This section provides brief information on the handling of looted art matters by each of 18 countries, followed – if available – by a list of national organizations that deal with looted art claims and/or provenance research and an overview of the country’s online presentation of provenance research in its cultural institutions.
For information on additional countries and the Claims Conference-WJRO’s work with individual countries, please see our report entitled Holocaust-Era Looted Art: An Overview of Worldwide Progress and other information in the section Our Work – Advocacy Around the World. For information on specific databases, including archival databases, please refer to the section Research Databases.
In 2009, the Australian Government’s Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts published an informational brochure entitled “Collecting Cultural Material. Principles for Best Practices,” which, among other topics, also refers to provenance research, due diligence, as well as to guidelines how cultural institutions should consider a request for restitution.
In early 2014, the National Gallery of Victoria agreed to restitute an object believed to have been sold under duress. This was the first case of its kind in Australia involving the restitution of an item from a forced sale in Nazi Germany.
In April 2014, the Council of Australasian Museum Directors, Council of Australian Art Museum Directors, ICOM-Australia and Museums Australia issued a statement on Ethical Standards in Collections Development, which included a mention of the looting of cultural objects by the Nazis.
A number of Australian museums are providing provenance research information online:
- The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra
- The Art Gallery of New South Wales
- The Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art
- National Gallery of Victoria
The restitution of “Aryanized” art in Austria has been a long process, and is still ongoing. In May 1945 about 7,000 paintings and drawings were returned to Jewish organizations, but not to individuals. In 1995 an Austrian law was passed to actively try to find the owners of individual pieces of art. Many pieces were auctioned, and the money was used to create the “Mauerbach Hardship Fund,” to benefit needy Holocaust survivors in and from Austria. In addition, according to a federal law (Bundesgesetz zur Rückgabe von Kunstgegenständen aus den Österreichischen Bundesmuseen und Sammlungen) passed in December 1998, the investigations began to review stolen artworks in Austria’s federal museums. In 2009, the art restitution law was updated and improved.
According to the Law, three groups of art and cultural objects can be restituted:
1. Art objects that were part of a restitution process after 1945 but could not be removed from Austria due to the Export Prohibition Law (“Ausfuhrverbot”). These objects generally became the property of the Republic of Austria or the City of Vienna without any financial compensation for the original owner.
2. Art objects that were the subject of an invalid legal transaction between 1938 and 1945 and became the property of the Republic of Austria or the City of Vienna. 3. Art objects that were classified by the restitution proceedings as “ownerless” and therefore could not be returned and subsequently became the property of the Republic of Austria or the City of Vienna.
On the basis of the previous Art Restitution Law around 10,000 art objects have so far been restituted, with restitutions still ongoing. In 2006, an online database was published of likely looted objects in Austrian museums and public collections. The website of the Commission for Provenance Research, also founded in 1998, provides online access to all restitution reports covering the time period between 1998 and 2014 as well as decisions made by the Restitution Committee between 2008 and 2015 (including the decision regarding Erich Lederer Beethoven-Fries). Also the website of Austria’s Ministry of Culture provides online access to all restitution reports, including reports dealing with the Leopold Foundation, in addition to press announcements.
a) Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien (Jewish Community Vienna)
Abteilung für Restitutionsangelenheiten (Department for Restitution Affairs)
Desider-Friedmann-Platz 1, 1010 Vienna, Austria
b) Commission for Provenance Research
(Kommission für Provenienzforschung)
Administrative Head: Dr. Heinz Schödl
Scientific Coordinator: Mag.a Eva Blimlinger
1010 Vienna, Austria
Tel: 43.1.53415-410 or 165
(Please note that the Claims Conference is a formal observer to the Commission for Provenance Research.)
c) National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism
Secretary General: Mag.a Hannah M. Lessing
Head of Looted Art Project: Mag. Michael Seidinger
1070 Vienna, Austria
for postal inquiries:
Dr. Karl-Renner-Ring 3
1017 Vienna, Austria
http://www.kunstrestitution.at/ [English edition] As of October 2017, some 10,000 objects are listed. In 2,713 cases heirs are being sought and in an additional 81 cases the objects have been restituted to their legal owners or heirs. The database lists an additional two cases where the restitution was rejected.
As of 2012, another database “Findbuch” makes it possible to search for files held at the Austrian State Archive as well as other cooperating Austrian archives in regard to property seizure and compensation proceedings.
