Showing posts with label Holocaust restitution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holocaust restitution. Show all posts

February 4, 2017

Conference - From Refugees to Restitution: The History of Nazi Looted Art in the UK in Transnational Perspective.


Location: 
University of Cambridge
Newnham College - Cambridge Lucia Windsor Room
Cambridge, UK 

Dates:  
March 23-24, 2017 

Cost: 35£ (25£ for students)
Attendees are asked to register by 1 March 2017 by emailing the conference organizers 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Opening remarks

Panel I. A Paradigm Shift? From Legal to Moral Solutions in Restitution Practice

Commentator: Victoria Louise Steinwachs (Sotheby’s London)

– Debbie De Girolamo (Queen Mary, University of London), ‘Fair & Just Solutions – A Moniker for Moral Solutions?’

 – Tabitha I. Oost (University of Amsterdam), ‘Restitution policies of Nazi- looted art in The Netherlands and the UK. A change from a legal to a moral paradigm?’

 – Evelien Campfens (Leiden University), ‘Bridging the gap between ethics and law in looted art: the case for a transnational soft-law approach’

Panel II. Loosing Art/Loosing Identity: the Emotions of Material Culture

Commentator: Bianca Gaudenzi (Cambridge/Konstanz)

– Emily Löffler (Landesmuseum Mainz), ‘The J-numbers-collection in Landesmuseum Mainz. A case study on provenance, material culture, & emotions’

 – Michaela Sidenberg (Jewish Museum, Prague), ‘Rescue/Ransom/Restitution: The struggle to preserve the collective memory of Czech and Moravian Jews’

 – Mary Kate Cleary (Art Recovery Group, New York), ‘Marie-Louise von Motesiczky: self-portraits of a woman artist as a refugee’

Roundtable I. From Theory to Practice: Provenance Research in Museums

Chair: Robert Holzbauer (Leopold Museum, Vienna)

– Tessa Rosebrock (Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe), ‘Inventory records as a dead-end. On the purchases of French drawings by the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe from 1965 to 1990’

 – Laurel Zuckerman (Independent Researcher, Bry sur Marne), ‘Art Provenance Databases: Are They Fulfilling Their Promise? Comparative evaluation of ten major museum databases in the USA and the UK’

 – Shlomit Steinberg (Israel Museum, Jerusalem), ‘What started as a trickle turned into a flow- restitution at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem’

 – Emmanuelle Polack (Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris), ‘Ethical issues regarding the restitution of Henri Matisse’s Blue Profile in front of the Chimney (1937) or Profil bleu devant la cheminée (1937)’

Friday March 24, 2017

Panel III. The Postwar Art Market: The Impact of a Changing World

Commentator: Richard Aronowitz-Mercer (Sotheby’s London)

– Johannes Nathan (Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam), ‘Switzerland and Britain: Recontextualizing Fluchtgut’

 – Maike Brueggen (Independent Provenance Researcher, Frankfurt), ‘Arthur Kauffmann – dealing German art in post-war London’

 – Nathalie Neumann (Independent Researcher, Berlin), ‘Have the baby born in England!’ The trans-European itinerary (1933-1941) of the art collector Julius Freund’

 – Diana Kostyrko (Australian National University, Canberra), ‘Mute Witness: the Polish Poetess’

Panel IV. Restitution Initiatives and Postwar Politics in the United Kingdom

Commentator: Simone Gigliotti (Royal Holloway University of London)

– Elizabeth Campbell (University of Denver), ‘Monuments Woman: Anne O. Popham and British Restitution of Nazi-Looted Art’

 – Marc Masurovsky (Holocaust Art Restitution Project), ‘Operation Safehaven (1944-49): Framing the postwar discussion on restitution of Nazi looted art through British lenses’

 – Angelina Giovani (Jewish Claims Conference - Jeu de Paume Database), - A case study: ‘Looting the artist: The modern British paintings that never came back from France’

Panel V. Conflicting Interests: Restitution, National Politics and Vergangenheitsbewältigung across Postwar Europe

Commentator: Lisa Niemeyer (Independent Researcher, Wiesbaden)

– Ulrike Schmiegelt-Rietig (Wiesbaden Museum), ‘Pechora monastery, Russian collection looted by ERR and landed in Wiesbaden CCP’

 – Jennifer Gramer (University of Wisconsin-Madison), ‘Dangerous or Banal? Nazi Art & American Occupation in Postwar Germany and US’

 – Agata Wolska (Independent researcher, Krakow), ‘The Vaucher Committee as International Restitution Body – the Abandoned Idea’

 – Nicholas O’Donnell (Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Boston), ‘Comparison of statutory & regulatory origins of restitutionary commissions in Germany, Austria, NL & UK after WWII’

Roundtable II. From Theory to Practice: Provenance & the Art Market

Chair: Johannes Nathan (Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam)

– Friederike Schwelle (Art Loss Register, London), ‘The difference between US and UK in resolving claims for Nazi looted art’

 – Isabel von Klitzing (Provenance Research & Art Consulting, Frankfurt) and Pierre Valentin (Constantine Cannon LLP, London), ‘From Theory to practice – when collectors want to do the right thing?’

December 5, 2016

Editorial: Is the U.S. State Department's provenance research on immunity from seizure applications from foreign museums adequate?

HARP Editorial: 

For further information contact:

In Washington DC: Marc Masurovsky, 202 255 1602 , plunderedart@gmail.com
In New York, NY: Pierre Ciric, 212 260 6090, pciric@ciriclawfirm.com

HOLOCAUST ART RESTITUTION PROJECT STUDY: THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT IS STRUCTURALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM APPROPRIATE PROVENANCE RESEARCH ON IMMUNITY FROM SEIZURE APPLICATIONS SUBMITTED BY FOREIGN MUSEUMS

Washington, DC, & New York, NY USA – December 05, 2016

Ori Z. Soltes, Chair of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (“HARP”), announced the publication of a study jointly issued by HARP and the Ciric Law Firm, PLLC, which concludes that the U.S. State Department is structurally unable and ill-equipped to perform appropriate provenance research on immunity from seizure applications submitted by foreign museums.

The study (available at http://plundered-art.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-us-department-of-state-is.html), concludes research initiated in In 2014 by HARP, which investigated the U.S. State Department’s ability to perform appropriate provenance research on immunity from seizure requests submitted by foreign museums in accordance with the Immunity from Judicial Seizure statute, 22 U.S. § 2459 (IFSA). To accomplish this research, HARP submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the State Department. Following the State Department’s response, HARP analyzed the State Department’s provenance research process and its procedures for determining the soundness of the borrowing institutions’ applications to immunize objects coming from foreign lenders’ collections.

Based on the FOIA response, the study concludes that the immunization from judicial seizure process relies almost exclusively on attestations made by the lenders, the country desk officers, and the unit of the State Department which certifies cultural significance.  Furthermore, HARP concludes that the State Department is unable to challenge the certifications made by the borrowers.

