Catalogue description Registry Number: UE 648/123/77. Letter from Lt-Col Woolley at the War Office to J M...

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Details of FO 371/45769/6
Reference: FO 371/45769/6
Registry Number: UE 648/123/77. Letter from Lt-Col Woolley at the War Office to J M Troutbeck at the Foreign Office about German methods of looting of works of art in Western Europe, dated February 1945. Encloses 'a preliminary survey of German looting of works of art in Western Europe', stating that this will be further supplemented with additional details in the future. The preliminary survey identifies the 'policy with regards to Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives' carried out by the NSDAP and its members as 'deliberately removing, destroying or expropriating works of art and other cultural materials', while describing the German General Staff and the Kunstschutz in more positive terms as 'repairing war damage to historic buildings' and protecting historical monuments and art collections. Analyses the history, organisational structure and role in both protecting and looting art works and monuments of the Kunstschutz. Although, deemed as having acted well, the Kunstschutz is also considered as not entirely blameless, as 'it was made use of by those organisations concerned with looting'. Mentions Graf Wolff-Metternich, Professsor at the University of Bonn and Provincial Curator of Historic Monuments for the Rhine, the first Director of the Kunstschutz. In 1941 Graf Wolff-Metternich was responsible for the return to Paris of the collections of manuscripts and books belonging to the Bibliotheque Nationale and the Institut de France, in order to assist 'the preparation of the list of valuable MSS and printed works formerly removed from Germany, which are to be returned to Germany under the forthcoming Peace Treaty'. Graf Wolff-Metternich was further responsible for negotiating the opening of a German Art Historical Institute in Paris and securing facilities for German military historians to study the plans of military fortifications in the archives of the Musée de l'Armee. He was also responsible for handing over all important private collections discovered in the Paris area to the Einsatzstab Rosenberg and for providing assistance to German museum directors and art dealers who visited the occupied territories for the sake of enriching their collections. The Memorandum further states that Herr Gustav Rochlitz was engaged by the Staff of the Supreme Military Commander for France, by arrangement with the Office for the Protection of Works of Art, to purchase important works of art for German museums as well as for high officials of the State and Party. The survey also mentions Dr Pfitzner, second in command of the Kunstschutz at the HQ Supreme Military Commander for France, and Mr Wildenstein, a French Jewish art dealer now based in the USA, who owned an important collection of 18th century French pictures. The preliminary survey also discusses Germany's methods of looting, stating that privately-owned art collections were much more likely to become victims to 'Germany's predatory methods in relation to works of art.' In this context, the survey looks at three different agents of looting: the State, State-supported organisations and individuals. As examples of the State as an agent of looting, Germany's removal "of all objects of German origin" from the Musee de l'Armee, Paris, and the removal of Michelangelo's "Madonna and Child" from a church in Bruges are cited. The survey also cites examples from Italy in which the German State acted as the looter. It furthermore refers to looted cultural property from the libraries of the German Archaeological Institute and the Biblioteca Hertziana in Rome, and 187 cases containing works of art from the museums of Naples. Amongst the objects missing are four cases of large bronze statues; two cases of gold objects from Pompeii and Herculaneum; a suit of armour used by the Emperor Charles V; two pictures by Titian; two pictures by Claude Lorrain; two pictures by Raphael; two pictures by Tiepolo; and two pictures by Palma Vecchio. In relation to State organised acts of looting, the survey mentions the Einsatzstab Rosenberg, which, for example, looted works of art and furniture belonging to the Rothschild family, which were discovered by a German unit at a house in the Bois de Boulogne. 'Behind the conquering German Army in 1941', the Task Force of Reichsleiter Alfred Rosenberg arrived in France, 'charged primarily with the location, confiscation and removal to Germany of collections owned by Jews'. Other collections seized by the Einsatzstab in Paris in 1941 include the collections of Schloss, David Weill [130 cases], Wassermann [75 pictures], Hamburger [39 pictures], Solomon Flavian [40 pictures], Rosenstein [12 pictures], Sauerbach [30 pictures], Kronig [30 pictures], Rosenfeld [3 pictures], Thierry [two oils by Drouais], Federer [one oil by Monet], Hamperzoumian [three pictures], and Edmond and James de Rothschild [five strong rooms' full]. It also analyses the history, organisational structure and membership of the Einsatzstab Rosenberg. The survey records that individual agents of looting, such as 'Goering were on the lookout for German paintings, in particular paintings by Cranach, Duerer and Holbein, and that Hitler was greatly interested in second-rate Viennese Masters and German romantics, whilst Ribbentrop showed a taste for modern French pictures. Furniture, books and tapestries were also in demand, and there is evidence of a special gusto for tapestries on the part of the Reich Marshal'. The survey also relates the acquisition of the Goudstikker Collection in Amsterdam by an agent of Goering. Further, German museums which are known to have added to their collections include the Fuehrer Museum in Linz an der Donau, the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne, the Picture Gallery in Salzburg, the Landesmuseum in Stuttgart, the Germanisches National Museum in Nuremberg and the Fuehrerbau, Hitler's house and office in Munich. Other items seized include an altar statue taken by a battalion from the Abbey of Monte Cassino, sent as a present to Goering by General Heydrich, Commander of the German 1st Parachute Division; the Royal Society's Library in the University of Naples, which was burned; the Angevin and other archives in the Villa Montesano at Nola; the collection of impressionist pictures belonging to M Lauwick at the Chateau de Rastingnac in Dordogne which were burned; and important Old Master paintings burned in a chateau in the same area belonging to Mme De Vedrines.
Date: 1945 February 01 - 1945 February 28
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Closure status: Open Document, Open Description

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