Australia | Austria | Belarus | Belgium | Bulgaria | Canada | Croatia | Czech Republic | Finland | France | Germany | Hungary | Israel | Italy | Luxembourg | Netherlands | Poland | Romania | Russian Federation | Serbia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland | Ukraine | United Kingdom | United States
This section provides brief information on the handling of looted art matters by each of 24 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 Advocacy. See also our section on the JUST Act as well as the March 2020 Just Act Report which was released by the Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. 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 “Australian Best Practice Guide to Collecting Cultural Material,” 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.
In 2015, the government published a best practice guide to collecting cultural material that also refers to provenance research and due diligence and provides guidance to cultural institutions considering a request for restitution, among other topics. Australia’s most prominent art galleries, Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia and Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria, have their own due diligence and provenance policies that require thorough research regarding the provenance of art works prior to acquisition.
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 post-war Austria, the responsible department for the restitution of expropriated artwork was the Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments. There was no automatic restitution of property, rather former owners had to assert their claims in accordance with relevant restitution laws before the restitution authorities. For property which remained unclaimed two Artistic and Cultural Assets Settlement Acts were passed in 1969 and 1986. These acts created the opportunity to retrieve artworks which were kept in the custody of the Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments or were owned by the Republic of Austria and the owner of which could not be identified. In 1995 those works of art which had still not been able to be restituted were transferred into the ownership of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Austria. The following year Christie’s auction house auctioned these objects of art in Mauerbach for the benefit of the victims of the NS regime.
[For a more in-depth analysis of Austria’s legislation on art restitution after World War Two, please see: https://www.kunstdatenbank.at/the-austrian-legislation-on-art-restitution-after-world-war-two]
In December 1998 a new federal law (Bundesgesetz zur Rückgabe von Kunstgegenständen aus den Österreichischen Bundesmuseen und Sammlungen) was passed that provided for the investigations of stolen artworks in Austria’s federal museums. In April 1999, the City of Vienna issued a similar regulation on the restitution of seized objects of art. Since then all provincial states followed suit. In 2009, the art restitution law was updated and improved. According to the Law, three groups of art and cultural objects can be restituted:
- 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;
- 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;
- 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 Art Restitution Law, by February 2024, the Art Restitution Advisory Board has ruled in 342 cases, totaling in about 15,800 paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, objects of applied art, ethnographic, ethnographic, technical and natural history objects, coins and medals as well as more than 52,000 books, autographs, manuscripts and sheet music that have been recommended to be returned. 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 2022 as well as decisions made by the Art Restitution Advisory Committee. 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: Pia Schölnberger
Scientific Head: Birgit Kirchmayr
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: Dr. Joseph Klement
1070 Vienna, Austria
for postal inquiries:
Dr. Karl-Renner-Ring 3
1017 Vienna, Austria
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (National Fund)
d) Association of Austria’s Libraries (Vereinigung Österreichischer Bibliothekarinnen und Bibliothekare)
Arbeitsbereich NS-Provenienzforschung (working group NS-provenance research)
Mag.a. Olivia Kaiser
As of February 2024, some 9,400 objects are listed on the Art Database of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism: This includes 5,926 “open cases” (consisting of 202 objects with an established looting background during National Socialism and 5,724 objects with provenance gaps) and 3,503 researched objects (which includes 3,501 objects with a recommendation for restitution, 2,609 objects were heirs are being sought, 202 objects that were already restituted, 690 objects where no heirs could be located and handed over to the National Fund for utilization).
The database also provides a listing of the provenance research results carried out by the Library of the Austrian Parliament as well as a listing of objects from Austria’s National Library which have remained heirless.
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 Wien Museum provides access to five searchable online listings: 1. List of objects – Vugesta purchases 1940-1945, 2. List of objects – Dorotheum purchases 1940-1945, 3. Purchases from art and antique dealers, 4. Public donations, and 5. Purchases and donations by Julius Fargel 1938-1945.
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. The website of the National Fund – Art Database – provides a summary as well as contact information for Austria’s museums that conduct provenance research.
The Dokumentationsarchiv des Österreichischen Widerstandes (Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance) provides access to an online database of about 64,000 Austrian Jewish Holocaust Victims.
The holdings of Austria’s National Archive are searchable online, however, images of documents are limited.
The Encyclopedia of Austrian Provenance Research – Lexikon der Österreichischen Provenienzforschung – is an online accessible lexica that provides information on people and institutions, which were active in Austria’s cultural institutions as art dealers or collectors between 1930 und 1960 as well as in the restitution process. The lexika is constantly being expanded and supplemented.
The Adolph Lehmann’s allgemeiner Wohnungs-Anzeiger (Housing Gazetteer) is an online available apartment index for the years 1859 to 1942.
The Museum “Art of the Lost Generation,” featuring the collection of Prof. Dr Heinz Böhme, provides an overview of artists and their artworks that were labeled as “degenerate art” as well as Jewish artists that were forced to escape or were murdered.
Vienna’s Volkskundemuseum initiated a virtual gallery on provenance research: A Museum – An Object – A Story, a preliminary project for which the museum collected contributions from all federal institutions with restitution obligations. The virtual gallery and additional information is online available.
In cooperation with the Claims Conference-WJRO, research into French and other libraries in Belarus was initiated. For more information, please see section on French libraries seized by the ERR during wartime occupation.
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.
In 2017, Geert Sels published a series of articles in the Belgian art magazine Openbaar Kunstbezit Vlaanderen on looted art in Belgium, including a listing of 78 paintings that were returned to Belgium. Belgium has never officially published the list of these 78 paintings nor initiated full research into their provenance. Today, the artworks are located in 11 public institutions, with 6 of the 11 museums having published the works they hold.
The Claims Conference-WJRO sponsors research on Nazi seizures of libraries in Belgium. The first part of the research has now been completed, including lists of original individual and institutional owners. The exceptionally complicated detective work has been posted at https://www.errproject.org/looted_libraries_be.php, The second part, which focuses on the weak postwar restitution of books in Belgium, is expected to be completed later in 2024.
Currently work in the area is continued by the JDCRP.
In late 2022, Belgian Minister for Science Policy, Thomas Dermine, announced the launch of two provenance research initiatives following the public revelation of Nazi looted artworks in Belgium museums: 1. The first initative is an independent project by the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and the Technical University of Berlin with the Belgian State Archives who are working with the Museum of Fine Arts of Brussels on developing a methodology for provenance research in the museum’s art collection. 2. The second launched initiative includes the setting up of a government-funded center of expertise for provenance research. The new provenance research center will be housed in the Royal Institute for Art Heritage in Brussels (KIK-IRPA) and will focus on researching Nazi looted art as well as colonial looted art.