If the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (S. 3155) becomes law, the systemic inability of the State Department to ensure that the applicant certification is properly supported or documented would create a significant risk for stolen artworks to come into the country through temporary exhibits.

“The State Department’s structural inability to perform appropriate due diligence on incoming exhibits should sound as a warning to everyone, especially to the Senate, which is currently considering S. 3155, that the inadequate administrative process managed by the State Department, combined with a terrible bill which purpose is to completely immunize incoming art exhibits from any claim in the U.S. will create a safe haven for looted cultural property in this country, and will trample the rights of untold numbers of victims of looting by totalitarian regimes, such as Russia or Cuba,” said Soltes.

HARP is a not-for-profit group based in Washington, DC, dedicated to the identification and restitution of looted artworks requiring detailed research and analysis of public and private archives in North America. HARP has worked for 18 years on the restitution of artworks looted by the Nazi regime.

November 12, 2016

Art Restitution: Tate Completes Restitution Process of Looted Constable Painting

Constable's 'Beaching a Boat, Brighton' (1824) will be returned to
its heirs on the recommendation of the UK's Spoliation Advisory Panel
London’s Tate Museum has, at long last, restituted John Constable’s painting, Beaching a Boat, Brighton to its rightful owners. The Tate returned the painting to the heirs of Baron Ferenc Hatvany, a Hungarian Jewish painter and art collector, after it emerged that the work had been looted during the second World War.  The painting was once part of  Baron Hatvany’s larger collection, one of the finest, if not the largest (a distinction belonging to the Herzog’s) art collections in Budapest.  By the early 1940s, his collection comprised of some 750-900 works of art.  

Hatvany was forced to store this, and several other artworks, in a Budapest bank vault against the threat of possible Allied bombing, before ultimately being forced to flee the city when the Nazis arrived. The Russian Army then entered Budapest in 1945 and seized the Hatvany collection, leading to long-standing legal disputes over the property rights of many of the pieces of artwork it contained.

The heirs of Baron Hatvany filed a claim with Britain's eight-member Spoliation Advisory Panel — a panel created by the British government to mediate looting claims on art works in public institutions in 2013—after someone recognized the Constable painting as having been looted whilst visiting the Tate's London collection in 2012. 


In May 2014, at the urging of the SAP, the Tate formally authorized the painting's return to three of Hatvany’s heirs — descendants who live in Paris and Switzerland.  Then, alarmingly, the museum reversed course one week later after officials from the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts produced an apparent 1946 export license for the painting.

SAP met again in September 2015 to reexamine the original facts in the case, along with the added Hungarian Museum documentation, and in a lengthy 81-page report again concluded that “No link has been established between Baron Hatvany and the two persons named as applying for the export license.” SAP then once again urged the return of the painting to the Baron’s heirs.

Agnes Peresztegi, a lawyer who works for the nonprofit Commission for Art Recovery and represents the three Hatvany heirs, has said that the case illustrated the need for museums to conduct better due diligence when checking the provenance of paintings. “Research,” she stated, must “conform to a higher standard and there is a need for more transparency.”

As is unfortunately often the case when World War II restitutions are eventually made, the Hatvany heirs have decided to put the Constable painting up for sale. The heirs of WWII looted art are often numerous or often, not necessarily wealthy.  Sometimes the only practical solution for dividing the value of inherited artworks is to witness its sale.

Baron Ferenc Hatvany’s Constable painting, Beaching a Boat, Brighton will go on the auction block at Christies in London on December 8th.  It is expected to sell for between GBS £500,000 and GBA £800,000.

By: Summer Clowers










At the urging of the SAP, the Tate formally authorized the painting's return to three heirs — descendants who live in Paris and Switzerland in May 2014.  Then alarmingly the museum reversed course one week later after officials from the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts produced an apparent 1946 export license for the painting.

The Spoliation Advisory Panel met again in September 2015 and reexamined the facts in the case along with the added documentation and in a length 81 page report again concluded that “No link has been established between Baron Hatvany and the two persons named as applying for the export license.”

Agnes Peresztegi, a lawyer who works for the nonprofit Commission for Art Recovery, who represents the three Hatvany heirs since 2012 has said the case illustrated the need for museums to conduct better due diligence when checking the provenance of paintings. “Research,” she stated, must “conform to a higher standard and there is a need for more transparency.”

As is often the case, when World War II restitutions are eventually made, the Hatvany heirs have decided to put the Constable painting up for sale.  The painting will go on the auction block at Christies in London on December 8th and is expected to sell for between GBS £500,000 and GBA £800,000.

Because the heirs of the looted art are numerous or not necessarily wealthy, sometimes the only practical solution for dividing the value of inherited artwork is to witness its sale. 





November 3, 2016

There's money to be made from suffering: The collection history of a recovered Monuments Men artwork, returned to the heirs, then sold, then sold again, and soon to be sold (yet) again


According to some statistics, less than 20 percent of the value of Jewish assets stolen by the Nazis and their collaborators has been restored.

ARCA highlights the lifespan of one.

Painted Crucifix
Artist: 
Giovanni da Rimini
Active in Rimini 
1292 - 1336
Egg tempera on cruciform panel
160.5 by 130 cm.

Collection History/Provenance 

Possibly Achillito Chiesa, Esq. of Milan collection, 
Frederick Muller, Amsterdam 
Enrico Testa

With Jacques Goudstikker, Amsterdam, inv. no. 2212, by 1929 .  

Goudstikker, the now famous second-generation Jewish Dutch art dealer fled the Netherlands in 1940 along with his wife Désirée von Halban Kurz and their son Edo following the country's invasion by Nazi Germany. 

While crossing the English channel on the SS Bodegraven, Jacques fell to his death through an uncovered hatch on the deck of the ship. Inconveniently his executor, Dr. A. Sternheim, also died around this same time and the entire Goudstikker collection (1,113 numbered paintings and an unknown quantity of unnumbered paintings) were sold to Nazi leader Hermann Wilhelm Göring despite the objections of Goudstikker's widow.  

The forced sale price:   a measly two million guilders, a small fraction of the collection's actual value.

13 July 1940  - the artwork is transferred to Carinhall by Walter Hofer for Hermann Göring (inv. no. 392).

 Museum and exhibition labels from the reverse side
of the panel painting

Photo of Jacques Goudstikker
from RKDarchives.
Afterwards, the panel painting was recovered by the "Monuments Men", a group of men and women from thirteen nations, most of whom volunteered for service in the newly created Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (“MFAA") section under the auspices of the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied Armies during World War II.  The recovered artwork was then forwarded to the Munich Central Collecting Point (inv. no. 6294) on August 2, 1945. 

After being documented, the panel painting was delivered to the Nederlands Kunstbezit, earlier known as the Stichting Nederlands Kunstbezit at The Hague (inv. no. NK1485) on November 7, 1945. 


