlovsk Castle which went to F.W. Graf von der Schulenburg), reveal the kind of network that existed.

Ulrike Hartung, Research Institute
Eastern Europe, University of Bremen

In sommer/fall this year the complete study will be published by the "Forschungsstelle Osteuropa": Hartung, Ulrike: Das Sonderkommando Künsberg. Eine Beteiligung des Auswärtigen Amtes am Raub von Kulturgut in der Sowjetunion. Bremen 1996.


The publication "Le Musée disparu" appeared at the end of last year in Paris (see Spoils of War. 1. P. 43). This is a short résumé of the book and the reactions to it by the author. An English version of the book is going to be published in the United States in autumn 1996.

"Le Musée disparu" is an investigative attempt to reconstruct the plundering in France through the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg and how this looting fitted into the Paris art market during the Occupation. It also attempts to track down some of the hundreds of paintings still missing from the 203 French collections officially looted by the Nazis. It should be remembered that France turned out to be the most looted country in Western Europe, with about one third of art in French private hands passing through German hands. Beginning with Hitler and his own lifelong interest in art (first, as a frustrated Fine Arts student and, later, as an art collector) this book rather tries to show than to explain why Nazi art looting took enormous and unsuspected proportions during the Second World War.

It tries to piece together the precise and concrete way in which the confiscation of some of the most important French-Jewish art collections (the Rothschild's, the Bernheim-Jeune's, the David-Weill's, Paul Rosenberg's and the Schloss') took place in France. Some confiscated libraries, like the 100,000 volume Turgueniev Library and the Paris Freemasons Lodges', are also treated. Moreover, the book makes a first attempt to link and to retrace French art and documents confiscated in Paris which were stocked in the Third Reich territory and are now beginning to turn up in the former Soviet Union.

This book is based upon many unpublished French, American, and British documents from institutions and individuals in several countries. In addition, more than one hundred family members, French art dealers, art historians and Allied Army officers that participated in the retrieval of confiscated art were interviewed. One of the highlights of this unpublished material recently found is a document known as "The Schenker Papers", a list of French art dealers and individuals who sold to German museums and intermediaries. This list, compiled by British Army officers, includes important details concerning the Occupation.

These new elements throw a new light on the Paris art market during the war: mainly, that it was very active and flourishing and that many French art dealers did direct business with the Germans or served as outright accomplices in confiscations.

At the end of the book, several of the missing paintings, from French looted collections, are traced down to American and European museums and art galleries. The book's last chapter explains the case of over one thousand unclaimed paintings (known under the generic term of "MNR" for "Musées Nationaux Récupération") that are still kept at The Louvre, the Orsay, the Pompidou Center and other state museums. No MNR inventory is yet available and even the scarce offical information on this subject is hard to find. This chapter reminds the reader that these unclaimed works do not belong to these museums but, nevertheless, state curators have not made any significant effort in the last fifty years to find out who the owners of these paintings are.

The difficulty to obtain documents, archives, or useful information from state institutions and officials in France made me decide to go to the U.S. National Archives and Records in Washington, D.C. to consult the precious documents from the Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives section of the U.S. Army, which are easily available to researchers.

When the book came out in December 1995, media coverage in France and Europe was quite extensive. In France it somehow revived the never-ending and inexhaustible debate on the Second World War and the Collaboration. There was much surprise about the "Schenker Papers"'s lists that included some of the most distinguished names in French art dealing.

Following the book's publication, ongoing research on unclaimed paintings was published in the art magazine "Beaux-Arts" and in an interview in the French daily "Le Monde". The specific examples proved to a wide audience that identifying and locating the original owners of the unclaimed MNR paintings did not have to be a difficult matter. Proof of existing MNR provisional inventories, and not shown by museum officials, was also published. The new information also reminded people that not much research had been done by museums since the 50ies.

Reacting to the book's findings and to these newly published statements in the media, the head of the "Direction des Musées de France" (DMF) publicly announced during a debate with the author in Paris a new series of measures that would make access to the MNR inventory easier for heirs and researchers. Firstly, starting in July a provisional MNR inventory with photographs will be published on the DMF internet site. This virtual list should be finished by the end of 1996. Secondly, a complete and final MNR inventory list will be printed in 1997. Thirdly, an international symposium on the MNR's will be organized by the DMF in the autumn of 1996. Easier access for independent researchers to all provisional MNR inventories was also promised.

But another important and satisfying aspect of this research lies in the fact that, based on the new information contained in "Le Musée disparu", several French heirs and families have filed restitution claims at the "Direction des Musées de France" to recover what was taken from them by the Nazis.

Hector Feliciano,
Journalist, Paris


This is a summary of the lecture held on April 15th, 1996 during the Amsterdam symposium "The Return of Looted Collections".

During 1945, the Rothschild Library in Frankfurt served as the collecting point for looted books. As the library became overcrowded, the book depot was moved to the IG-Farben building at Offenbach. From July 1945 until February 1946, no restitutions had been made from Offenbach; only six people worked there at that time, although about one million books and other materials had been assembled. In February 1946, I became the first director of the Offenbach Archival Depot (OAD).