Austria’s Museum for Fine Arts (Kunsthistorisches Museum) and the Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments (Bundesdenkmalamt) created a database listing the files of the 1938 Central Depot for Jewish Cultural Property (Zentraldepot). The Depot was established in the premises of the museum to house confiscated collections of predominantly Jewish owners. The database holds approximately 11,500 files including corresponding images.
The Commission for Provenance Research provides contact information for Austria’s federal museums and where available their provenance research departments. In addition, the Commission also provides contact information for Austria’s provincial museums, private institutions and museums as well as for academic institutions that are involved with provenance research.
In 1997 the Belgian government appointed the Study Commission on Jewish Assets to locate property confiscated from Jewish Holocaust victims.The 2001 final report referred to the fact that research into looted cultural property could not be completed and that further examination is necessary. Between 2001 and 2007, the Belgian government operated an indemnification commission.
Indemnification Commission Inquiries
Chancellery of the Prime Minister
16, Rue de la Loi
The Catalogue des Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique (Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels) can be accessed here.
In 2001, the Canadian Museum Association (CMA) and the Canadian Jewish Congress organized the Canadian Symposium on Holocaust-era Cultural Property. Five years later, partially due to the initiative taken by the Claims Conference, the Department of Canadian Heritage commissioned the Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization (CAMDO) to conduct a survey of its members by seeking information about the state of provenance research.
- National Gallery Provenance Site
- Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Provenance Site
- Art Gallery of Ontario Provenance Site
- The Max Stern Art Restitution Project provides four listings: (1) a list of missing works, which includes objects from the 1937 Lempertz sale and missing works from the Galerie Stern Inventory 1936-38; and (2) a list of recovered works, including works that were recovered and restituted to Max Stern and a list of works recovered by the Max Stern Estate.
In 1998 legislation enabled the return of artworks confiscated during the Holocaust, if they are currently owned by a Czech state institution (gallery or museum). The government commission identified thousands of paintings and art objects, once owned by Jewish persons before World War II, that are today in the possession of state galleries and museums across the Czech Republic. Original owners of artwork, or their heirs, can submit claims if their property was confiscated between November 29, 1938, and May 4, 1945. This type of claim should be addressed directly to the specific institution. It is not necessary for the claimant to have Czech citizenship.
At the end of June 2009, the Czech Republic as part of its Presidency of the European Union hosted the Conference on Holocaust Era Assets in Prague. The conference was attended by 47 participating nations, observing countries, and relevant non-governmental organizations, including the Claims Conference and the WJRO. Information on the Prague Conference may be obtained at http://www.holocausteraassets.eu/
a) Endowment Fund for Victims of the Holocaust
Mgr. Marta Malá, Executive DirectorLegerova 22/1854,
12000 Praha 2
Tel: 420.224.261615 or 420.224.262573
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
b) Documentation Centre for Property Transfers of Cultural Assets of WWII Victims, P.B.O.
PhDr. Helena Krejčová , Director
Čs. Armády 34/828
160 00 Prague 6
c) The European Shoah Legacy Institute (ESLI) was incorporated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic as a follow-up to the Terezin Declaration endorsed by representatives of 47 states in 2009 that seeks systemic solutions on an international level leading, among other things, to restitution of art, Judaica and Jewish cultural assets stolen by the Nazis. The Institute serves as a voluntary forum for exchange of views, sharing of experience, and articulation of needs and priorities. At the same time, it is a catalyst for the parties already active in this field, helping them to identify and develop best practices and work guidelines. The Institute’s sphere of action is international. It operates in affiliation with the European Union and with European countries inside and outside of the EU. The Institute also has a close working relationship with non-European states, particularly the United States and Israel.
Please note that ESLI has now ended. The website remains, but it has not much information on cultural matters at this point.
a) The database prepared by the Czech Ministry of Culture in cooperation with the Moravian Museums provides a list of artworks identified as confiscated by the Nazis and held in public collections in the Czech Republic.
b) The Jewish Museum Prague provides an online listing of artworks by Hella Guth as well as of books for which there is a restitution claim, and a list of artworks in addition to books which were restituted from the collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague to their original owners.
c) The Documentation Centre for Property Transfers of Cultural Assets of WWII Victims provides a database of objects identified by the Centre as having been looted.
Between 2002 and 2006, the DEAL project (Distributors of European Art Legacy – Finland as a Relocation Region for Nazi-Looted Art) was carrying out research into spoliated art in Finland. The research focused on all foreign art works with provenance gaps in 27 Finnish museum collections.
