Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stolen Jewish-Owned Art of the Nazi-Era

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

ERR Depot of Neuschwanstein, Germany
Worker carrying crate of looted cultural property on his shoulders for loading onto a truck headed for the ERR art repository codenamed “Lager Peter” in the salt mines about Altaussee, Austria, 12 June 1944.
Source: Bundesarchiv B323/310

This past Monday, October 25, 2010, a new database with approximately 20,000 entries of looted Jewish-owned art from France was made available online. The database which was taken from meticulously kept records of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) for stolen materials that was housed in the prewar Jeu de Paume building in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, France.


Jeu de Paume, Paris, France

Whilst only reflecting a small proportion of what was stolen, it gives researchers an insight into the huge amount of cultural wealth which was taken from members of the Jewish community. The story of the stolen art can be gleaned from an article in Vos Iz Neias? (What’s News). It tells the story of the ERR and the joint project to make the stolen art assets available online to researchers and possible family members.

This effort is a joint project of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In addition, it is with the cooperation of the Bundesarchiv (The German Federal Archives), France Diplomatie: Diplomatic Archive Center of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, and The United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The online site for the ERR database is to be found at: http://www.errproject.org/jeudepaume.
The site is divided into the listing of the art and photographs of the processing of the art and what was considered deviant art.
  • The art can be browsed by owners and the information given is the first and last name, and the city and country they were from. There are 269 owners listed, mainly from France with a few from Belgium and one lone owner, M. Margolinas, from Kaunas, Lithuania.
  • One can also browse by 260 collections, all of which are coded and described. One such is the WIL, Lazare Wildenstein (1815-1879) collection, confiscated at Panzerraum Nr. 6, Banque de France, Paris, and the confiscation date of October 30, 1940. Wildenstein was a member of the well-known family of art dealers, originally from Alsace. One can find their site at: http://www.wildenstein.com/about/index.html. If you click on the collection, there is a description of the sixteen pieces that make it up. In an Italian reference , it was said that there were 302 pieces taken from Wildenstein’s collection and that Field Marshall Herman Goring chose four of the best of them. The ERR database also includes listings for other Wildenstein family members such as Elisabeth, Georges, and Paul.
  • The listing of deviant art was quite interesting. It reflects modern art which was not of interest to the Nazis. Those pieces which were not sold were destroyed including works by Picasso and other such modernists. One of the items listed was “Marais aux songes” by Max Ernst and there were several pieces by Salvador Dali.
A part of the project was the photo gallery showing the processing of the art work which was more than just paintings as it included archives, art, books, home furnishings, Judaica and other objects. According to various sources, there were three forced labor camps in Paris for the processing of Jewish property – Austerlitz (a storage warehouse), Bassano (a magnificent townhouse), and LĂ©vitan (a commodious furniture store). In these camps, the contents of the property of the Parisian Jews, who had been sent to the Drancy internment camp, was sorted and processed.

A fascinating article about these processing centers is found on the Sarah Wildman site (http://sarahwildman.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/04/paris-dirty-secret.html). Described are the centers, what took place there and who worked there. The forced labor which was utilized was individuals who were mainly assimilated half-Jews or mischlinge, Jews married to Aryans or Jewish wives of prisoners of war.

Another aspect of this looting of Jewish art assets was created at the Israel Museum which mounted an exhibit of a number of the looted works in 2008. This can be seen at: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/125308

For more information on the looting of Jewish property during the Holocaust, one can read the following books:
  • Robbing the Jews: The Confiscation of Jewish Property in the Holocaust, 1933–1945 by Martin Dean, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-88825-7, 2008.
Conclusion
The sites mentioned are well-worth viewing, if for nothing more than to get an idea of this aspect of the Nazis efforts to destroy the Jewish population and take advantage of their property for themselves.

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