As Marc Masurovsky, Co-Founder of  the Holocaust Art Restitution project has said "in an ideal world, the cost of seeking restitution of a Nazi-looted art object should not be a hindrance to achieving justice."

But the economics of restitution is never easy. The legal expenses of restitution to von Saher for the return of her family’s objects totalled some USD $10.4 million, a fee most World War II claimants cannot afford, even when the works of art are high in value as was the case in this circumstance. As a consequence, the painting was put on the auction block. 

On July 05, 2007 the cross, Lot 7, is sold for USD $125,362 via Christie’s London and is acquired by Old Master dealer, Fabrizio Moretti of Moretti Fine Art galleries in Florence, London, and New York. 

On January 29, 2015 the cross is again sold as Lot 131 for USD $245,000 via Sotheby's New York to an unnamed buyer, who apparently is still represented by the Italian Old Masters firm as it is still being marketed under the umbrella of Moretti Fine Arts.  

Image from Moratti Fine Art’s
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/morettifineart/

And the clack of an auctioneer's hammer continues.



September 14, 2016

Should there be immunity for stolen art? Info Call on Bill S.3155 - the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act

Tomorrow, September 15, 2016 the United States Senate Judiciary Committee will vote, or not, on S.3155, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act.

This bill on looted cultural artifacts in the US was first introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch [R-Utah] and subsequently cosponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D-CA], Sen. John Cornyn [R-TX], Sen. Christopher Coons [D-DE], Sen. Mike Lee [R-UT], Sen. Charles Schumer [D-NY], Sen. Thom Tillis [R-NC], Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D-CT], Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL], Sen. Al Franken [D-MN], Sen. Lindsey Graham [R-SC], Sen. Tom Udall [D-NM], and Sen. Amy Klobuchar [D-MN]. 

The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act would amend the federal judicial code with respect to denial of a foreign state's sovereign immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. or state courts in commercial activity cases where rights in property taken in violation of international law are an issue and that property, or any property exchanged for it, is: 

(1) present in the United States in connection with a commercial activity carried on by the foreign state in the United States, 

or (2) owned by an agency or instrumentality of the foreign state and that agency or instrumentality is engaged in a commercial activity in the United States.

This bill would grant a foreign state or certain carriers immunity from federal or state court jurisdiction for any activity in the United States associated with a temporary exhibition or display of a work of art or other object of cultural significance if the work of art or other object of cultural significance is imported into the United States from any foreign country pursuant to an agreement for its temporary exhibition or display between a foreign state that is its owner or custodian and the United States or U.S. cultural or educational institutions; and
the President has determined that such work is culturally significant and its temporary exhibition or display is in the national interest.

If passed, this bill would grant many authoritarian regimes around the world the right to keep stolen art. Additionally the exception within the law for art stolen seized during World War II by the Nazi regime, has been narrowly interpreted, and if passed the bill would grant many of these looted works of art immunity from seizure. 

Ori Z. Soltes, Chair of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project ( “HARP”), expressed, through counsel, strong opposition to this bill via Lootedart.com, the central registry of information on looted cultural property from the period of 1933 to 1945. 

For those who would like to know more about the impact of this proposed legislation, please consider dialing in to the following teleforum event today:

SEPTEMBER 14 AT 3:30PM EST

CALL-IN: 1-888-585-9008

CONFERENCE PIN: 881-121-039

The forum will be moderated by Marion Smith, a civil-society leader, expert in international affairs, and Executive Director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

On hand for the call will be:

Pierre Ciric, an attorney and founder of the Ciric Law Firm, PLLC, a firm which specializes in art law and cultural property advice.

Eric Sundby, President of the Holocaust Remembrance and Restitution Foundation, Inc., a foundation which fights to return stolen antiquities while also working to combat trade in illegal antiquities, advocate for and provide education on the crimes of Nazi and Communist regimes, and end anti-Semitism and prejudice around the world.

Marc Masurovsky co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP) and an expert on the question of assets looted during the Holocaust and World War II.

September 29, 2015

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about a Nazi Gold Train But were Afraid to Ask...



For more than a month now ARCA has been fielding requests for interviews on what we think of the mysterious World War II era Nazi gold train.  Rather than try to regurgitate a synopsis of the reporting of 100 plus news agencies, we have decided we would just keep a running tally of what has been reported so far. 

This listing will be in chronological order from most recent to ancient past so please bookmark this page if you want to follow along.

December 23, 2015 06:00 GMT+1 - Professor Janusz Madej from Krakow's AGH University of Science and Technology said its geological survey of the site has found no evidence of a Nazi train rumoured to be carrying gems and gold.   In November, the Krakow AGH University team of geologists and engineers surveyed the site using magnetic and gravitation methods and believe that the anomalies of the ground point to possibly the remnants of a collapsed tunnel, but not a train in and of itself.

October 14, 2015 18:00 GMT+2  Peter Koper and Andreas Richter attended a meeting with Wałbrzych mayor, Romana Szełemeja at the city's town hall regarding an application on finds and mining.  The pair declared that they are ready for "permanent cooperation with the authorities of Walbrzych in all undertakings related to discovery" and suggested that their cooperation could take the form of a public-private partnership. Koper and Richter also proffered to carry out Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) site verification tests at their own expense. The meeting concluded with the mayor assuring the two treasure seekers that the city authorities would review their application carefully, along with the 11 other offers they have received, in furtherance of the exploration.  Both parties agreed to meet again sometime within the next two weeks.

October 05, 2015 09:00 GMT+2  Souvenir sellers have already moved in to cash in on Wałbrzych's sudden fame and tourism gold rush.  Chocolate candy gold bars, and t-shirts featuring a picture of a golden train are selling briskly at Książ castle in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship and a new book has been published highlighting the gold train frenzy.

October 03, 2015 03:00 GMT+2 Responding to journalists Poland’s defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, says that army experts have handed over a "safe parcel of land" to Wałbrzych authorities having found no dangerous objects or substances on the surface of the site.  Both  the military and municipal authorities were tight-lipped about whether defence forces had found any hard evidence with which to corroborate treasure hunters' claims that they have located the train.  Siemoniak added "The army's job is done as we're not in the business of treasure hunting."

September 28, 2015 12:00 GMT+2 Twenty Polish sappers in Wałbrzych begin checking the area designated as the potential resting grounds for the train. The soldiers will do safety checks of the earth to ensure there are no mines or other unexploded ordnances from World War II.

September 25, 2015 14:00 GMT+2
One of the area where Nazi gold train is to be hidden in Poland has been cleared of bushes and trees by Polish Military forces.

September 23, 2015 07:00 GMT+2  Trainspotters Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper may face charges and up to 30 days in jail and/or fines for having not obtained permissions to use Ground Penetrating Radar.  “It is all about is to teach a lesson to their followers. We do not want to have a wave of treasure hunters ignore the rules - explains Barbara Nowak-Obelinda, quoted in Gazeta Wyborcza.