The National Board of Antiquities provides an online listing of artworks with provenance gaps in three Finnish museums: National Museum of Finland, Ateneum Art Museum and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum.
After the War, the French government appointed a commission for the purpose of selecting the best pieces among those works left unclaimed that France had recovered from Germany. These works were then distributed among museums across France and became known as the MNR [Musées Nationaux Récupération].
In April 2000, a Historical Commission, the “Mattéoli Commission”, published its findings. As part of its findings, the Mattéoli Commission established that, of the 61,233 works of art that were returned to France, 45,000 were returned to their rightful owners, leaving approximately 20,000 as yet unclaimed works of art.
In early 2013, France’s president Francois Hollande established a new group of experts and curators to pro-actively track down families of unclaimed art works. This followed a senate report that called on the government to be more proactive and transparent considering that some 2,140 art works that are thought to have been looted from Jewish families during World War II that are still in some 57 cultural institutions nationwide.
In January 2014, France announced that it would restitute three (3) paintings to the heirs of their original Jewish owner currently held at the Louvre and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. The paintings are part of the so-called MNR collection, now called the Site Rose-Valland – Musées Nationaux Récupération. In August 2014, French officials met with representatives of B’nai B’rith International and the New York Department of Finance to improve their restitution efforts.
In December 2014, the French Commission des affaires culturelles et d’éducation released a report entitled “Rapport parlementaire sur la gestion des réserves et dépôts des musées,” which presents the Commission’s investigation into French museums. The report calls on French museums to conduct provenance research following the Washington Principles.
In 2017, the organization Musique et Spoliations (Looted Music) was founded with the aim to search for looted instruments or musical material.
a) The Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation (CIVS)
1 Rue de la Manutention
Toll free from the U.S.: 1.866.254.3770
Download the application
The French Ministry of Culture (Directorate of Museums) maintains a database of approximately 2,000 MNR (Site Rose-Valland – Musées Nationaux Récupération) artworks, stolen from French Jews by the Nazis that remain to date in the custody of French museums. A second database maintained by the French Ministry of Culture provides information on individuals and institutions whose libraries were seized and to whom the books were returned.
In December 1999, Germany announced the Mutual Statement and Agreement (Gemeinsame Erklärung der Bund und Länder) as a direct result of the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art. In February 2001, Germany issued the legally non-binding “Handreichung” (Handreichung zur Umsetzung der ‘Erklärung der Bundesregierung, der Länder und der kommunalen Spitzenverbände zur Auffindung und zur Rückgabe NS-verfolgungsbedingt entzogenen Kulturgutes, insbesondere aus jüdischem Besitz) or guidelines outlining ways to discover and restitute looted cultural property. In November 2007, the handout was revised following the disputed restitution of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s painting. On 10 May 2013, Minister Neumann revised the “Handreichung” one more time, by including valuable information on archives etc. The new version can be seen at: http://www.lostart.de.
Since 1 January 2006, the “Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues (BADV)” (Bundesamt für zentrale Dienste und offene Vermögensfragen [BADV]) deals with looted art that is still in German governmental possession and is also in charge of the Remainder of Stock CCP (Restbestand Central Collecting Point). Approximately 2,300 paintings, sculptures, graphics and other artworks, in addition to about 10,000 coins and books are still kept by the Finance Ministry’s agency. On 1 August 2007, the BADV published an online database.
In 2000 the first database of the Coordination Office of the States for the Return of Cultural Treasures (Koordinierungsstelle der Länder für die Rückführung von Kulturgütern) was launched. The Office was tasked with researching missing objects and creating a database of looted cultural property. Private individuals had the opportunity to register and publish their search requests regarding lost cultural objects. The objects sought must have been lost because of persecution under National Socialist rule or in connection with events and direct consequences of the Second World War, for example: confiscation, plunder, removal and relocation or expulsion.
In November 2007, then culture minister Bernd Neumann created the Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzrecherche/-forschung (Bureau for Provenance Investigation & Research) which is jointly financed by Germany’s regional culture foundations.
In spring 2013, a large private art collection was seized in a district in Munich, known as the Schwabing Art Trove. The art collection was originally amassed by the Nazi art dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt and after his death managed by his son Cornelius Gurlitt.
In late 2013, Germany established a task force headed by Dr. Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel, a former Deputy State Minister for Culture and Media. The task force was made up of international and national experts to research the art trove. The Claims Conference nominated two experts to the task force.
