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Art Pieces Looted by the Nazis Found by German Art Museum

November 18, 2015

There is a number of organizations working today trying to identify art pieces that were looted by the Nazis during the Third Reich. One of these organizations is the German Lost Art Foundation, whose aim is to register cultural objects that were relocated, moved or seized, especially from Jewish under the Nazi dictatorship and the Second World War. Recently, the Kunsthalle Mannheim (a German art museum from the city of Mannheim) registered 18 pieces from its collection to the German Lost Art Foundation and on the Lostart database in hopes of reaching possible heirs. It is believed that these artworks were stolen from Jews by the Nazis, during the Third Reich.

German Art Museum
Claude Monet – Au-dessus de Vétheuil (Effet de printemps), one of the paintings reporoduced on the websited lostart.de (courtesy of lostart.de)

Looted Artworks Founded in a German Art Museum

The Kunsthalle Mannheim has been researching the provenance of its collection since the end of 2011. The collection of this German Art Museum is quite rich; it has pieces by masters such as Vincent van Gogh, Carl Schush, Camille Pissarro, Édouard Manet, Gustave Courbet and many others. On Tuesday, November 17, 2015, the museum announced it has found 18 works in its collection that may have been stolen from Jews by the Nazis. According to some reports, some of these artworks are sculptures and drawings by artists Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Max Slevogt and Edgar Degas. In the statement, the Museum said that it has found clues that these works could have been stolen by the NS [National Socialist] regime. During the process of the research of the provenance of the works in the Museum’s collection, it was realized that most of the objects examined turned out not to have any questionable acquisition history – except these 18 pieces of art.

German Art Museum
Kunsthalle Mannheim (c Kunsthalle Mannheim), courtesy of mannheim.de

The Process of Finding Art Pieces Looted by the Nazis

During the Third Reich, a systematic confiscation of art was under way by the Nazis. Many valuable collections, particularly those owned by Jews were simply confiscated. Pieces from these collections can still be found in many museums and other collections throughout the world. In early 2012, over one thousand pieces of artwork were discovered at the home of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, of which about 200-300 pieces are suspected of being looted art, some of which may have been exhibited in the degenerate art exhibition held by the Nazis before World War II in several large German cities. Also, in January 2014, researcher Dominik Radlmaier of the city of Nuremberg announced that eight objects had been identified as lost art with a further eleven being under strong suspicion. Finally, the recently founded handwritten catalogue of Hermann Goering, encompassing information on more than 1500 paintings and other pieces of art looted from Jews and other individuals and families who were sent to the concentration camps, may help further investigations.

German Art Museum
Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering

Nazi Plunder

Nazi plunder is a term used to describe art theft and other items stolen as a result of the organized looting of European countries during the time of the Third Reich by agents acting on behalf of the ruling Nazi Party of Germany. After the war, a number of efforts to find and return stolen pieces resulted in creation of special commissions, different foundations. These efforts are still taking place. For example, the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart has just introduced an audio tour — titled Suspected: Nazi-looted art? – reflecting the museum’s provenance research, which has been under way since 2009. On display are works that likely were procured illegally from Jewish collectors, as well as some that the Nazis stole from the museum itself. Similar innovative attempts to find stolen pieces of art would certainly help the research efforts.

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Featured Image: German soldiers holding a picture taken from the Biblioteca del Museo Nazionale di Napoli, in 1944 (via Wikipedia). All Images used for illustrative purposes only.