September 21, 2015 15:30 GMT+2  Finally a little somber reasoning is being interjected into the train frenzy discourse.  Tomasz Siemoniak, Deputy Prime Minister of Poland and current Minister of National Defence has said that the discovery of new tunnels is not a sensation from the time of Pharaoh, but should be remembered for the death of thousands of people subjected to slave labor to have built it.

Siemoniak also underscored that the Polish military is not interested in finding treasure, but rather protecting human beings from threats.  Speaking to the Polish media he reminded the public that each day, World War II “souvenirs” are found, in the form of unexploded ordinances, which military sappers are then left to dispose of. 

September 19, 2015 21:00 GMT+1 News broke that the ladies have entered the gold rush. Saturday hobby historian Christel Focken (54) threw her own explorer hat into the ring with her male Nazi train hunter counterparts, staking her own claim to any finders fees should the Polish train turn out to be more than the wishful thinking of adventurers.  The Berliner, who according to offers on her website, offers guided visits to former Nazi tunnels and buildings built in the Owl Mountains has informed Polish authorities in Wałbrzych of four blocked up tunnels.

When asked if she believes trainspotters Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper’s hopeful claim that the train might contain the long lost Amber Room of the Russian Czars which was looted from a Russian palace by Nazi troops in 1941.  Ms. Focken laughed.

September 18, 2015  19:00 GMT+2  Treasure Hunters Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper hold a joint press conference with prospector, explorer Tadeusz Słowikowski in Struga near Wałbrzych. They presented another ground-penetrating radar image but not of the acclaimed World War II Nazi train. During the press conference the trio also highlighted a new image of a potential location of the train, this one in a much more industrialised area close to Wałbrzych in south-west Poland near the Czech border.

September 16, 2015 12:20 GMT+2 Polish local authorities and National authorities not seeing eye to eye on who should be involved in the investigation.  Members of the delegation of the Polish Army Museum, along with Adam Sikorski, the author of a TV program and Robert Kmieć, an expert in GPRmwere not given access to the alleged hiding place of the train despite bringing with them their own sophisticated and noninvasive GPR equipment. The MALÅ X3M™ system is one of the most compact GPR system commercially available on the market and used still costs an eye-popping sum usually reserved for professionals.   The fact that the geologists from the museum brought their own equipment corresponds with their skepticism of the GPR images presented by Piotr Koper and genealogist Andreas Richter using the KS ANALYSIS GPR KS700.  Unfortunately, they were not permitted to put their own unit to the test.

September 13, 2015 15:57 GMT+2 Heritage humor on Twitter sardonically changes the hashtag from  #ZłotyPociąg to #SchroedingersTrain.
September 13, 2015 15:35 GMT+2 As Poland's "gold train" frenzy gains momentum city officials, explorers and treasure hunters turn their attention towards a 262 meter crossover railway tunnel in Unisław Silesia built in the mid 1800s. Authorities inspecting the area found an unauthorised hole punched and continue to remind those with gold rush fever that the pursuit of treasures and solving of mysteries can be dangerous and without proper authorisation, it is also illegal.

September 13, 2015 11:11 GMT+2 Military reconnaissance continues.  Polish Armed forces bring in chemical weapons personnel as a precaution.   Areas surrounding the potential train site are to be cleared of trees and shrubs.

September 11, 2015 15:00 GMT+2 Polish explorer, Mirosław Krzysztof Szpakowski and the Włodarz Depozyty III Rzeszy upload a Youtube documentary in Polish reporting on the gold train's developments.  The video has been viewed more than 31,000 times.


September 11, 2015 15:29 GMT+2 - In almost Paul Bunyon-like ever growing tall tale, Polish  TV TVN24 and Wałbrzych regional authorities hold a press conference with a third Polish explorer, Mirosław Krzysztof Szpakowski. Szpakowski believes his research shows that the Nazis built an enormous underground bunker to protect thousands of people in the area. The explorer bases his statement on research he has been gathering for decades elaborating that this research includes witness statements, old documents and an examination of the area by ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and.....dowsers.

Oh, and there might be three trains, instead of just one.

Szpakowski is the president of Poland's Riese Association. The name Riese stems from the Nazi code name for a construction project carried out using forced labourers and prisoners from concentration camps constructed between 1943 and 1945.  These underground structures and tunnels located in the Owl Mountains and Książ Castle in Lower Silesia.  Some of these tunnels have long been explored and documented, others have not as they are blocked with debris.

The Riese association's website says the association supports tourism and the protection of monuments, historical areas, building tunnels and land that form the complex Riese, in the macro-region Municipality of Nowa Ruda. Their website has been active since 2003.

September 10, 2015 19:24 GMT+2 - A image leaked to Polish newspaper Gazeta Wroclawska, which purports to be a radar image of the Nazi gold train appears to show a train with cannons. Academics also question this second image's authenticity. Curator Michal Mackiewicz of the Polish Army Museum says that he was approached by persons with this image in June 2014.  The image was apparently presented in relationship to three persons, not named, but who are not Piotr Koper and Andreas Richter. 

September 09, 2015 23:00 GMT+2 Images of the location where the Gold Train is supposed to be have been posted on Twitter by social media user @Exen.

September 09, 2015 14:25 GMT+2  - According to police in Świebodzice a 39 year old treasure hunter has died after falling several meters off the top of a listed mausoleum which houses members of the wealthy von Kramst family while looking for Nazi treasure.  His two companions have been charged with desecrating a grave.  The tomb is located approximately 5 km from the vicinity of the zone where the Nazi train is reported to be located.

September 09, 2015 13:14 GMT+2 - A World War II-era railway tunnel with a multi-level complex of underground corridors is located near the village of Walim, 19 km (12 miles) from Wałbrzych,  by the same to treasure hunters, Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper. 

Richter and Koper used a 1926 railway map, linked here, that led them to the tunnel near to the former railway station in Walim.

September 06, 2015 - Piotr Koper and Andreas Richter have been expelled from their local history society, the Lower Silesian Study Group.  The South-west Poland study group study the area’s wartime past and archaeology.  Until the expulsion Koper acted as the group’s vice president. Richter writes a blog post calling for a motion of censure against the board of the historical society.  Petre Koper, Andreas Richter’s son Christian and Paul Dill, Peter Koper’s son all withdraw from the group in solidarity.

September 05, 2015 14:59 GMT+1  Edward Zbierański grants an interview to Polish news agency TNV24.  He says that when he was 14 years old he lived and worked on a farm located just outside the railway line.  During the war he recalls his sister telling him that she had heard a German woman said that prisoner of war had pushed part or all of a train into a tunnel and were never seen again. He also said that there were rumours that the train cars where booby-trapped with toxic gas. 

September 05, 2015 - Richter and Koper give credit to retired miner Tadeusz Slowikowski, from whom they first learned of the Nazi train's possible existence. They also say the fury over their claim surrounding the trains discovery was not of their doing, rather the leaking of documents submitted to Polish authorities that found their way into the press. Both claim they have backers to fund the extraction and recovery of the train and the exploration of nearby territories while protecting the nearby environment and want to build a museum to bring tourism to the area. Richter and Koper post a statement to their website reiterating what was read over the polish news service. 