Indemnification Commission Inquiries
Chancellery of the Prime Minister
16, Rue de la Loi
In February 2022, the database Looted Art WWII Belgium was released. The database holds information on unrecovered works of art that have been looted from individuals and public institutions during the Second World War under occupation in Belgium. The data was taken from 2,797 declaration forms and other archive documents of the former Economic Recovery Service (DER), which was set up shortly after the end World War II. DER was responsible for the detection, recuperation and restitution of movable property in Belgium or abroad that had disappeared from Belgian public or private ownership during the Second World War.
A number of Belgian museums provide provenance information. Among them are:
At the request of the Claims Conference-WJRO research has been conducted on cultural property taken by Bulgaria from Jews in Macedonia, Thrace, Pirot and Bulgaria proper. Contact has been initiated with the government of Bulgaria and with the Bulgarian Jewish Community in regard to next steps.
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.
In 2014, the Canadian government provided 190,000 Canadian dollars (approximately USD $174,000) to the Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization to develop materials for use by small- and medium-sized museums regarding their holdings, and in 2017, they produced the “Canadian Holocaust-Era Provenance Research and Best Practice Guidelines Project.”
Several Canadian Museums provide provenance information on their website. Among them are:
- National Gallery Provenance Site
- Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Provenance Site
- University of Lethbridge, Art Gallery
Max Stern Art Restitution Project:
The Max Stern Art Restitution Project provides two listings:
- a list of missing works, which includes objects from the 1937 Lempertz sale and missing works from the Galerie Stern Inventory 1936-38; and
- 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 July 2018, the initial phase of the Stern Cooperation Project (SCP) a joint German, Israeli and Canadian project based at Munich’s Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (Central Institute for Art History) was launched. The project deals with the history of the German Jewish art dealer family of Julius, Selma, Max, Hedi and Gerda Stern, and the history of the galleries owned by the Stern family from 1913-1987: Galerie Stern (Dusseldorf), West’s Galleries (London) and Dominion Gallery (Montreal).
Max Stern’s book collection, located at Concordia and McGill university as well as at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem is accessible online. The website also provides images of Max Stern’s Ex Libris‘.
The Claims Conference-WJRO has held discussions with the Ministry of Culture of Croatia regarding the need for provenance research on collections in the country. The Claims Conference-WJRO has undertaken to work with the National Library of Israel to catalog and identify all Hebrew and other Jewish-language books and manuscripts known to have been looted that are in Croatia, which lacks sufficient expertise in cataloging in those languages to be able to identify what the country has. As of late spring 2017, the National Library of Israel (NLI) completed its work, having examined 6,800 items for which the Jewish Community of Zagreb provided scanned images of the title and other relevant pages. For more information, see “Identification and cataloging of Hebrew and other Jewish books and manuscripts looted during the Holocaust that are now in the collection of the Jewish Community of Zagreb.”
Croatia participated in the EU-sponsored project TransCultAA-Transfer of Cultural Objects in the Alpe Adria Region in the 20th Century”: 1) The Strossmayer Gallery – Museo Correr 1942 Exchange, and 2) “Diplomatic Gift-Giving in the Age of Fascism – the Case of The Independent State of Croatia.”
The Jewish Community of Zagreb’s 2019 report to the EU Parliament stated that Croatian institutions display artworks that “undoubtedly” belonged to Jewish communities or Jews killed in the Holocaust. (Please see the Croatia section of the Just Act report for more information.)
The Ministry of Culture recently initiated cooperation with the Strossmayer Gallery of Fine Arts, which is part of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, related to the digitization of art records and registries of Judaica, as well as provenance research of items documented in these registries.
At the request of the Claims Conference-WJRO, an analysis of the archival records, specifically the Ponova and KOMZA records of what was taken and how the distribution was conducted after the war, has been carried out.
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/
In June 2019, the Documentation Centre for Property Transfers of the Cultural Assets of WW II Victims hosted its 7th International Conference on Nazi looted cultural assets “Terezín Declaration – Ten Years Later.” The proceedings of the conference can be accessed here.
In March 2023, the Documentation Centre released the report “Paintings from Jewish Collections at the National Gallery in Prague I. Unidentified Owners” and in April 2023, the brochure “Identifying Features,” was released which presents markings, labels and tags that can be found on items originally belonging to Jewish owners from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia who were deported by the Nazis.
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: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 sought systemic solutions on an international level leading, among other things, to restitution of art, Judaica and Jewish cultural assets stolen by the Nazis.
European Shoah Legacy Institute (ESLI)
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 online listings of “resolved claims for voluntary transfer of assets” (for art objects covering the years 1991, 1996, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2014 and 2015, and for books covering the year 2008), a listing of “pending claims for voluntary property transfer of assets” (please note that there is no entry as of September 2018), as well as a list entitled “project to identify original owners.”
c) As of October 2023, the Documentation Centre provides online access to a database with 1,842 entries, including Judaica objects that it identified as cultural property looted during the Holocaust.
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 provided an online listing of artworks with provenance gaps in three Finnish museums: National Museum of Finland, Ateneum Art Museum and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. The information was since taken down.
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.
In February 2018, the Louvre devoted two rooms to display 31 paintings that were looted or bought by German occupiers during World War II, then recovered and brought back to France. (The Louvre holds 807 out of the 2,143 objects which are part of the MNR collection).
On July 22, 2018, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced in his speech for the commemoration of the « rafle du Vél’ d’Hiv’ » that the Commission pour l’indemnisation des victimes de spoliations (Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation), the C.I.V.S., will now examine each case of restitution and the Minister of Culture will create a special new office to deal with restitution that will be directly under her. Each decision on restitution will be proposed by the CIVS to the Prime Minister, so there will be only one authority able to decide on restitution, which is better than up to now. This office will be in charge of research and also of presentation to the public, including exhibitions about looted art and provenance. The C.I.V.S. is a governmental organization but has close relations with the variety of Jewish organizations in France.
In 2019, the French government launched an official mission for the research and restitution of Nazi-looted art held in French museums. The “Mission for Research and Restitution of Spoliated Cultural Property between 1933 and 1945, Ministry of Culture” is located within the Ministry of Culture.
In March 2021, the Louvre made almost all of its collection available online, gathering around 485,000 object records from dozens of internal databases. More than 1,700 works that were recovered in Germany after the Second World War but have never been returned to the descendants of their rightful owners are listed under the category of Musées Nationaux Récupération (MNR).
In 2022, the Mission de recherche et de restitution des biens
culturels spoliés entre 1933 et 1945 (M2RS), which is part of the French Ministry of Culture, published information on the research and restitution of cultural property between 1933 and 1945, with documentation and tools for professionals and the general audience.
On June 29, 2023, the French National Assembly unanimously passed a restitution bill “relative à la restitution des biens culturels ayant fait l’objet de spoliations dans le contexte des persécutions antisémites perpétrées entre 1933 et 1945.” The law enables public entities owning property spoliated during the period between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 in the context of anti-Semitic persecution, regardless of where the spoliation took place, to deaccession the artwork. This however requires that the Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation (CIVS) recommends the object’s deaccessioning and that this opinion is shared by the Prime Minister (for national collections) or by the local authority that owns the item (for local authority collections: towns, départements, regions).