Also in 2013, the Weimar Classicism Foundation (Klassik Stiftung Weimar) launched a provenance research project and appointed a member of the Claims Conference to serve on its advisory board.
In December 2015, the Task Force Schwabinger Kunstfund concluded its work as planned and published its final report. The final report includes a fact sheet (also available in English): Overall 1,258 artworks were part of Gurlitt’s collection, which included the 1,224 artworks seized in his apartment, as well as 34 artworks which were entrusted to the Taskforce after Gurlitt’s death. 507 were found not be Nazi-looted, while 499 artworks are possible Nazi looted art. Four claims were successfully resolved and the Nazi-looted loss was confirmed. The final reports in these five cases are available on the German Lost Art website. The Claims Conference’s Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR): Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume is cited in many of these cases.
In January 2015 the “Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste” was officially opened: The Center combines the offices of the Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg, the Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzforschung, the Taskforce “Schwabing Art Trove,” re-named as “Gurlitt Provenance Research” and the Forschungsstelle “Entartete Kunst” of the Freien Universität Berlin. In late April 2015, a member of the Claims Conference was officially appointed to serve on the Center’s advisory board. The Center aims to assist public and private institutions with conducting provenance research. In 2015, a working group was formed to explore research into cultural assets confiscated or lost as a result of persecution and arbitrary action in the Soviet Occupation Zone and the GDR.
In February 2015, Wiesbaden announced that it will open its own center for provenance research. The anticipated center, the first of its kind in one of Germany’s Länder, will have an annual budget of 140,000 Euros and will be responsible for museums in Wiesbaden, Darmstadt and Kassel. The center will be based out of Wiesbaden’s State Museum.
In May 2015 Bavaria announced the establishment of a new provenance research association. The website of the “Forschungsverbund Provenienzforschung Bayern (FPB)” (Research Association for Provenance Research in Bavaria) went online in late November 2016 and is aimed to serve as a network and exchange platform for state-run institutions working in the field of provenance research. The website also provides access to the FPB’s activity report for 2015/16.
In January 2016, the German Lost Art Foundation launched a new project entitled “Gurlitt Provenance Research” which aims to continue the work of the Task Force. The project is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media until the end of 2017.
In late 2016, two Jewish members were added to the so-called “Limbach Comission” (Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property), which first convened in Berlin in 2003. The commission was originally formed in agreement between the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) and the leading municipal associations. It can be called upon to mediate in cases of dispute involving the restitution of cultural assets which were confiscated during the Third Reich, especially from Jews who were persecuted during World War II and are now held by museums, libraries, archives or other public institutions in the Federal Republic of Germany. However, the Advisory Commission does not obligate German museums to participate, rather its participation is on a voluntary basis. In November 2017, Prof. Papier was elected as the commission’s new chairman.
Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste
In addition, private losses of German citizens (natural or legal persons) which took place as a result of World War II should also be registered with Referat K13, Rückführung von Kulturgut, Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kulturgut und Medien (Section K13, Return of Cultural Property, Federal Government Commission for Cultural and Media Affairs).
Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzrecherche/-forschung beim Institut für Museumsforschung der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin – Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz
Dr. Uwe Hartmann
E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Arbeitskreis PROVENIENZforschung, e.V.
Bahrenfelder Kirchenweg 13 d
The Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung (working group provenance research) is a communication platform that meets on a biannual basis.
Provenance Research Training
Several German academic institutions are currently providing or are in the process of providing provenance research training. Among these institutions are:
- University of Bonn: The university of Bonn is in the process of creating Germany’s first endowed chair for provenance research at the institute for art history as well as on art law and the protection of cultural property at the institute for political science.
- University of Würzburg: The university is in the process of creating a graduate school course entitled “Sammlung, Provenienz, Kulturelles Erbe” – Masterstudiengang der Institute für Kunstgeschichte, Museologie, und Geschichte” (Collection, History and Cultural Heritage – Graduate Courses at the Institutes for Art History, Museum Studies and History).
- Freie Universität Berlin: The university provides provenance research workshops with the aim to certify graduates in the field.
- Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte: The institute, founded in 1946/47 as an independent research institute connected with the Central Collecting Point (CCP). provides “provenance- and collection research“ colloquiums.
The Lost Art Internet Database, provided by the German Lost Art Foundation contains data on cultural objects which as a result of Nazi persecution or the direct consequences of the Second World War were removed and relocated, stored or seized from their owners, particularly Jews, or on cultural objects where, because of gaps in their provenance, such a story of loss cannot be ruled out as a possibility. The database is divided into two sections: Search Requests and Found-Objects Report.