Screen grab of graphic taken with a
GPR KS-700 reportedly showing train and nearby terrain.
September 04, 2015 09:00 GMT+2 - Builder Piotr Koper from Walbrzych, Poland, and genealogist Andreas Richter from Germany, revealed their identities for the first time reading a statement on Polish news service TVP.INFO where they declared “As the finders of a second world war armoured train, we, Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper, declare that we have legally informed state authorities about the find and have precisely indicated the location in the presence of Wałbrzych authorities and the police.” 

After reading their statement, the men released an image purportedly taken with ground-penetrating radar that seemed to show the armoured Nazi train, not in a tunnel, as previously thought, but buried under ground.  The authenticity of the image is greatly debated. 

September 03, 2015, 18:26 GMT+1 - Retired miner Tadeusz Slowikowski, 84, believed to be the main living source of the nazi train legend admits to knowing the two "engineers" who have purportedly found the train but will not release their names. Mr. Slowikowsk says that the two had visited his home to review prewar German maps of the area, current photographs and a model that he built which indicates the spot where he personally believes the train disappeared.  

September 02, 2015 11:03 GMT+2 - Minister of Defence Tomasz Siemoniak says Polish military reconnaissance team will help Nazi train search near Wałbrzych.

September 01, 2015 12:00 GMT+2 Koper and Richter write their first two posts on their website page.  The first is titled "GPS Survey of Tunnel During the Second World War." Post shows a floating image supposedly taken from a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) test performed using KS ANALYSIS Ground Penetrating Radar KS700 device.  Company website for device says it is commonly used by archaeologists and metal detectors.   Second post states that it is an image of a fifty meter shaft where the Nazi train is located.

September 01, 2015 - Train fever escalates.  Treasure hunters, some equipped with metal detectors, and curious locals have swarmed into the wooded hills and Owl Mountains . Governor Tomasz Smolarz deploys police to block entry points into the woods along a four kilometer-long track of rail so that treasure seekers do not attempt to walk along the still active train tracks where they could be injured.  

August 31, 2015 - World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer calls for any Holocaust-related valuables found to be returned to their rightful owners, or their heirs. “To the extent that any items now being discovered in Poland may have been stolen from Jews before they were sent to death.....It is essential that every measure is taken to return the property to its rightful owners or to their heirs.” 

August 30, 2015 - The train is said to be located in an underground tunnel constructed by the Nazis along a 4km stretch of track on the Wroclaw-Wałbrzych line. However, its exact location is still being kept hiddenwhile being investigated through a careful operation conducted by the Army, Police and Fire Brigade.

August 28, 2015 13:50 GMT+  - Piotr Koper from Walbrzych, Poland, and genealogist Andreas Richter from Germany open their "company" website.  

August 28, 2015 15:00 GMT+2  - Deputy Culture Minister of Poland, Piotr Zuchowski says images appeared to definitively show a train equipped with gun turrets. He also states that the two treasure hunters received information about the train’s location in a deathbed confession from a man who reportedly helped hide the train some 70 years ago and wanted to pass on his knowledge before he died.  Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski warns of the danger to civilians and amateur cave spelunkers and treasure seekers of entering the disused World War II tunnels around Wałbrzych. Authorities say it will take weeks for the area to be secured and the suspected location explored.

Wałbrzych's deputy mayor, Zygmunt Nowaczyk relays that the train's is located within the his city’s administrative zone but that the location was not being disclosed. Authorities in Poland's cultural ministry continue to state that the site may pose a risk to "foragers" and urges World War II and Train buffs to stear clear of the area as they risk harming themselves.

August 24, 2015 Authorities in the southwestern district of Wałbrzych, where the 495-foot-long train is said to have been found, reportedly hold an emergency meeting and warn treasure hunters that the train is 'probably mined'.

August 21, 2015 - Artnet news speculates that if the contents of the train do prove to include Holocaust art returning the valuables to their rightful owners and heirs will likely be as contentious as the ownership debates surrounding the Cornelius Gurlitt's art hoard, or the dispute over Adele Block-Bauer's, Gustav Klimt collection. 

August 20, 2015 19:42 GMT+2 - Marika Tokarska, an official at the Wałbrzych district council says the two treasure hunters claim they have found a 490-foot (150-meter) train seventy meters below ground which they believe may contain Nazi treasure that could be worth "well over a million dollars.” The pair still won't reveal the train's location without a guarantee of a percentage of the finds. Despite warnings from academics that they may be dealing with a hoax or dangerous chemicals, fortune hunters from Europe begin flocking to Poland.  With stars in their eyes, some begin speculating if the train could contain the 8th wonder of the world, the long-lost Czarist Amber Room from the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg or if the finds might reconnect Jewish heirs with stolen art never recovered after the war. 

August 19, 2015 15:56 GMT+2 - Reuters breaks the news of the possible Nazi train claim for the first time in English. Interviewing local authorities in Poland’s southwestern district of Wałbrzych, the world learns that city officials had been contacted by a law firm representing two individuals, one Polish, and one German, who claim to have located a German train and who are also seeking 10 percent of the value of any findings.  Under current Polish law, any valuables found from that era would be state property.

August 19, 2015 09:25 GMT+2 - During an interview with Wałbrzych District Head Jacek Cichura, a public official, Polish Radio Wroclaw breaks the news to Polish listeners in its morning audience that a letter of demands has been received at the District Office in Wałbrzych on August 13th informing authorities that individuals have information on a purported armoured Nazi train still loaded with its original cargo. There is no precise indication of the location released during the broadcast.

August 12, 2015 14:01: GMT+2 - In an eery premonition, British newspaper The Daily Mail presents an article titled “Abandoned guns, forgotten munitions carts and peeling paint: Inside the eerie military shelters in Poland where children were forced to dig tunnels to help the Nazi military machine”  No mention is made of a lost Nazi Train or the frenzy that is about to erupt a few days later.

May 2015 - Unauthorised drilling and georadar testing in May leaves six large holes in the ground somewhere near Walim, a village about 12 miles west of Wałbrzych.

Image Credit Reuters -Tadeusz Slowikowski, retired miner 
Date Undetermined-  A second "Nazi Train source, Tadeusz Slowikowski, is cited as a retired miner from Wałbrzych, who said that just after the close of the Second World War a German living in the area had informed him that there was a train hidden near the 13th century Książ Castle.  He has been following up on leads regarding the mystery train's existence for half a century.

Date Undetermined - The train legend can be traced to at least two different Polish sources. The first was reported to be a deceased businessman known only as Mr. Posibirski, who said he saw a document locating the train near Piechowice, a town in Jelenia Góra County, Lower Silesian Voivodeship, located in south-western Poland, 104 km from Warsaw.