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
b) Mission for Research and Restitution of Spoliated Cultural Property between 1933 and 1945, Ministry of Culture
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 October 2022, the French Ministry of Culture launched a new website entitled Mission de recherche et de restitution des biens culturels spoliés entre 1933 et 1945 (Mission for the Research and Restitution of Cultural Property Spoliated between 1933 and 1945), which provides online access to provenance research as well as cultural property restitutions in France. Specifically, the website includes information on: a) requests for restitution or compensation, b) looted cultural property, c) cultural property MNR and Base Rose Valland (MNR-Jeu de Paume), d) historical and legal documentation, e) provenance research, f) tools and method, and g) museum and library professionals.
The French Foreign Ministry maintains a database of artworks stolen from and restored to the Schloss family.
As of October 2023, the French Diplomatic Archives provides online access to the inventories and digitized archives of the Commission de Récupération Artistique (Commission for Art Recovery; CRA) section in the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs files. More than 4,000 archival files, including some 2,700 detailed digital directories and more than 2 million archival pages, are online available. These files include: 1. Les dossiers de réclamations des familles auprès de la Commission de Récupération Artistique (CRA) (Family claims files with the CRA); 2. Les inventaires de l’Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) (1940-1959) (Inventories of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) (1940-1959); 3. Les albums photographiques issus des dossiers de réclamation (Photographic albums from claims files).
The Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation (CIVS) provides access to the TED (= tableau et dessin) database that lists paintings and drawings mentioned in files submitted by families to the CIVS. In the specific case of collections spoliated by the ERR or MNR works, the data in the files have been supplemented by information from the corresponding websites.
The Fondation Custodia is an electronic resource that enables research of provenance markings in the form of stamps on drawings, printed graphics and in books.
The Bibliothèque de l’Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art provides an online listing of 7,821 French auction catalogs, including of the Hôtel Drouot, Paris.
The Mémorial de la Shoah provides partial online access to its archives, including its victims database – a listing of names of Jews deported from France as well as of those who died in internment camps in France, internees and victims of executions, as well as the database of Jewish Resistance members listed by the Association des Anciens de la Résistance Juive en France (ARJF-OJC).
1999 – 2015
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.
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 was jointly financed by Germany’s regional culture foundations. In 2015, the newly established German Lost Art Foundation took over the function of the Arbeitsstelle.
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 January 2015, Wiesbaden announced that it will open its own center for provenance research. The center, the first of its kind in one of Germany’s Länder, is responsible for museums in Wiesbaden, Darmstadt and Kassel and is 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.
Also in 2015, the state of Lower Saxony established the Netzwerk für Provenienzforschung in Niedersachsen (Network for Provenance Research in Lower Saxony). The network is administered by a steering group chaired by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture. Members include museums and universities that have carried out or begun projects to systematically review their holdings, the Museumsverband Niedersachsen und Bremen e. V., and partners such as libraries, archives, and regional associations.
In January 2015 the German Lost Art Foundation (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 November 2018, the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste marked the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Washington Principles with an international conference entitled “20 Years Washington Principles: Roadmap for the Future.” In June 2020 an English translation of the German Lost Art Foundation’s issue of its periodical Provenance & Research on the international conference “20 Years Washington Principles: Roadmap for the Future” held in 2019 was published with an article by Wesley Fisher, Director of Research, reiterating the the Claims Conference-WJRO policy on cultural property.
In October 2019, the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste published a Provenance Research Manual. In September 2020, the English language edition was posted online. The guide is a joint project developed with the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e. V. (Provenance Research Association), Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung und Restitution – Bibliotheken (Provenance Research and Restitution Association of Libraries); the Deutscher Museumsbund (German Museums Association), the Deutsche Bibliotheksverband (German Library Association); and ICOM Germany.
In 2020, the German Lost Art Foundation added a Help Desk for those seeking to reclaim Nazi-Looted Art, partially at the recommendation of the Claims Conference.
In August 2023, the German Lost Art Foundation’s website was relaunched: the website now provides basic historical background information relating to the four subject areas covered by the Foundation: Nazi-looted cultural property, cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts, the expropriation of cultural property in the Soviet occupation zone and the GDR, and wartime losses during the Second World War.
In addition, a general fact sheet is available for download.
Gurlitt Art Trove
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.
In January 2015, the newly established German Lost Art Foundation (Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste) established a follow-up project to the Taskforce “Schwabing Art Trove”: the “Gurlitt Provenance Research.”
In 2020, the Gurlitt Provenance Research Project completed the review of 1,566 artworks, including 724 completed reviews. Of the 724 completed reviews, 4 artworks fell into the “red” category, 650 into the “yellow” category, and 28 into the “green” category. The Gurlitt Provenance Research project classified “red” cases as works that are proven or highly likely to be Nazi-looted art, “yellow” cases as works with provenance gaps for the time period between 1933 and 1945, and “green” cases as works that are proven or highly likely not to be Nazi-looted art. As of November 2021, 682 case reports are viewable on the German Lost Art Foundation website.
The Claims Conference reviewed the results of the Gurlitt Provenance Research and found that 385 artworks were apppropriately categorized as “yellow.” 155 artworks that were also categorized as “yellow” should be reviewed again as most of these cases have one or more red flags. The review also found that an additional 77 cases should be more appropriately categorized as “orange”. In 54 out of the 77 cases a claim was filed. In other words, the Claims Conference believes that 232 cases should be reviewed again.
The information concerning the results of provenance research by the Gurlitt Task Force has appeared in different places. The Claims Conference-WJRO has therefore brought together all the online available information (“green” cases, “yellow” cases, “red” cases) so as to allow searches for specific paintings with references in various websites.
In 2021, the Claims Conference-WJRO has also compiled a statistical review of the research results by the Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund as well as by the Gurlitt Provenance Research Project as part of the German Lost Art Foundation. The graphs clearly exemplify that an organized and online accessible overview of all artworks that are part of the Gurlitt trove is still missing, including for artworks that are classified as “degenerate art” as well as for artworks with provenance gaps between 1933 and 1945.
Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property
In late 2016, two Jewish members were added to the so-called 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.
In 2023, the Advisory Commission released a memorandum calling for several substantial changes to the Commission’s structure in addition to the creation of a comprehensive restitution law. A translation of the memorandum is available here.
2018 – 2022
In 2018, the University of Bonn commenced the “Research Center Provenance Research, Art and Cultural Property Law,” which aims to strengthen interdisciplinary cooperation between the participating subjects of art history and law. The research center plans to publish a handbook on provenance research and transfer, as well as a magazine focusing on provenance research and the history of collecing.
In January 2019, Hilde Schramm, daughter of Hitler’s chief architect and Armaments Minister Albert Speer, received the Obermayer German Jewish History Award for founding the Zurueckgeben foundation. The foundation supports women of Jewish background or Jewish faith who live in Germany and are creatively active in scholarship. It is funded by donations including the proceeds of Hilde Schramm’s art collection she had inherited from her father.