The OAD received literally tons of material from Frankfurt, Hirzenhain, Hungen and many other German locations. It dealt with Nazi and Nazi-related materials, with other European country materials (e.g.: France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia), with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (420 crates were seized in Vilna by the Nazis and sent by the US Army to Offenbach. From the OAD they were shipped to the United States in 1947), and with unidentifiables (over 1 million objects, which were distributed to more than 50 institutions worldwide).

By March 25th, 1946, the OAD had received and/or shipped over 1.8 million items contained in 2,351 crates, stacks, packages, and piles. Much thought was given to improve and expedite the identification process. My successor, Captain Isaac Bencowitz, who began to intern at Offenbach in April, developed a somewhat unique system. The unidentified books and other materials were left alone, awaiting further careful study by competent persons like Professor Pinson, Lucy Dawidowicz and volunteers, knowledgeable Displaced Persons. The semi-identified piles were subject to some classification by country and by language, awaiting further processing. The crates and packages that had some country markings were 'spot checked' and simply put aside awaiting restitution claimants. The official liaison representatives came from 11 countries to the OAD. In March 1946 alone, its visitors consisted of 6 liaison representatives and 26 visitors. By that time, the number of employees had been increased to 200 and the first shipment was undertaken consisting of over 500 cases of materials returning to The Netherlands by ship.

Major D.P.M. Graswinckel undoubtedly was the key person in searching, discovering, sorting, and retrieving for restitution library collections and other cultural materials belonging to organizations and individuals of the Netherlands. Major Graswinckel spent much time in and out of Offenbach during 1945, before the OAD was established. Like an itinerant preacher he swung around many sites in Hesse and Bavaria, including Frankfurt, Hirzenhain, Hungen, Sieburg, Staffelstein, Banz, Waisenfeld, Klagenfurt, etc. He was my inspiration to work hard. He had already uncovered and visited many sites from where there would be an estimated 2.5 million more books, archives, and other materials coming to OAD.

Major Graswinckel was dedicated to his mission, and he infected me with a strong desire to carry out mine. Within a few days, by March 8th, 1946, he selected 371 crates of Dutch materials - plus 19 Dutch holy Torah Scrolls. The OAD participated in moving off the floors and loading them onto the Mary Rotterdam barge of skipper W. Huisman. On March 12th, the barge left up the Rhine for the Netherlands. Two days before, on March 10th, Major Graswinckel went to Holland to meet the barge there and to arrange for unloading and distribution. Captain H. Jaffe, Dutch Restitution Officer, was left at the OAD to continue the Major's work. The Mary Rotterdam was the very first major restitution effort of Offenbach.

Major Graswinckel returned to the OAD on March 22nd, 1946. On March 31st, he left for another search and discovery trip to Bavaria, returning from Munich on April 4th, 1946. He and I had discussed the need to broaden the base of operations of Offenbach beyond Land Hesse. His trip to Bavaria reinforced this need. Action was initiated to make Offenbach the depot for entire U.S. Germany. It took me until late April to get this accomplished, after negotiating at Wiesbaden and Berlin - my superior military headquarters. On May 1st, 1946, Offenbach became the Zonal Depot covering all U.S.-occupied Germany: Hesse, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, U.S. Berlin and U.S. Bremen enclave. All Jewish, Masonic, Socialist, Nazi, and other books and cultural properties (except monuments and fine arts) were to be sent to OAD for processing and restitution to their country of origin.

Six days after Major Graswinckel's return from Munich, on April 10th, 1946, a second barge arrived at Offenbach: the Buiten Verwachting of skipper C. de Korte. Major Graswinckel had increased his staff by then: April 2nd, Captain L. Nilant; April 9th, Captain H.O. Thomas; April 13th, Captain J.G. Schonau; and May 1st, Major de Vries. On April 15th, 1946, the Buiten Verwachting was ready for departure. OAD personnel worked to move and load some 539 crates. The barge left on April 16th for the Netherlands.

I was not involved in the third barge expedition of the Allemania with Skipper Rigler. It consisted of 520 crates. The loading and dispatching went off well, with Major Granswinckel directing the effort, fully supported by Isaac Bencowitz. The barge left for Holland July 6th, 1946.

Major Graswinckel continued his search and his discovery activities during 1946 and thereafter. It was estimated that some 70% to 80% of all Dutch books and other materials that had been seized by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg was restituted to the Netherlands. This is a remarkable achievement.

Seymour J. Pomrenze (A.U.S.-Ret.),
Former Director of the Offenbach Archival Depot,
Consultant in Records Management and Archives, New York

Graswinckel, D.P.M.: Enige mededelingen over de restitutie van naar Duitsland gevoerde bibliotheken en archieven. In: Bibliotheekleven. 32 (1947). P.168.
["Some statements about the restitution of books and archives moved to Germany". Translated into German by Helmut Keiler in 1991.]
Hoogewoud, F.J.: The Nazi Looting of Books and its American 'Antithesis'. Selected Pictures from the Offenbach Archival Depot's Photographic History and its Supplement. In: Studia Rosenthaliana. 26. No. 1/2 (1992). Pp.162-163.
Pomrenze, S.J.: Policies and Procedures for Protection, Use and Return of Captured Records. In: Robert Wolf (ed.): Captured German and Related Records (Athens, Ohio 1974). Pp. 5-30; substantial contributions to Federal Records of World War II (2 vols.).
Poste, Leslie I.: Books Go Home From the Wars. In: Library Journal. 73 (1948). Pp.1699-1704.