Date Undetermined - It is believed that a Nazi train, “went missing” in 1945 as the Red Army closed in during the final days of World War II. Said train was purportedly filled with a variety of contents, possibly gold bullion, originating from the Lower Silesian capital of Breslau (now Wroclaw) then eastern Germany, now Poland.

By Lynda Albertson

November 21, 2014

Editorial Essay on the Kunstmuseum Bern's Upcoming Decision on Whether to Accept the Gurlitt Collection

By Judge Arthur Tompkins

It appears that on Monday 24 November (or thereabouts) we will know whether the Kunstmuseum Bern will take on the Gurlitt collection. In an article in the New York Times on 20 November ("Nazi-Era Art Collection Appears to Find a Home" by Melissa Eddy), a number of sources are cited as expressing confidence that the Kunstmuseum will indeed accept Cornelius Gurlitt’s unexpected bequest made public at the time of his death in May this year: 
“Sources ... said it was likely that the board members [of the Kunstmuseum Bern] would gather in Switzerland on Saturday to decide on Mr Gurlitt’s gift. Stuart E. Eizenstadt ... now special adviser on Holocaust issues to Secretary of State John Kerry, said Thursday that it was his understanding that the museum would accept the offer.”
Image Credit www.worldjewishcongress.org
The magnitude of the challenges that will come with the collection should not be underestimated.  As the NYT article notes, many of the works are likely to be “badly in need of restoration”, and furthermore the resources required to, as the Kunstmuseum Bern will most likely have to do, determine the provenance of each item in the collection, will be significant.

In an open letter I sent to the Trustees of the Kunstmuseum Bern back in June published on ARCA’s Blog here where I suggested:
What should happen, and immediately after the acceptance of the inheritance, is the creation by the Kunstmuseum Bern of an independent, well-resourced international tribunal to determine the fate of each and every one of the many art works. The tribunal itself should consist of international jurists and others with a range of art-crime related skills, assisted by a staff of independent provenance researchers, cataloguers, art and general historians, claimant advocates, and dispute resolution specialists.

After identifying each art work, promulgating identifying and other characteristics widely, and proactively inviting and assisting claimant contact with the tribunal, the tribunal should resolve the fate of each art work by employing first a range of appropriate dispute resolution processes so as to reach an agreed, just and fair solution. Failing agreement, the tribunal should determine each individual case by giving due weight and recognition both to the relevant legal factors, but also and crucially to the moral aspects as well.

A transparent and just process as outlined would avoid heaping future injustice on the top of past wrongs. It would propel the Kunstmuseum Bern to the forefront of efforts to undo some of the great harms done 70 years ago, amid the chaos and confusion of war.
The NYT article quotes similar sentiments as being expressed by an attorney for Mr David Toren, an 89-year-old descendant of the Jewish industrialist David Friedmann, who has a strong claim to Max Liebermann's "Two Riders on the Beach,":
“ ... this presents a real opportunity for the museum to raise its international profile by doing the right thing with regard to the portion of the collection that was stolen by the Nazis.”
There is clearly more to come on this continuing story early next week.

Read the full New York Times article here.

July 3, 2014

Gurlitt Art Collection: Task force declares Matisse work was stolen from Paul Rosenberg and should be returned to his heirs by the heirs of Cornelius Gurlitt in accordance with the principles of the Washington Declaration

Julia Michalska reported for The Art Newspaper on June 11 in "Matisse painting in Gurlitt Hoard was Nazi loot, researchers find" that the painting by Henri Matisse titled Femme Assise (1921) had likely once belonged to Paul Rosenberg, a Jewish art dealer in Paris until the Nazi Occupation in 1940:
Ingeborg Berggreen Merkel, the head of the task force, said in a press statement released today: “Even though it could not be documented with absolute certainty how the work came into [Cornelius Gurlitt’s father] Hildebrand Gurlitt’s possession, the task force has concluded that the work is Nazi loot and was taken from its rightful owner Paul Rosenberg.” Merkel added that the final decision on what will happen to the painting “lies in the hands of the heirs of Cornelius Gurlitt, who, shortly before his death, committed himself to returning looted works in line with the Washington Principles. This commitment also binds his heirs”.
According to the Lost Art Internet Database website, the "Schwabing Art Trove" (named after the neighborhood where Cornelius Gurlitt resided) Task Force is examining the ownership of 590 works that may have been "confiscated" by the Nazis.

Here's a link to the the press release issued in German.

For further information on the Gurlitt case, the Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property (1933-1945) you may go here on their website.

March 28, 2014

Gurlitt Art Collection: Cornelius Gurlitt's legal counsel announces restitution plans

On March 26, Cornelius Gurlitt's legal counsel announced in a press release his client's plans to return "stolen" works to claimants [boldface and italics added by ARCAblog editor]:
Salzburg portion of the Cornelius Gurlitt collection is larger than at first thought - 238 works of art have been secured - first work justifiably suspected of being Nazi-looted art about to be returned - attorney Dr. Hannes Hartung discharged 
Munich/Salzburg, March 26, 2014. The Salzburg portion of the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt is more extensive than at first thought. It encompasses 238 works of art, including 39 oil paintings. 
Among the 39 oil paintings from the Salzburg portion of the collection, seven are by landscape painter Louis Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt's grandfather, who died as long ago as 1897. Other oil paintings and watercolors were painted by artists including Monet, Corot, Renoir, Manet, Courbet, Pissaro, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Liebermann, Cézanne, and Nolde. However, by far the largest portion of the Salzburg collection consists of drawings (by artists including Picasso and Munch). The Salzburg collection, which has since been removed from Cornelius Gurlitt's Salzburg home, also includes silver vessels, ceramic bowls, and bronze, marble, and iron sculptures (including by Rodin). All works of art are being stored in a secure location and where required are currently being professionally processed and accurately documented by restorers. 
As a next step in dealing with the Salzburg portion of the Gurlitt collection, renowned international experts will be hired to conduct provenance research in order to conclusively establish the origin of the paintings. 
"If we should succeed with this task, we will continue to pursue this approach on our own initiative. One thing is certain: we will present the results of our research to the public so that they can be verified and any claimants can come forward," explains Christoph Edel, Cornelius Gurlitt's legal guardian. 
Additional inspections of the Salzburg house led to the discovery of additional works of art 
During the inspection of the house in Salzburg on February 10, 2014, with the approval of Cornelius Gurlitt, more than 60 works were located and brought to a secure location to prevent the possibility of burglary and theft at the unoccupied house. Most of these works are oil paintings, some of them quite large. In later visits to the house on February 24 and 28, 2014, above all for the purpose of removing bulky and worthless items from both levels, a number of artworks were found in a previously inaccessible portion of the old house and were subsequently removed. These, too, were brought to the secure warehouse where the other works are already being stored. 
First work from Schwabing portion of the collection about to be returned 
"If the works in Salzburg or Schwabing should be justifiably suspected of being Nazi-looted art, please give them back to their Jewish owners." This is what Cornelius Gurlitt instructed his court-appointed guardian, Christoph Edel, on one of his recent visits to Cornelius Gurlitt. "Let there be no doubt that we will carry out the instructions of our client. We are about to return a work from the Schwabing portion of the collection that is justifiably suspected of being looted art. Discussions with other claimants have been constructive as well, and we expect to be returning additional works in the coming weeks," said attorney Christoph Edel. "Moreover, we are currently working on a restitution policy based on the Washington principles that we will rely on in the future as a reasonable and uniform basis for negotiating with claimants. We will apply it just as consistently in cases that likely involve looted art as in those cases that are less clear or not clear at all," says Christoph Edel. "But we would like to reiterate once more that in our opinion only a small percentage of the Gurlitt collection is suspected of being looted art. At the same time, we appeal to museums and the public sector in Germany to follow our example." 
Dr. Hannes Hartung discharged Attorney Dr. Hannes Hartung was discharged from his duties as Gurlitt's representative with effect from today. To date, he was responsible for the art law aspects of the Gurlitt case and also conducted talks with claimants. Potential claimants are kindly asked to address Mr Edel's office for the time being.