Also in 2020, the “Koordinationsstelle für Provenienzforschung in Nordrhein-Westfalen (KPF.NRW)” (coordinating office for provenance research in Nordrhein-Westfalen) was founded. The office serves as the state’s contact point for provenance research questions. The office’s establishment followed the state’s publication “Provenance Research in NRW – Information and Recommendations for Systematic, Comprehensive and Sustainable Provenance Research” for the years 2017 until 2019.
In September 2022, the Europa-Univesität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) launched a new research project on the complex process of the restitution of Nazi looted property since 1945.
Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste
Dr. Gilbert Lupfer, executive board
Dr. Susanne Meyer-Abich, director
Tel: 49.30.2338493 85
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
Bodestraße 1-3, 10178 Berlin
E-Mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Arbeitskreis PROVENIENZforschung, e.V.
c/o Dr. Brigitte Reineke
Deutsches Historisches Museum
Unter den Linden 2
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. The program brochure “Provenance Research – About the Origin of Objects” is available online.
The Freiburger Akademie für Universitäre Weiterbildung (FRAUW) offers a class “Introduction into Provenance Research”.
The Bundesakademie für kulturelle Bildung, Wolfenbüttel, in cooperation with the Niedersächsischen Landesmuseum Hannover, the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, as well as the Network Provenienzforschung Niedersachsen, offers a class entitled “Basics of Provenance Research.”
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.
German Lost Art Foundation
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 with provenance gaps. The database is divided into two sections: Search Requests and Found-Objects Report. As of August 2023, the Lost Art database contains approximately 180,000 publicly accessible objects, in addition to summaries of several million other objects, supplied by more than 1,400 German and foreign institutions, as well as individuals.
The German Lost Art Foundation also maintains a database of 656 artworks that are part of the so-called Gurlitt Art Trove. For the Claims Conference review of the Gurlitt Provenance Research results, please click here.
Since 2020, the German Lost Art Foundation provides access to the research database Proveana: Proveana provides information on cultural goods confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution, on cultural goods displaced as a result of war, on confiscations of cultural goods in the Soviet Occupation Zone and the GDR, as well as on cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts.
The Bundesamt für zentrale Dienste und offene Vermögensfragen (BADV) (Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues) is responsible for scanning and documenting restitution files of the Bundesrückerstattungsgesetzes (BRüG) in order to record works of art mentioned among these files. This online listing is accessible within the LostArt database and provides information on some 10,000 objects.
The German Lost Art Foundation also maintains a list of all exhibitions on provenance research since 2004.
The Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv) of Germany released an online Memorial Book entitled Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany 1933 – 1945, which holds more than 170,000 names. Information on the list of Jewish Residents in German Reich 1933-1945 is also available on Federal Archive’s website.
The Federal Archives holds records concerning the seizure, disposal and restitution of Nazi-Era looted cultural property. These archival holdings are located in record groups NS 8 (Kanzlei Rosenberg), NS 30 (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg), and B 323 (Treuhandverwaltung für Kulturgut bei der Oberfinanzdirektion München) and are online accessible.
The Berlin State Archive, together with the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin, provides access to the so-called Bergungsstelle consisting of 1,785 scanned documents. Between July 1945 and February 1946, the Bergungsstelle took over complete libraries and collections as well as scattered book holdings.
In 2013, the BVA (Bundesverwaltungsamt) published an online listing of the so-called “Remainder Stock CCP”: Objects that are currently held by the Federal Office of Administration and are designated as “Restbestand CCP” (Remainder Stock CCP). These artworks consists of paintings and other artworks collected for the Hitler-Museum in Linz, or were part of Hermann Göring’s collection [They are often mistakenly categorized as “Linzer Liste” [“Linz List”] or “Linzer Sammlung” [“Linz Collection”]. The BVA database holds about 2,100 objects; 53 objects were thus far restituted. (Please note: the database is only available in German.)
The Brandenburgerisches Landesarchiv is restoring, digitising and will make online available the approximately 42,000 personal files of the record group Rep. 36A Oberfinanzpräsident Berlin-Brandenburg (II) that document the work of the National Socialist Vermögensverwertungsstelle (Asset Realisation Office) and thus the systematic liquidation of assets of persons persecuted by the Nazis. The project is jointly funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM) and the Ministry of Science, Research and Culture of the State of Brandenburg (MWFK).
Forschungsverbund Provenienzforschung Bayern
The website of the Forschungsverbund Provenienzforschung Bayern provides restitution information for eight cultural institutions in addition to digital access directories. Specifically the website provides access to the access directories of Bavaria’s National Museum for the years 1930 to 1934, as well as for the years 1934 to 1950, and to the donor books of Bavaria’s National Library, covering the years 1910 to 1942. These donor books are the library’s few provenance research resources given the fact that the access books of the State Library were burned in World War II. Lastly, the website of the Forschungsverbund Provenienzforschung Bayern provides access to the access books of Bavaria’s State Galleries, covering the time-period for painting acquisitions for 1932 until 1939 and 1939 until 1953. The acquisition period for sculptures covers the time-period 1897 until 1951.
Claims Conference database
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.
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 project Alfred Flechtheim.com – Kunsthändler der Avantgarde created a virtual exhibition of more than 300 paintings in 14 cultural institutions in Germany and one in Switzerland. Alfred Flechtheim’s gallery was forecully liquidated in 1933.
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.
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“.
The Central Institute for Art History (Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, ZI) in Munich 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). Almost 1,100 hand copies or protocol catalogues of the Helbing Gallery catalogs were made available online.
The Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte also reconstructed the stock in the so-called Führerbau in Munich as part of its project „Führerbau-Diebstahl 1945“ (Führerbau Theft 1945). The 2019 report, entitled “Reconstruction of the ‘Führerbau theft’ at the end of April 1945 and research on the whereabouts of the objects” [“Rekonstruktion des ‘Führerbau-Diebstahls’ Ende April 1945 und Recherchen zum Verbleib der Objekte Summarischer Projektbericht”] includes two appendices: 1. “List of objects that were apparently stolen from the ‘Führerbau’ at the end of April 1945 and are still missing or have resurfaced but have not been restituted”, and 2. “List of objects that were apparently stolen at the end of April 1945 stolen from the ‘Führerbau’ (or from the “Verwaltungsbau”), later found and brought to the CCP Munich.” Three additional object listings are available, covering 1. objects that were not looted, but were located at the Führerbau in 1945 and later surfaced in the CCP Munich (“Aufstellung der Objekte, die offenbar Ende April 1945 im ‘Führerbau’ [bzw. im “Verwaltungsbau”] befanden, nicht gestohlen und später im den CCP München aufgefunden und registriert wurden.”), 2. objects that were located in the Führerbau in 1945 and were later restituted (“Aufstellung der Objekte, die offenbar Ende April 1945 im ‘Führerbau’ [bzw. im ‘Verwaltungsbau’] befanden, gestohlen und später restituiert oder abgegeben wurden.”), and 3. objects that were acquired as furnishing objects for the NSDAP and were registered in the Führerbau indexes, but in April 1945 were not located in either the Führerbau or the Verwaltungsbau (“Aufstellung der Objekte, die als Ausstattungsobjekte für die NSDAP erworben und in der Kartei ‘Ausstattung Führerbau’ erfasst wurden und sich Ende April 1945 nicht im ‘Führerbau’ oder im ‘Verwaltungsbau’ befanden.”).
