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July 10, 2003

Unseen History: Loot

For those of you happening upon these pictures for the first time, an explanation of how they came to appear on this site can be found in the first post in this series.


These are the last of the pictures but one. They don't really fit in with the rest, as they were first taken by the Germans, then captured by the Allies at a later date. Still, the civilians in both pictures are likely camp workers. They're just at work, alive, rather than dead in a ditch or smoldering barracks.

Both deal with another Nazi crime, the looting of Europe's art. By some estimates up to 20% of all the art treasures in the world during the Nazi era ended up in Germany, and thousands of pieces remain there.

Notes: I've tried to identify the three paintings in this picture via the Lost Art Internet Database, a site set up in the year 2000 by the German government, ostensibly to aid those trying to track down art stolen by the Nazis. It's slow, requires a login to view any of the art reports, and, once a person jumps through all the required hoops to register with the site, presents the user with this message

Your access will be established on workdays within 24 hours after registration.

So much for the vaunted German efficiency. Or is it that, after 60 some years,the Germans have grown attached to their ill-gotten loot and don't really care for the idea of returning it to the Juden?

Thanks to the United States, it's easy to find a list of the people who collaborated with the Nazi's in looting the art collections of Europe. Thanks to the Germans, getting a simple list of the stolen objects is practically impossible.

Things are somewhat different for looted assets in the Netherlands.

If I had to guess, I'd say the landscape was a Salvator Rosa. From what little detail there is the painting appears to be his style, and there are a number of his works listed in the database. I'm stumped by the two portraits, however.

Each photograph, like the ones taken at the atrocity scenes, has a description of the scene glued to the back, though one much different in style. Here's the caption for the photograph above.

If there ever was a German description, it's long gone. I've no idea what the three letter acronym at the end stands for. The typist's initials, possibly?

If the two photographs are at all related, then the scene above took place in Yugoslavia, as the caption for the one below places it there.

Caption on rear:

The Yugoslav State Treasure in Cloister Ostorg - valuable articles are carried out into the courtyard preparatory to being transported to Germany.

The country referred to is not the country created after World War II, but rather the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which puts the date of the picture somewhere around 1941.

Another oddity - there was once a third photo in this series. By the time we ran across the file containing them it was long gone, but the caption had been left behind.

Hitler's Gestapo men are submitting to him treasured pieces of art filched from the overrun countries of Europe. Goering looks on with pleasure."

I always wondered what that photo looked like, but never really expected to know. But, thanks to the magic of the Internet, I've got a pretty good idea.

photo via this site, translated here.

The gif is so small that it's hard to tell for sure, but that certainly appears to be a look of pleasure on Goering's face, and that's definitely Hitler. If anyone knows the location of a bigger version, drop us a line.

The tenth post in the series can be seen here.

Posted by Bigwig at July 10, 2003 12:26 AM | TrackBack
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I would urge you to contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and
advise them of the existence of these photographs.
They do much important work not only in preserving the memory of the holocaust, but also in identifying faces and tracking down facts that are perhaps very difficult for you alone. Something in one of these photos may prove to
be very valuable to them.

Posted by: John at July 10, 2003 09:54 PM

I know of at least one person, from the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, part of the Holocaust Museum, who has seen them. The decision on what to do with the photos ultimately rests with my father, who is something of a pack rat, but they'll be in possession of someone better able to care for them fairly soon, I would think.

Posted by: bigwig at July 10, 2003 10:02 PM
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