October 29, 2013

Tonality and the Delay of George Clooney's film on The Monuments Men

by Fern Smiley, Art Researcher and Consultant on Holocaust Era Cultural Property

George Clooney recently announced that that release of his film, The Monuments Men, will be delayed until 2014. Sharon Waxman, editor of The Wrap and author of LOOT: The Battle Over The Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World (Henry Holt & Company, 2008), ascertains that the cause of the delay is because George Clooney is struggling with the tone of ‘Monuments Men’: “He’d been grappling with balancing the movie’s comic elements with the serious subject matter of World War II and the Nazis’ theft of Europe’s most valuable art.”

Except Clooney has since denied that the delay had anything to do with tonality, insisting that it's all about timing, mostly getting the visual effects right. Even so, Waxman had published on October 23 that a person close to the film claimed, “The hard-to-nail tone was more the issue than the visual effects”.

Context is everything except in Hollywood

The 1964 thriller, The Train starring Burt Lancaster, was inspired by the true story of train No. 40,044 “liberated” outside Paris in 1944 by members of the French Resistance who prevented the train from crossing the border into Germany at the war’s end. In 1964, the year that John Frankenheimer released the film, Hollywood did not acknowledge that the content of the train, priceless artwork, was, in reality, confiscated from Jewish dealers and collectors throughout France and Belgium, but the “Monuments Men” knew.

Lynn Nicolas’ Rape of Europa, the 1995 book which became the benchmark for the subject of Nazi art looting and restitution, reveals the ironic fact that the Jewish American soldier who commandeered the actual train was the son of Paul Rosenberg, the venerated Parisian art dealer. Lt. Alexandre Rosenberg liberated hundreds of French impressionists pictures (many which he recognized that had hung in his parents’ home). Before fleeing France, Paul Rosenberg had tried to safeguard his possessions in a bank in Libourne and a rented chateau in Floirac but both were purloined by Nazi agents.

Robert Edsel’s book of the same name and upon which George Clooney based his film details the recovery starting in 1944 of an astonishing number of works of art stored in salt mines and repositories throughout Europe. For six more years the Monuments Men uncovered deposits; protected, documented, and eventually returned what could be traced to the country of origin to be restituted to the rightful owners.

The meticulously detailed German records of confiscation of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) aided the officers in the recovery. Nancy Yeide, curator of the National Gallery of Art, once commented on the system of ERR plunder: "The very people they were eradicating, they were taking their art and keeping track of whom they take the art from”… except in the case of the M-Aktion, of course, where owners were unidentifiable, since the art and furnishings seized were from abandoned Jewish lodgings, constituting a rich haul of significant and not-so-significant works and objects.

Despite the remarkable recovery work of the "Monuments Men", the whereabouts of tens of thousands of works remained unknown. Meanwhile, according to Marc Masurovsky, founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, the art trade suddenly flourished, and an unprecedented boom in sales occurred throughout a newly infused international art market, ready to embrace stolen property.

Especially in North America

Collections assembled and museums opened during and after the WWII era are still coming to grips with the identification of ‘Holocaust Looted Art’. “The Monuments Men” returned to the US and Canada and Britain after WWII. Some found senior positions in the countries’ museums. Others were academics in the nations’ colleges and universities However, in at least one uncomfortable case, the estate of an ex-Monuments officer contained many seventeen and eighteenth century European works which, because of their unknown provenance, made their ultimate disposition difficult.

American museums have identified 16,000 objects in their possession that may have been seized by the Nazis. Chapter 6 of the 1972 catalogue of The National Gallery of Canada 1938-1955: “Great Years of Collecting” raises eyebrows. This April, Canada’s federal government announced the funding of $200,000 to support the research efforts in six Canadian museums to help establish the provenance of works of art. “It is an important initiative for researchers and heirs around the world who are trying to identify and locate artworks and other cultural artifacts displaced during the Holocaust” said Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, at the Ottawa’s Carleton University conference examining “If not now, when? Responsibility and Memory after the Holocaust.”

It is 2013. George Clooney has a challenge. Waiting a bit longer for a movie, which “means something” according to him, will necessitate a considered approach to the topic. (In the meantime, one could do well by reading the non-fiction book, the above mentioned, Rape of Europa.)

One simply cannot speak about Nazi art looting without referencing the Holocaust. There is international cooperation, legal papers, institutes and conferences examining Nazi art looting and restitution as a component of the Holocaust. News stories run weekly describing successes and failures of claimants, a popularized one, being Elizabeth Taylor’s 2007 pre-emptive lawsuit to keep her Van Gogh from the heirs of Mrs. Margaret Mauthner.

Even in Italy, even by Italians

In Italy, after the first Fascist Racial Laws took hold in the fall of 1938, seizure of works of art from Jews began even without any Nazi presence. Circular n. 43, issued by the Ministry of Education on 4th of March 1939, called upon Royal Customs Offices, responsible for granting export licenses for art and antiquities, to create difficulties and discourage exports of all Jewish emigrants. This was in response to an earlier measure, of the 7th of December 1938, ordering the actual expulsion of all foreign born Jews living on Italian soil, giving them six months to leave the country. According to the Italian scholar Dr. Ilaria Pavan, many of their possessions languished in crates at ports like Genoa. In 1947, the owner of such a crate, containing 558 works of art applied for removal of her property, according to archival material in the Superintendency in Liguria, but then returned them in 1948, their poor condition being in direct relation to the unsuitability of the storage space in which they had been held.

“Sequestrations” in Italian towns and cities took place in earnest, facilitated by the arrest and deportation of its Jewish citizens in 1943/44. A report dated 7 July 1944 from the Superintendency of Florence, Pistoia and Prato concerning removal of all property owned by Jews noted that “lesser objects be sold at Materazzi’s” with added commentary that translates, “it is better to leave as few traces as possible, either of receipts or of the stuff taken from Jews”. In this case sequestration of art was actually undertaken by the Italian local Fascist authorities, not the Nazis.