In July 2020, the Annotated Online Edition of Three of Hans Posse’s Five Travel Diaries (1939-1942), a project by the German Lost Art Foundation and the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, was published.
The Julius Böhler art transaction database was made available in June 2021. Founded in 1880, the Munich art gallery Julius Böhler was one of the largest art dealerships in the German-speaking world in the first half of the 20th century.
Since 2023, the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven is providing access to a database encompassing information on lift vans and crates that were held at the ports in Bremen and Hamburg.
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, is administered by the Gemeinsamer Bibliotheksverband (GBV), the Common Library Network of German States, and 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.
In March 2017, the Mosse community of heirs together with the Freie Universität Berlin founded the Mosse Art Research Initiative (MARI), for which German institutions are cooperating with descendants of Nazi persecution in a public-private partnership.
The German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program for Museum Professionals (PREP) (Deutsch-Amerikanisches Austauschprogramm zur Provenienzforschung für Museen) is bringing together museum professionals from both sides of the Atlantic who specialize in World War II-era provenance projects for a three-year, systematic exchange. PREP is co-organized by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and the Zentralarchiv der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Central Archives of the National Museums in Berlin, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, SPK). These institutions are by four partner institutions: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden; and the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich. The Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, Magdeburg, is a consultative participant in the program. (See also U.S. section.)
JewishGen published the database “Revoked German Citizenship and Property Seizures 1933-1945,” which holds information 89,480 total listings, comprised of 81,630 records for individuals and 7,850 records for organizations.
The organization Tracing the Past provides access to the 1939 German Minority Census Database. The organization is aiming to eventually release a database entitled Mapping the Lives – The interactive database with street maps of the persecuted in Europe 1933–1945.
The Fachinformationsdienst Kunst – arthistoricum.net is a virtual library which provides access to literature and documents relating to art history.
The Heidelberg University Library digitized thousands of pages of Weltkunst, a journal of the German and international art market, covering the years 1931 until 1944, featuring auctions in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
The project entitled “German-Russian Project for the Digization of German Documents in Archives of the Russian Federation,” by the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the Russian Historical Society and the German Historical Institute in Moscow, makes available 16,435 archival German records confiscated by the Red Army at the end of World War II.
The publication platform of the Max Webern Institute, “perspectivia”, maintains ten research institutes as well as several branch offices or temporary research groups in a total of 13 countries and a joint office in Bonn. Since 2008, the platform provides free access to research results, books and articles, among them the newly launched “Working Paper Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste“.
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.
The Zekelman Holocaust Center provides information on Hungarian documents that were microfilmed and edited by Clara Garbon-Radnoti. The 180 microfilm reels, donated to the Center by Prof. Randolph Braham, all relate to Jews in Hungary during World War II. These reels were created in the 1960s, from numerous Hungarian archives, and the microfilming project was funded by the World Federation of Hungarian Jews.
Pre-1948 art curators acting on behalf of the Jewish Agency in an effort to preserve Jewish art brought objects to Israel after the Holocaust. The U.S. military transferred thousands of additional Nazi-looted cultural items, which had clearly belonged to Jews, to the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction (JCR) and the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization (JRSO), which then transferred them to Israel.
a) In 2021, the Administrator General, Adv. Sigal Yaacobi, initiated the creation of an “inter-ministerial team on the subject of provenance research.” Two years later, in June 2023, the inter-ministerial team published a report and recommendations aimed at regulating Holocaust-era provenance research in Israel.
b) 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.
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
Please note that Hashava ceased its activities by law on December 31, 2017 but efforts are continued under the Ministry of Culture.
c) The Hashava Foundation – Resituting Justice was established with the goal of promoting a comprehensive framework of legislation and regulation for the administration of cultural property in Israel.
- Karen Hayesod 38, Jerusalem
- Email: email@example.com
The Israel Museum provides access to three online listings: 1. paintings; 2. prints and drawings; and 3. Jewish Art; The lists contain cultural objects received by the museum’s predecessor from the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization (JRSO) and the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction (JCR).
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 National Library of Israel recently completed a six-month long survey of books that were looted during the Holocaust and subsequently entered the Library’s collection. The Library’s online catalog provides information on approximately 35,000 books. The looted and subsequenty salvaged books are searchable under the search term “Diaspora Treasures.”
In December 1998, the Italian government created the Anselmi Commission, a technical body whose mandate was to investigate the confiscation and restitution of Jewish assets during the Holocaust. The Commission found evidence of at least 7,847 local and national government decrees expropriating Jewish assets during the Fascist era and analyzed 7,187 of them. Governmental institutions have not followed up on the Anselmi Commission’s recommendations to try to identify survivors or their heirs entitled to unclaimed property. The decrees affected approximately 8,000 individuals and 230 companies.
In 2020, the Ministry of Culture established a Working Group for the study and the restitution of cultural property looted or confiscated from Jewish citizens by the Fascists or the National Socialists in the period 1938-1945. The reach of the Working Group is limited mostly due to a lack of funding.
Aside from the Working Group, the Arbeitskreis Italien (working group Italy) within the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung (working group provenance research) is committed to pushing for the implementation of provenance research in public and private institutions.
The EU sponsored project “TransCultAA-Transfer of Cultural Objects in the Alpe Adria Region in the 20th Century” focused in part on Italy in an attempt to trace not only the tangible movement of objects, but also their role as symbolic capital
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.
In February 2019, the government agreed to create a “Working Group on Outstanding Holocaust Asset Issues” with the Luxembourg Jewish Community and the WJRO. On January 2021, an agreement was signed between the State of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Consistoire Israélite de Luxembourg, co-signed by the WJRO and Luxembourg Foundation for the Remembrance of the Shoah. In the agreement, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg committed to pay a one-time payment to survivors of the Shoah who are living in or were persecuted in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. In March 2022, the Claims Conference completed distributing the €1,000,000 from the Luxembourg Fund to eligible Holocaust survivors from 13 countries who had applied to the program by the final deadline of January 31, 2022.
Provenance research is being carried out in the three main cultural institutions: the National Museum of Archeology, History and Art; the History Museum of the City of Luxembourg (and its extension for fine arts, the “Villa Vauban”); and the National Library.
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. These research results, as well as those of an earlier project, ‘Museum Acquisitions 1940-1948,’ are now accessible on the WW2 portal.
