The ERR Looting of the Julius Genss Collection in Estonia

In April 2023, the Claims Conference released a research paper concerning the looting of the Julius Genss collection. The report entitled “The ERR Looting of the Julius Genss Collection in Estonia,” was written by Claims Conference historian Ruth Jolanda Weinberger, and depicts the main cultural property theft from Estonia. 

Julius Genss (1887−1957) was an accomplished Estonian art collector and art historian. He amassed as many as 20,000 books and 5,000 artworks. A large portion of his collection was stolen by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR). The whereabouts of his vast collection remains largely unknown but is presumed to be primarily in Belarus.

Julius Genss, oil portrait. Photography courtesy of Julia Gens. (The original oil portrait was looted by the Nazis and has yet to be recovered.)

The research is mostly based on the largest collection of ERR records in the world, which is held by the Central State Archive of the Highest Organs of Government and Administration of Ukraine (TsDAVO) in Kyiv. The collection was scanned a decade ago under the sponsorship of the Claims Conference/WJRO. It is now back online after having to shift from Russian software and servers and despite the current war, with improved finding-aids under development ( The available fonds (fonds 3674, 3676 and 3206) not only document the ERR’s plunder in Ukraine itself but hold valuable information on other countries, including the looting of the Julius Genss collection from Estonia. The website is being mirrored in the West, and the Claims Conference holds hard disks of the information. 

“Julius Genss Cabinet,” (detail) etching by Dagmar Bette-Punga, 1938.
Picture courtesy of Julia Gens.

last updated 12 April 2023