Catalogue description Commission for the Protection and Restitution of Cultural Material [Vaucher Commission]:...

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Details of T 209/5/1
Reference: T 209/5/1

Commission for the Protection and Restitution of Cultural Material [Vaucher Commission]: report and papers.

Correspondence between Lord Macmillan, E Clay, assistant secretary of the Macmillan Committee and Mr Sutton from the Vaucher Commission relating to the sending of the enclosed report on the work of the Vaucher Commission, dated October 1945-January 1946. Summarises the activities of the Vaucher Commission between May and October 1945: 'After the Liberation of Europe, this Commission felt that the work it could most usefully perform was the compilation of a central record of those works of art looted from the formerly occupied countries by the Germans. This information could be drawn upon by the authorities responsible for the return of such objects to their countries of origin. It soon became apparent, however, that for the swift and efficient accomplishment of this task the Commission needed more official status and additional staff.' For this reason Mr Sumner Crosby of the Roberts Commission, the members of the Vaucher Commission and the American and British MFA and A officers made 'proposals for the establishment of an official Allied Secretariat to deal with the collection and dissemination of information relating to looted works of art. These proposals, which enjoyed the support of the bodies presided over by Mr Justice Roberts and Lord Macmillan, unfortunately failed to find acceptance'. Records that 'the problem of how to collect and transmit material to the Allied authorities in Germany and receive their information in return still remained urgent. It was then that Wing-Commander Douglas Cooper, the Acting Director of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives [MFA and A] branch of the British Element of the Control Council for Germany, proposed that his London office should be used as a documentation centre; that French, Dutch and possibly other national representatives should work there; and that the results of their collaboration should be distributed in list form to the four Zones of Occupation. [...] In September however [...] Cooper was obliged to withdraw his offer. He advised that: "Such material as needs classifying should be done by each of the respective national restitution commissions and distributed to the UK, US, French and USSR elements of the Control Council".' Also comprises personal observations by Sutton describing the activities of destruction and looting of European cultural heritage at the hands of the Germans and the subsequent measures adopted by the Allies to counterbalance it and in particular the activities of the Vaucher Commission. Describes the scope and intent of the index of persons created by the Vaucher Commission to assist in the tracking down of looters and the creation, at the request of Sir Leonard Woolley at the British War Office, of several other lists, including those of German and Austrian art dealers and auction houses, French and Dutch art dealers, valuers, auctioneers and auction firms known or believed to have traded with the enemy during the German occupation. Includes lists of members of the different national commissions and of those attending the Vaucher Commission meetings.

Correspondence addressed to J G Mann at the Wallace Collection by E Clay and Eric Maclagan, members of the Macmillan Committee, referring to the 'packets of card index photographs of the records which the Vaucher Committee [sic, Vaucher Commission] is accumulating', which were kept 'in a place of safety at the Victoria and Albert Museum on behalf of the Macmillan Committee', dated February 1945.

Correspondence between C P Harvey of the Vaucher Commission and J G Mann regarding the publication of an article in the Londoner's Diary of the Evening Standard on 18 January 1945 disclosing information on the location of Dutch art depositories and the recovery of European art treasures looted by the Nazis, stating that 'it is [...] generally undesirable that stories of this sort should be written up in the press, since they may encourage a desire for further information on the part of the public' and that 'there might well be a risk that information of value to the enemy would be made public', dated February 1945. Includes a letter from Harvey to Senior Commander Rockingham-Gill at the War Office stating that 'the Macmillan Committee is not compiling any detailed records' but would still be interested in viewing the prisoners of war papers that had been suggested should be passed on to the Macmillan Committee through the Ministry of Economic Warfare [MEW], dated January 1945. Also includes a letter from Harvey to J G Mann enclosing 'a sample of about a dozen cards showing the lines on which it is proposed to form an index of objects, to supplement the index of persons and the index of places which this Commission [Vaucher Commission] is compiling'. Comprises 27 specimen of index cards produced by the Vaucher Commission on looted objects of art, metalwork and jewellery, textiles, manuscripts, scientific equipment and paintings, with details of their history and current state, as in the case of Durer's 'Self-portrait with pillow' removed from the Museum of the Lubormirski family in Lvov in 1941 by Muehlmann and Behrens and of the Veit Stoss altarpiece, with attached photographs.

Note: This document forms part of the Looted Art Collection; records selection and descriptions reproduced by the kind permission of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe.
Date: 1944 - 1946
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Closure status: Open Document, Open Description

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