In May 2017, the medieval Bergkerk cathedral hosted an exhibition entitled “Looted Art – Before, During and After WWII.” The show featured 75 looted art works.
In 2020, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science has called for a reassessment of the Netherlands policy regarding the restitution of looted art. This is partly in response to criticism and discussions the Claims Conference-WJRO has had of the current existing policy (e.g., in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad). In December 2020 the Committee for the Evaluation of the Restitution Policy for Cultural Heritage Objects from the Second World War published the report “Striving for Justice“. The report argues that provenance research should be carried out again, that a new and unambiguous framework should be put in place to handle restitution applications for artworks looted by the Nazis and that a helpdesk should be established regarding restitution matters.
The Minister of Education, Culture, and Science has since recommended concrete steps to be taken in regard to restitution policies that are not only in accordance with the report but even go beyond it. In the late spring the Minister established a series of progressive policies and increased funding in provenance research. The envisioned provenance research needs to address the recovery of cultural goods from other countries, for example those paintings looted from Dutch Jews that went through the Nazi art market to Poland. The Claims Conference-WJRO sponsored research work by Dr. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted for her major article entitled “A Goudstikker van Goyen in Gdansk: A Case Study of Nazi Looted Art in Poland” published in the International Journal of Cultural Property (Vol. 27, Nr. 1, 2020).
In 2021, the Restitution Committee launched a new website, and in 2022, the 2021 Restitution Committee’s annual report was published which provides information on recent developments relating to the Restitutions Committee, including personal input from committee members, photographic material and references to digital files.
Also in 2021, the CollectionCentre Netherlands (CC NL) in Amersfoort opened, together with the Netherlands Open Air Museum, the Loo Palace National Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. The CC NL manages and preserves Dutch national collections and is expected to serve as a leading center for research. The CC NL holds objects from the Second World War that are held by the Dutch State.
In 2022, the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture initiated a research and network group dedicated to provenance research and restitution of looted art in the Netherlands. The main goal of the group Looted Art: Provenance Research and Restitution in the Netherlands is to organize lectures, expert meetings and discussions on a regular basis, about ongoing (PhD) research and other current issues.
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) Expert Centre Restitution
NIOD (Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies)
1016 CJ Amsterdam
Telephone: 020-523 38 00
Fax: 020-523 38 88
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/. As of February 2023, these research results, as well as those of an earlier project, ‘Museum Acquisitions 1940-1948,’ are accessible on the WW2 portal.
NIOD (Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies) provides online access to its ERR (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg) collection, covering the years 1942-1943. The files, which were digitized with the support of the Claims Conference, document the emptying of houses abandoned by Jews, the inventories which were drawn up of the household effects and their transport to Germany.
The Goudstikker Art Research Project aims to reconstruct the collection of the art collector and art dealer Jacques Goudstikker at the time of the art theft in 1940. The missing artworks are lised on lostart.de.
The Netherlands Institute for Art History provides information on 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.
The RKD, Netherlands Institute for Art History, provides access to its collection “Archief Kunsthandel Goudstikker.”
The Dutch Network War Collections website, Netwerk Oorlogsbronnen (NOB), brings together the archival records of 450 organizations that document the Holocaust in the Netherlands. The online resource provides information on specific topics but also allows to search for individuals. NOB is supported by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and by the Vfonds and is facilitated by the NIOD.
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 Gdansk State Museum organized a conference in June 2020 to examine the origins of art collections in Polish museums, at which Professor Patricia Grimsted presented her research on a van Goyen painting seized by the Nazis from the Dutch art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, the only presentation concerning art currently in Poland that was looted from Jews in countries outside of Poland. The original version of Dr. Grimsted’s article may be seen here.
The Office for Wartime Losses in the Department of National Heritage
Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland
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 access to a Judaica database.
The Claims Conference-WJRO sponsored research work by Dr. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted for her major article entitled “A Goudstikker van Goyen in Gdańsk: A Case Study of Nazi-Looted Art in Poland” now published in the International Journal of Cultural Property, Volume 27, 2020, Number 1.
On 18 February 2021, at the request of the Jewish Community of Cluj, the WJRO stopped the auction of 21 manuscripts belonging to Jewish communities (primarily pinkasim of burial societies) in Romania and what was greater Hungary (in what is now Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Ukraine) at a New York City based auction house specializing in Judaica. 17 out of the 21 manuscripts had been consigned by a Manhattan collector of burial society records. The Federation of Jewish Communities in the Slovak Republic brought the attention of U.S. Federal Authorities to the matter as well. The manuscripts were subsequently confiscated by the FBI.
The WJRO has been moving towards a policy that encourages the return of such Jewish communal manuscripts and other objects that are in private hands to the communities from which they were taken, but with the recognition that the scanning of such community registers and making the information in them generally available is of great importance to Jewish historical and genealogical research and that there is a need to educate auction houses and dealers handling Judaica in this regard.
After WW II, Soviet Trophy Brigades brought enormous numbers of artworks, library collections, and archives into the USSR, mostly to Moscow, from the Soviet-occupied areas of Germany and its allies as “compensatory restitution” for the huge losses of cultural property inflicted on Soviet territory. Some estimates go as high as a million artworks taken from Germany by the Red Army at the end of the war that are still being held in Moscow and St Petersburg.
In 2015, the Claims Conference-WJRO sponsored the publication of the catalog and album Art in the Flames of War: Western European Paintings in the Collection of the Simferopol Art Museum by S.I. Kot of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and L.V. Kudriashiva of the Simferopol Art Museum. This catalog and album is the only list of holdings of a museum in the former Soviet Union coming from the Soviet Trophy Brigades.
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.
Cultural values –the victims of the war: http://www.lostart.ru
The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation on its website entitled “Cultural Values-Victims of War” in a section on “Moved Cultural Values” has published a partial list of paintings, drawings, graphics, archaeological objects, musical instruments and other categories of objects that were brought into Russia by the Soviet Trophy Brigades at the end of World War II.
So far, objects listed have overwhelmingly been objects taken from museums and repositories in Germany and other states that were enemies of the Soviet Union during the war, which under Russian legislation are not subject to restitution. So far as is known, specialists in Germany trying to track what was taken from the various German museums after the war that still is in Moscow and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union are almost the only ones outside of Russia following the listings. Since much of what the Soviet Trophy Brigades took included many objects looted by the Nazis and their allies from Jews and others of their victims, it is not impossible, however, that some such objects may be in the listings, although in all likelihood only by accident. Although parts of the website are in German, English, and French, the catalog of the objects is exclusively in Russian. To make the listing better known to non-Russian speakers, the Claims Conference-WJRO presents on its website a translation into English by Yagna Yass-Alston of all the listings of paintings (paintings 2016, paintings 2018) as well as those graphics (works on paper 2016) that are by known artists.
In cooperation with the Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia, the Claims Conference-WJRO worked with the Serbian government on drafting a law passed in 2016 regarding heirless property that also covers communal and individual cultural property. Recommendations of the Claims Conference-WJRO have been published in Serbia in an article entitled “Restitution of Art, Judaica, and Other Cultural Property Plundered in Serbia During World War II.”