In the northeast where the German occupying forces carried out confiscations and deportations, records of the Pollitzer, Luzzato, Jesurum, Lescovitch and Morpurgo families, had their art given to local museums that is, after the Nazis skimmed off the best. Musei Civico Trieste and Udine were enriched according to OMGUS post-war documents of Preparations and Restitution Branch, Office of the Military Government (US).

Set in Italy, during this moment of genocide, “Monuments Men, the movie”, cannot sidestep the full historical record. George Clooney, thankfully, is exquisitely placed to increase understanding of Nazi art looting. As lives were threatened or lost by deportation to death camps, stolen private and communal Jewish cultural property shifted from one place to another. At the Italians’ pleading, shipments from museum deposits at risk from bombing were transported by the Germans to the Vatican for safety. Perhaps even the Vatican may have safeguarded objects of Jewish origin, which it still possesses. With the new Pope promising transparency and access to archives, that question may just get answered.

Now that would be a movie.

Ms. Smiley, a former arts volunteer and weblog editor, has advised the Canadian Jewish Congress on their file for Holocaust era art restitution and attended ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in 2011. 


Sources:

Interministerial Commission for Works of Art
In October 1995, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities established this commission to research missing artwork plundered by the Nazis during World War II

The Commissione Anselmi did not carry out a detailed research in state and private museum in order to verify the presence of works of art taken from Jews. The  Interministerial Commission for the recovery of art works assured that no such instance is documented in its records.


Research carried out by the Historical Archive of the Fondazione Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea. Examples of Material Losses suffered by the Jews in the period 1938-1945.

Series: Records Relating to Monuments. Museums, Libraries, Archives and Fine Arts of the Cultural Affairs Branch, OMGUS, 1946-49 and FA. NARA, RG 260.
Category: JI Allied Commission- Italy. 65 pp, 

Doctor Ilaria Pavan, Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa)
The Italian Experience. Paper delivered at Christie’s and International Union of Lawyers  “Holocaust Art Looting & Restitution Symposium”.
Milan, Italy. Thursday, June 23, 2011

L’Opera di Ritrovare. Sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry for the Cultural and Environmental Heritage. Italian State Publishing House, 1995.

October 28, 2013

The Monuments Men: Harry Ettlinger describes finding the stained glass windows of Strasbourg Cathedral in a salt mine

Here's an eight minute video produced by Roberta Newman for the American Jewish Historical Society on activities of The Monuments Men who risked their lives to save art during World War II, including finding art masterpieces in two underground salt mines outside of Heilborn, Germany. This video includes narration by Monuments Man Harry Ettlinger who describes how nitro glycerin came 'within two months' of blowing up Europe's greatest art. "The first job I had was to get all 73 cases of stained glass windows that were taken out of the cathedral of Strasbourg," Mr. Ettlinger recalls. "I was the one who saw to it that all the boxes came to the top and got loaded onto trucks to be shipped to Strasbourg about an hour and a half away."

September 1, 2013

ARCA's Art & Cultural Heritage Conference 2013: Felicity Strong (University of Melbourne), Theodosia Latsi (Utrecht University) and Verity Algar (University College, London) presented in Panel 4

(Left to right): Kirsten Hower (moderator), Felicity Strong,
Theodosia Latsi, and Verity Algar
Sunday morning, June 23rd, Kirsten Hower, the academic program assistant for ARCA's summer certificate program, moderated a panel on art-related crimes with presentations by three students and/or recent graduates.

Felicity Strong, PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne, spoke on "The mythology of the art forger":
In the twentieth century, there has been the rise of depiction of the art forger in non-fiction biographies and memoir. Distinct from scholarly research, these depictions of individual art forgers have developed a common mythology, which weaves through each story of the art forger. The art forger is mythologised as a hero; the failed artists rallying against a corrupt art market, dominated by greedy art dealers and scholars. In Australian and British culture, this mythology has its roots in the wider mythology of hero criminal, such as in the stories of Robin Hood or Ned Kelly. It also feeds into a broader anti-intellectualism and mistrust of the establishment, particularly in contrast to the depiction of art curators and connoisseurs in the depictions. This mythology is evident in a number of biographies of notable forgers, such as Han van Meegeren and Elmyr de Hory, which intersect with the sub-genre of memoir, in the personal accounts of Tom Keating, Eric Hebborn and Ken Peryani. These accounts fuel the ability of the forgers to create their own public persona and feed into the wider mythology of the art forger. Analysis of non-fictional depictions of the art forger may offer an insight into why it is not considered as serious as other crimes and worth of closer scrutiny by the broader community.
Ms. Strong is in her second year of research at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She has a Master of Art Curatorship and has worked in commercial galleries in Melbourne and London. Her PhD research is focused on discovering the extent to which perceptions of art forgery are influenced by depictions in cultural context, such as in literature, on screen and within an art museum environment.

Theodosia Latsi, MA in Global Criminology, Utrecht University, presented on "The Art of Stealing: the Case of Museum Thefts in the Netherlands". Ms. Latsi has studied Sociology in Panteion University of Athens, Greece and has recently graduated from the master of Criminology at Utrecht University. She is currently conducting research voluntarily for the Trafficking Culture Project and offers periodically assistance at CIROC (Centre for Information and Research on Organised Crime, Netherlands).

Verity Algar, art history student, University College London, presented on "Cultural memory and the restitution of cultural property: Comparing Nazi-looted art and Melanesian malanggan":
Using two disparate case studies -- claims for the restitution of artworks confiscated by the Nazis being lodged by Jewish families and concerns regarding the presence Melanesian malanggan in Western museum collections -- I will discuss the importance of collective, or cultural memory in the context of making decisions about whether to restitute objects. The two cases can be differentiated by the approach to social memory taken by the groups involved. Many Jewish people are keen to have their property returned to them, whereas the people of New Ireland do not want the malanggan, which they spent months carving, returned to them. I discuss the problems that arise when legal definitions of ownership clash with cultural notions of property and illustrate this using Marie Altmann's successful restitution of five Klimt paintings from the Australian government and the malanggan example. I draw on the language of restitution claims and the display of Nazi-looted art at Israel's Yad Vashem museum and will apply Appadurai's theory that objects have "social lives" to overcome the dichotomy between the cultural value and monetary value of an object. I conclude that cultural memory is a useful concept to apply to restitution claims. Its impact can vastly differ from case to case, as illustrated by the divergent attitudes to memory and cultural property in the Jewish and Melanesian case studies. Cultural memory needs to be defined on a cultural-specific basis. The concept of cultural memory allows cultural objects to be part of the collective cultural memory of one group of people, whilst being legally owned by an individual.
Ms. Algar is a second year B.A. History of Art student at University College London, where she minors in Anthropology. She is interested in the legal regulation of the art market and restitution cases, particularly those relating to wartime looting.