On 1 August 2007, the “Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues (BADV)” published an online database of artworks still in possession of the Finance Ministry’s agency. The collection, commonly labeled as Remainder of Stock CCP (Restbestand Central Collecting Point), which consists of paintings and other artworks collected for the Hitler-Museum in Linz, or part of Hermann Göring’s collection.
In 2008, the German Historical Museum (Deutsches Historisches Museum, DHM) electronically reconstructed the files commonly labeled as “Sonderauftrag Linz (Special Commission Linz),” and a year later, in 2009, published online the files of the Munich Central Collecting Point.
In 2012, the German Historical Museum released one more database on the Goering collection entitled “Die Kunstsammlung Hermann Göring.” The online collection provides information on 4,263 art objects, including paintings, sculptures, furniture or tapestries.
The database “Galerie Heinemann online” provides information regarding the art trade at Munich’s Galerie Heinemann. The Galerie Heinemann was operational between 1890 and 1939 when it was shut down by the Nazis. The database provides information on 43,501 paintings.
The Freie Universität Berlin released a database entitled “Entartete Kunst”Gesamtverzeichnis der 1937 in Deutschen Museen beschlagnahmten Werke der Aktion “Entartete Kunst” that provides information on artworks that were deemed degenerate. All objects are searchable by artist name and title.
In September 2012, the Berlin State Archive launched an online project to digitize files of the “Wiedergutmachungsämter” in Berlin (B Rep. 025). The archive holds up to 800,000 files from these restitution offices.
The Humboldt University in Berlin launched an online listing of Jewish enterprises in Berlin between 1930 and 1945.
In 2010, the University Library of Heidelberg, in cooperation with the Kunstbibliothek der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, and the Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzforschung launched a database entitled: “German Sales 1930-1945. Art Works, Art Markets, and Cultural Policy”. The database holds information on auction catalogues from Germany, Switzerland and Austria published between 1930 and 1945.
In 2016, four institutions, the Stiftung Neue Synagoge Berlin – Centrum Judaicum Library, the Freie Universität Berlin University Library, Potsdam University Library, and the Berlin Central and Regional Library posted over 27,000 objects on a website entitled “Looted Cultural Assets“.
A list of unresolved claims as of September 28, 2006 for art and cultural property filed by the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) with the German restitution authorities regarding the former East Germany was previously available at www.artinformereastgermany.org. In almost all cases applications have been filed by heirs with the Claims Conference, however, making the list no longer relevant.
The Central Institute for Art History (Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, ZI) ) in Munich recently launched an online exhibition entitled “Galerie Helbing – Auctions for the World,” at the occasion of the donation of a collection of annotated Hugo Helbing catalogues. The collection is comprised of 698 catalogues from 1895 until 1937. Hugo Helbing was a German Jewish art dealer who died in Munich in November 1938 from the effects of a brutal interrogation by the Gestapo (Secret State Police).
The German Lost Art Foundation provides access to an online portal entitled “Research Results Module.” The Portal makes available the results of projects supported with public funds since 2008 with which German institutions, museums, libraries, or for example archives, have carried out provenance research into Nazi-looted property.
Since 2008, the Free State of Saxony provides funding to the Dresden State Art Collections to conduct comprehensive provenance research. A key instrument of the project is the museum’s database “Daphne” that allows for systematic research on acquisitions made since 1933.
The site ProvenienzWiki – Plattform für Provenienzforschung und Provenienzerschließung, established in 2008 by members of the working group “UAG Provenienzforschung und Provenienzerschliessung,” provides an index of provenance terms, recommendations on how to conduct provenance research in libraries and an extensive list of images of provenance marks and stamps.
Although many artworks looted from Hungary were returned to the country between 1945 and 1948, Hungary continues to request the return of a large number of cultural objects, of which many are paintings it believes were looted by Soviet troops from bank vaults after the Second World War. Many of these treasures belonged to prominent Jewish-Hungarian collectors.
Several Hungarian state museums hold looted art and have thus far refused to restitute or to accept the Washington Principles. Specifically, the heirs to Baron Mor Lipot Herzog and Baron Ferenc Hatvany have unsuccessfully tried to claim their artworks. More information.
a) Central Restitution Bureau
Kozponti Karrendezesi Iroda
Hauszmann Alajos Street utca 1
1116 Budapest, Hungary
In 2003 the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation along with the Grabar Institute and with the assistance of Project Heritage Revealed produced a Catalog of Art Objects from Hungarian Private Collections.
a) Hashava – The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets was established under the Holocaust Victims Assets Law (Restitution to Heirs and Endowment for Purposes of Assistance and Commemoration) of 2006 to enable potential claimants to claim back property owned by Holocaust victims, but is closing at the end of 2017.