Additional research has been conducted on behalf of the Claims Conference-WJRO aiming at documenting the expropriation of Jewish property of Bulgaria, which included the Serbian city of Pirot.
The National Museum in Belgrade is known to hold parts of the valuable Šlomović collection. Erih Šlomović, who was murederd during the Holocaust, was a Jewish Croatian art collector who moved to Belgrade when he was 4 years old. His collection consisted of acclaimed French impressionist paintings. In 2012, the Šlomović heirs sued the museum in Belgrade.
At the request of the Claims Conference-WJRO, research that had begun under the TranscultAA Project (Transfer of Cultural Objects in the Alpe Adria Region in the 20th Century), has been continued, specifically on what was taken from the Jewish community of Maribor.
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
The Spanish government formed a Commission on Holocaust-era Assets in 1997 to investigate Spain’s economic relations with the Third Reich during WWII. In 1999, the Commission’s work expanded to include an investigation regarding works of art bought or sold in Spain during the Holocaust. The Commission concluded that, in terms of economic cooperation and movable property, Spain’s role was very limited. Some Jewish groups and researchers criticized the Commission’s findings; specifically, they pointed out that the Commission did not conduct an investigation regarding the movement of looted works through Spain or sufficiently research existing art collections in Spain to ascertain whether they included works of art looted by Nazi Germany.
The Thyssen-Bornemiza Museum in Spain has been the focus of a years-long restitution case, involving the painting “Rue Saint-Honoré” by Camille Pissarro, which was originally owned by Lilly Cassirer Neubauer. In the most recent court order, issued on January 9, 2024, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California addressed the issue of procedural law and concluded that the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation is the owner of the painting.
On March 3, 1999, the Final Report on Sweden and Jewish Assets was published by the Commission on Jewish Assets in Sweden. The report was subsequently updated on April 2, 2015, and is online accessible.
In September 2018, Swedish museums called for a panel to advise on Nazi-looted claims. Consequently, the Swedish National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämbetet) was tasked with drawing up guidelines for the identification, repatriation, and restitution of cultural property in museums and to take particular ethical considerations into account. However, as of January 2024, this has not happened.
In June 2019, the government initiated an assessment of Swedish compliance with the objectives of the Terezin Declaration in response to concerns among Swedish state museums over their ability to repatriate art acquired under questionable circumstances (more expansive than only Nazi-confiscated artifacts). The government was supposed to report its findings in October 2020, however due to the outbreak of the worldwide covid epidemic this did not take place.
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
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.
Until 2020, the Swiss Confederation provided financial assistance to institutions conducting provenance research. Several Museums in Switzerland provide provenance information on their website, among them the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen.
Also in 2020, the Schweizerischer Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung was founded with the aim to exchange information on national and international provenance research.
In December 2020, the Federal Office for Culture published a report entitled “Aktualisierung des Berichts des Bundesamtes für Kultur «Kulturgüter im Eigentum der Eidgenossenschaft: Untersuchung zum Zeitraum 1933 bis 1945“.
At the beginning of October 2020, the Claims Conference-WJRO raised with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the Contact Bureau on Looted Art of the Federal Office of Culture of Switzerland – and through them with the State Secretariat for International Finance – concern that under the Swiss Escheat Law enacted in 2015, as of the end of 2020 banks are able to give over works of art and other valuables that are in their safety deposit vaults to the heirs of account-holders and to sell or otherwise dispose of items that are unclaimed, with the proceeds going to the Federal government. The Swiss Banks Settlement did not go into the question of looted artworks, and it is likely that works that had been looted from Jews and were deposited by Nazis or by persons collaborating with them, as well as by Jews who then perished, are in the relevant safety deposit boxes. The above parts of the Swiss federal government are investigating how to handle this complex situation and have promised to report to the Claims Conference-WJRO.
In February 2022, the Commission for Science, Education and Culture of the Swiss National Council convened a consultation on provenance research in Switzerland which included members of Switzerland’s working group on provenance research. In autumn 2022, the Swiss Parliament adopted two motions: one calling for the establishment of an independent commission for cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, and the other for the creation of a digital platform for provenance research on cultural property in Switzerland.
On November 22, 2023, the Federal Council decided to create an independent expert commission for contaminated cultural heritage by adopting the decree entitled Verordnung über die unabhängige Kommission für historisch belastetes Kulturerbe (Decree on the Independent Commission for Historically Burdened Cultural Heritage). The Commission will deal with cases of both Nazi-looted art and colonial art and will come into force on January 1, 2024.
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 hosted an exhibition entitled “Gurlitt: Status Report “Degenerated Art” – Confiscated and Sold between November 2, 2017 and March 4, 2018. This exhibition marked the first time that the general public had the chance to view some of Gurlitt’s objects.
In December 2021, the Art Museum Bern published the “Gurlitt Estate Database“. The database provides information on 1,663 artworks falling into the following categories: books (4), objects (22), sculptures (37), crafts (67), paintings (134), drawings (611) and prints (788). The art objects are also searchable by provenance category: green (155), red (9), yellow-green (1,442), yellow-red (29) and post 1945 (26). More information can be found in the museum’s media release from 10 December 2021.
In November 2021, former members and staff of the Independent Commission of Experts: Switzerland ‒ Second World War (ICE), the so-called “Bergier Commission”, called for a just and fair solution in dealing with the artworks of the Bührle Collection Foundation by following the principles outlined in the Washington Agreement of 1998 as well as in the Terezín Declaration of 2009. This call for more research was in response to the publication of the research report “Kriegsgeschäfte, Kapital und Kunsthaus. Die Sammlung Emil Bührle im historischen Kontext” and the exhibition as well as presentation of the Emil Bührle collection at the Kunsthaus Zürich.
In August 2022, the City and Canton of Zurich and the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft set up a Round Table to define the content of the mandate for an independent evaluation of the provenance research conducted to date into the Emil Bührle Collection, and to propose to
the City and Canton of Zurich and the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft an expert or team of experts to carry out that evaluation. As of January 2023, an interim report and recommendation of the Round Table is available. A final report is expected to be available in spring 2024.
Current Provenance Research:
In 2022, a new large-scale research project at the Swiss Institute for Art Research (SIK-ISEA) in Zurich was initiated focusing on Switzerland’s role in the art trade. The research project is divided into three sub-sections and is planning on publishing its findings in 2026 by using Open Access. In addition a monograph is planned on the broad history of the art trade in Switzerland, a database of players in the Swiss art trade, and three doctoral dissertations.
