18 October 2010
More than 20,000 artworks stolen by the Nazis from Jews can now be searched in an online catalog. A new online database lets Holocaust survivors and their relatives search details of the artifacts looted during World War II in Nazi-occupied France and Belgium. The database is a joint project of the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, based in Washington DC. Holocaust survivors and their heirs, art collectors, galleries and museums can make use of the free service. Hundreds of thousands of artworks were seized by Germany's forces during World War II. The Nazis often photographed their spoils and meticulously catalogued them on typewritten index cards. Some of these records, which show what was seized and from whom, have now been digitized and made searchable. The database combines records from the US National Archives, the German Federal Archive (Bundesarchiv) and records on repatriation and restitution held by the French government.
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 the plunder of cultural valuables in Nazi-occupied countries during the war. A particularly notorious operation by the ERR was the plunder of art from French Jewish and a number of Belgian Jewish collections from 1940 to 1944 that were brought to the Jeu de Paume building in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris for processing by the ERR Sonderstab Bildende Kunst (Special Staff for Pictorial Art).
According to the Claims Conference, around half of the objects have never been returned to their rightful owners, their descendants or their country of origin. Julius Berman, the chairman of the Claims Conference, said it was "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".
“Searchable by individual objects and by the owners from whom these objects were taken, the database is a detailed record of a small but important part of the vast seizure of cultural property that was integral to the Holocaust,” the Claims Conference says on its website. Wesley A. Fischer, the organization’s director of research, told the British newspaper ‘Daily Mail’ that over half the stolen property was still unclaimed.
Search the database by clicking here.
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