For a list of assets in Israel, please see: http://www.hashava.org.il/eng/assetList/
The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets
Ltd. POB 927
Bnei Brak 51108
In June 2009, the State of Israel published a Second Global Report on Restitution Rights and Looted Jewish Property (1952-2008) in anticipation of its presentation at the 2009 Prague Holocaust-Era Assets Conference. The report can be accessed here:http://www.holocausteraassets.eu/files/200000210-fd91164e98/Second_Global_Report_1952_2008.doc
The Israel Museum in Jerusalem provides online provenance information: http://www.imj.org.il/Imagine/irso/index.asp
The final report of Luxembourg’s Special Commission for the Study of the Spolication of Jewish Property During the War Years 1940-1945, entitled “La Spoliation des Biens Juifs au Luxembourg 1940-1945,” was released on 19 June 2009. A copy of the report can be accessed here: http://www.gouvernement.lu/salle_presse/communiques/2009/07-juillet/06-biens-juifs/rapport_final.pdf
In 1997, the Dutch government set up the Origins Unknown Committee, also known as the Ekkart Committee. Subsequently, the Origins Unknown Agency was created to research and publicize the origins of the over 4,000 looted works in the possession of the Dutch government. By decree of 16 November 2001, the Dutch government set up an Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War. The Restitution Committee provides recommendations to the Minister for Education, Culture and Science regarding claims to items of cultural value in the possession of the national government.
In 2013, the Netherlands Museum Association published a report entitled “Museum Acquisitions from 1933 onwards” detailing provenance research in Dutch museums.
a) Individuals who have specific information regarding artwork that was lost or sold in the Netherlands during World War II can register a claim directly with the Dutch government:
Inspectie Cultuurbezit (Inspection Cultural Heritage)
2514 AP Den Haag
Funds Desk, P.O. Box 19008
2500 CA The Hague
c) Herkomst Gezocht
Prins Willem Alexanderhof 20
NL-2595 DE Den Haag
d) For questions regarding the so-called NK (“Nederlands Kunstbezit-collectie”) collection (The NK collection consists of all artworks that were never claimed or for which applications were rejected. These artworks became part of the national art property collection):
Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications For Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War
P.O. Box 556
2501 CN The Hague
Tel: (31) 0-70 376 5992
Fax: (31) 0-70 362 9654
The results of the research of the Origins Unknown Agency are posted at http://www.herkomstgezocht.nl/en and at http://www.originsunknown.org. In December 2016, the Origins Unknown Agency released a new website that allows users to search about 15,000 post-war claim files containing details of works that went missing under the Nazi occupation.
The Netherlands Museum Association provides an online database entitled “Museum Acquisitions From 1933 Onwards” which lists objects with provenance gaps held at Dutch museums. Please see: http://www.musealeverwervingen.nl/
The Netherlands Art Institute provides access to the digitized Goudstikker-Miedl archive which comprises of over 1,500 index cards. These index cards originally belonged to Jacques Goudstikker but in September 1940 were acquired by banker Alois Miedl.
Several public museums in Poland hold looted cultural property owned by Jews. Some estimates suggest that 1% of all items in Polish museums are previously Jewish owned. For a comprehensive overview, please see Nawojka Cieślínska-Lobkowicz’s article “The Obligation of the State or a Hobby of the Few. The Implementation of the Washington Principles in Poland.” For a report on the works of Bruno Schulz in Polish institutions, please see Nawojka Cieślínska-Lobkowicz’s article “Who Owns Bruno Schulz“.
In 2012, the professional Yearbook Muzealnictwo (Museology) published a set of guidelines outlining how provenance research in regard to looted cultural objects should be carried out. The guidelines were put forth by then deputy culture minister Tomasz Merta. According to experts in the field, while the guidelines were received by Polish museums, no concrete actions followed.
The Office for Wartime Losses in the Department of National Heritage
Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland
Maria Romanowska Zadrozna
ul. Krakowskie Przedmiescie 15/17
The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland launched a website of Poland’s wartime losses, entitled “Internet catalogue of Polish wartime losses”.