The Stiftung für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte (SKKG)– Foundation for Art, Culture and History – which was founded in 1980 in Winterthur is responsible for the collection Bruno Stefanini (1924-2018), a Swiss estate owner and collector of art and cultural artefacts. In an initial phase (July 2022 – end of 2023), the SKKG was planning on researching up to a maximum of 700 paintings, out of a collection of more than 100,000 objects. The main phase of the research project will start in January 2024 and is expected to last 5-6 years with the aim of researching many more paintings. The collection further includes sculptures, drawings and very few Jewish cultural and ritual objects. Following the research results, an independent commission of the SKKG, presided over by Andrea Raschèr, will assess how to deal with the results of the provenance research. The Independent Commission’s work is subject to the SKKG’s principles for dealing with cultural objects lost due to Nazi persecution, as well as its procedural rules and is composed of five to seven people per term, with the option of a one-time re-election for another three years. All decision by the independent commission will be published. SKKG is expecting to publish its first decisions by late summer 2024. On December 6, 2023, the Foundation released an initial report announcing that 414 works have been reviewed thus far: In 414 cases work will continue; in 14 cases, an in-depth research will be initiated following the initial check; in 44 cases there are no indications of a problematic provenance; and in 160 cases, the provenance remains unclear, as the data situation does not allow a decision on the part of the Independent Commission SKKG.
On November 17, 1998, the Federal Assembly of Switzerland established an office at the Federal Ministry of Culture that exclusively deals with looted-art 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 website of the Federal Office of Culture provides informational material and links on provenance research in Switzerland.
The Foundation E.G. Bührle Collection provides online access to its collection, which includes provenance information. The Emil Bührle Collection is exhibited at the Kunsthaus Zürich, which provides some information on Bührle’s war time activities as an arms manufacturer.
The Federal Office of Culture provides access to a listing of possible archival holdings in Switzerland that are relevant to conducting provenance research.
The “Art Imports” database of the Righini-Fries Foundation provides information on the import of works of art into Switzerland in the period 1921-1925, with a focus on 1935-1937. The database is based on Sigismund Righini’s (1870-1937) decisions which works of art could be imported into Switzerland and which could not. In those years, Sigismund Righini (1870-1937) worked for the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) as an expert on art imports.
In 2015, Ukraine 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.
Also in 2015, the Claims Conference-WJRO sponsored the publication of the catalog and album Art in the Flames of War: Western European Paintings in the Collection of the Simferopol Art Museum by S.I. Kot of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and L.V. Kudriashiva of the Simferopol Art Museum. This catalog and album is the only list of holdings of a museum in the former Soviet Union coming from the Soviet Trophy Brigades. The Simferopol Museum is located in Crimea, and the publication occurred just before the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.
The State Archives in Ukraine hold the largest collection of ERR documents in the world. The Claims Conference arranged for these 140,000 pages, held by Ukraine since 1945 (in secret before 1990), to be digitized and adapted for the Internet in 2010, with cooperation from the Bundesarchiv, the German Federal Archives. Many documents describe individual items, while others list the number of crates from specific museums or libraries, detailing their origin, date of plunder and where they were stored or relocated by the Nazis.
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. In July 2019, the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) (Amendment) Act 2019 received Royal Assent. The Act extends the powers of restitution of national museums indefinitely. Under the law, 17 national institutions, including the British Museum and the National Gallery, have already returned items to their original owners or heirs.
On 12 April 2010 the Panel was dissolved as an advisory NDPB and reconstituted as a group of expert advisers which continues under the name ‘Spoliation Advisory Panel’. The Panel remains the advisory body designated by the Secretary of State under Section 3 of the Holocaust Act.
Between 2014 and 2015, the government reviewed and assessed the Panel and issued recommendations (i.e. further members from the museum and fine arts sectors, etc.). So far the Panel has considered 19 cases: in 12 it has recommended restitution or financial compensation. The most valuable restituted object is Constable’s “Beaching a Boat, Brighton” (1824), returned by Tate in 2015 to the heirs of Baron Ferenc Hatvany and sold for £665,000 (appr. 866,000 USD).
In August 2022, the Arts Council England, with assistance from the Institute of Art & Law, released new restution and repatriation guidelines: “Restitution and Repatriation: A Practical Guide for
Museums in England”. The new recommendations are replacing the old guidelines from 2000 which were then issued by the Museums and Galleries Commission (“Restitution and Repatriation: Guidelines for good practice”).
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 a number of national museums, galleries as well as libraries.
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.
In 2015, the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), issued the Report Concerning Approaches of United States Museums to Holocaust-Era Art Claims. A year later, in 2016, President Barack Obama signed into law the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act to aid recovery of Nazi-looted art.
In 2017, the German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program for Museum Professionals (PREP) (Deutsch-Amerikanisches Austauschprogramm zur Provenienzforschung für Museen) was launched, bringing together museum professionals from both sides of the Atlantic who specialize in World War II-era provenance projects for a three-year, systematic exchange. PREP is co-organized by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and the Zentralarchiv der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Central Archives of the National Museums in Berlin, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, SPK). These institutions are by four partner institutions: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden; and the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich. The Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, Magdeburg, is a consultative participant in the program. (See also Germany section.)
The 2018 JUST Act, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and in the House of Representatives by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), requires the State Department to investigate and submit a report to Congress on the extent to which endorsees of the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues are meeting their pledges to adopt national laws and policies to help Holocaust survivors identify and reclaim their properties.
In March 2020, the Just Act Report was released by the Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
The Claims Conference-WJRO compiled and published a memorandum regarding the history of U.S. restitution policies in regard to the Holocaust to counter historical errors in an amicus curiae brief submitted by the U.S. Solicitor General to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Philipp v. Federal Republic of Germany case (Welfenschatz-Guelph Treasure case.
On 10 August 2022, Governor Hochul signed into law the New York Senate Bill S117A, which requires museums to install placards or other signage alongside works on view that were looted by the Nazis during World War II.
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.
While the portal is mostly outdated, it provides links to individual museums with online Nazi-era provenance information, as well as 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 hold nearly 1,000,000 records that cover the period from the late 16th century to the early 20th century. Please note that as of August 2022, updated version of the Knoedler Stock Books, Goupil Stock Books and Sales Catalogs datasets are available on GitHub.
Available via the Getty Provenance Index is the already mentioned German Sales Catalogs, 1930-1945, since August 2022 available on GitHub, 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.
The Monuments Men Foundation For The Preservation of Art archive holds 6,850 archival documents, including letters, diaries and nearly 115,000 digital assets, as well as oral histories with some members of the Monuments Men.
The Library of Congress provides online access to the Katalog der Privat-Gallerie Adolf Hitlers, an album of 74 reproductions of paintings and two tapestries in Adolf Hitler’s private art collection including portraits of his family. Additionally, the Libray of Congress provides access to an online database of its Holocaust-Era Judaic Heritage Library encompassing books received by the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction (JCR) after the war.
The Kress Collection Digital Archive holds information on the development of a collection of more than 3,000 works of European art amassed by Samuel H. Kress and his foundation, and then donated to over 95 art and educational institutions throughout the United States.
The Frick Art Reference Library provides access, among other resources, to digitized catalogues.
last updated November 2023