The Museum of the History of Polish Jews provides online access to a Judaica database. Please see: http://judaica.jewishmuseum.org.pl/
Administration of Cultural Heritage, Art Education and Science
Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography (Roskultura)
M. Gnezdnikovskii per., dom 7/6
The Project “Heritage Revealed” catalogs are online available.
The Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography maintains a website and database entitled “Cultural Valuables – Victims of War” that presents information concerning cultural valuables affected by World War II at http://lostart.ru
The National Gallery of Slovenia conducts systematic research on its European Collection with its Online Catalogue providing basic provenance information.
Head of Documentation, National Gallery of Slovenia
Puharjeva ulica 9, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenija
National Gallery of Slovenia is the main art museum in Slovenia containing the largest visual arts collection from the late medieval period to the early twentieth century.
In December 1996, the Swiss Federal Assembly created the “Independent Commission of Experts Switzerland-Second World War” (ICE), which was headed by Jean-Francoise Bergier. In 2001, the ICE published its report on looted cultural assets (primarily on works of art) in Switzerland: “Fluchtgut-Raubgut. Der Transfer von Kulturgütern in und über die Schweiz 1933-1945 und die Frage der Restitution”. The study primarily dealt with Switzerland’s role as an art dealing center and conduit for cultural assets during World War II. Other studies have followed.
In January 2011, the FDHA (Federal Department of Home Affairs) and the FDFA (Federal Department of Foreign Affairs), partly as the result of discussion with the Claims Conference and the WJRO, released a report on the state of work on Nazi-looted art, in particular, on the subject of provenance research. The report can be seen at: http://www.bak.admin.ch
In June 2013, the Federal Office of Culture (FOC) launched a new website devoted to provenance research. A report entitled “FDHA/FDFA report on the state of work on Nazi-looted art, in particular, on the subject of provenance research” can be accessed at: http://www.bak.admin.ch/kulturerbe/04402/index.html?lang=en
For the period 2016-2017, the Swiss Confederation will provide financial assistance to institutions for provenance research. 400,000 Swiss Francs, or 410,523 US Dollars, have been earmarked for this research. Applications had to be submitted by April 2016. In late August 2016, the Federal Ministry of Culture announced that the sum of 907,833 Francs, or 930,915 US Dollars was approved to help finance provenance research in 12 institutions throughout Switzerland.
In October 2016, the Swiss Federal Office of Culture released a report entitled “FDHA/FDFA Report on the status of work of the Swiss Confederation in the field of Nazi-looted art in the period from 2011 to 2016” which outlines provenance research conducted by the Federation between 2011 until 2016.
The Gurlitt Collection:
After half a year of deliberation, on 24 November, 2014, the Kunstmuseum Bern declared that it will accept the Cornelius Gurlitt inheritance. Consequently an agreement was signed between the Federal Republic of Germany, the Free State of Bavaria and the Stiftung Kunstmuseum Bern.
The Kunstmuseum Bern established a provenance research department, headed by Dr. Nikola Doll. The museum is scheduled to host an exhibition entitled “Gurlitt: Status Report “Degenerated Art” – Confiscated and Sold between November 2, 2017 and March 4, 2018. This exhibition will mark the first time ever that the general public will have the chance to view some of Gurlitt’s objects.
On November 17, 1998, the Federal Assembly of Switzerland established an office at the Federal Ministry of Culture that exclusively deals with looted-art http://www.kultur-schweiz.admin.ch
Benno Widmer, Head
Federal Office of Culture (Bundesamt für Kultur)
Contact Bureau on Looted Art (Fachstelle Internationaler Kulturgütertransfer)
Tel: 41.31.325.70 21
The Foundation E.G. Bührle Collection provides online access to its collection, which includes provenance research.
Ukraine recently launched its first internet project “Forgotten Heritage” devoted to cultural property that was taken out of the country. The project’s aim is to create a catalogue of moved and lost cultural property.
In 1997 Lord Janner of the Holocaust Education Trust stipulated how British museums should carry out provenance research. In the following year, in June 1998 the National Museum Director’s Conference (NMDC) chaired by Nicholas Serota established a working group to examine issues surrounding the spoliation of art during the Holocaust and World War II period. Also in April 2000, an independent Spoliation Advisory Panel was established under the Chairmanship of Sir David Neuberger, a High Court Judge, to give independent advice to UK museums and galleries.
In November 2009 the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Restitution Act was introduced which allows museums to return works of art looted during the Holocaust.
a) Commission on Looted Art in Europe (please see International Organizations)
b) National Museum Directors’ Conference
Imperial War Museums, Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ
The web site of the National Museum Directors’ Conference provides information on provenance research and contact information for 22 national museums and galleries as well as for 24 non-national museums. http://www.culturalpropertyadvice.gov.uk/search_spoliations
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A Museum) holds the only known copy of a complete list entitled ‘Entartete Kunst’ (‘Degenerate Art’), detailing artworks confiscated by the Nazi regime from public institutions in Germany. The list, compiled by the Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda) between 1941-2 provides also information on the provenance of each work. The inventory was donated to the V&A by the widow of Heinrich (Harry) Robert.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States (PCHA) was established by the U.S. Holocaust Assets Commission Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-186) and was passed with unanimous bipartisan support in the Congress and signed into law by President William Jefferson Clinton on June 23, 1998. In December 2000, the Commission issued its final report entitled “Plunder and Restitution. Findings and Recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States and Staff Report” .
The American Alliance of Museums, formerly known as the American Association of Museums (AAM), recommended “Procedures for Providing Information to the Public about Objects Transferred in Europe during the Nazi Era.”
In 1998, the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) issued a Report of the AAMD Task Force on the Spoliation of Art during the Nazi/World War II Era (1933-1945).
The Art Dealers Association of America issued guidelines presented at a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services, Domestic and International Monetary Policy Subcommittee on July 27, 2006, appended to the testimony of Gilbert Edelson. Full testimony is available here.
Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) Resolution
As part of the Claims Conference/WJRO Looted Art and Cultural Property Initiative, discussions have been held with the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) regarding the need for Jewish museums to examine the provenance of their collections.
U.S. Museum Survey
A survey conducted in 2006 by the Claims Conference concerning the adherence of U.S. museums to the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated art and the procedures and guidelines recommended by the American Association of Museums regarding objects transferred in Europe during the Nazi Era.
In 2013, the New York chapter of the Federal Bar Association put forward a resolution calling for the creation of an American commission to deal with looted art claims. Given the legal status of most museums in the United States, which are overwhelmingly private institutions, such a commission is unlikely to be created, and the matter has now been overtaken by the passage of the HEAR Act.
a) The Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) of the New York State Banking Department (please see International Organizations)
b) The Commission for Art Recovery (CAR) (please see International Organizations)
c) Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art
Among its objectives, the organization aims to facilitate the recovery and restitution of important artistic, cultural, and historic treasures and documents that were stolen during World War II and have yet to be located, as well as to encourage institutions and collectors to comply with the American Association of Museums’ guidelines concerning provenance research during the Nazi era.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
d) Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative (SPRI) of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution is co-organizing a German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP) for Museum Professionals between 2017 and 2019. The program is aimed to expand and elaborate on the methods and practices with which both countries have thus far approached the issues pertaining to Holocaust-era art looting.
e) The Mosse Art Restitution Project was founded in 2012 by the heirs of Rudolf Mosse, whose art collection was confiscated and auctioned off during the Holocaust. In 2017, the Restitution Initiative announced its collaboration with Germany’s government, museums and research institutes, including the Lost Art Foundation as well as Berlin’s State Museums and Archives, the Jewish Museum Berlin, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and Berlin’s Free University.
The AAM established the Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal, a central registry of objects in U.S. museums that could have changed hands in Europe during the Nazi era, 1933-1945. The website is the first to centralize information about such objects in U.S. museums. It is partially funded with a grant from the Claims Conference.
Links to individual museums with online Nazi-era provenance information may be found on the Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal: www.nepip.org. See also Nazi-Era Stolen Art and U.S. Museums: A Survey Nepip.org also provides a list of museums with no relevant objects.
For online access to archival documents pertaining to looted cultural property, see also http://go.fold3.com/holocaust_art/ (The Holocaust Collection): Fold3.com provides information on looted valuables, including photographs of items, descriptions as well as for example the object’s condition.
The Getty Provenance Index Databases contain indexed transcriptions of material from auction catalogs and archival inventories of Western European works of art. They contain nearly 1,000,000 records that cover the period from the late 16th century to the early 20th century.
Available via the Getty Provenance Index is also the German Sales Catalogs, 1930-1945. which encompasses digitized sales catalogs published in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and German-occupied territories between 1930 and 1945.
The Getty Research Institute further provides a guide to archives at the Research Institute that bear on Holocaust-era looting and postwar dissemination of stolen art.