Archive/File: imt/nca/nca-01/nca-01-14-plunder-01 Last-Modified: 1996/06/19 Nazi Conspracy and Aggression, Volume One, Chapter Fourteen [Page 1097] Chapter XIV: THE PLUNDER OF ART TREASURES 1. EINSATZSTAB ROSENBERG A. Formation, Purpose, Powers. On 29 January 1940 Hitler issued a decree in the following terms: "The 'Hohe Schule' is supposed to become the center for national-socialistic ideological and educational research. It will be established after the conclusion of the war. I order that the already initiated preparations be continued by Reichsleiter Alfred Rosenberg, especially in the way of research and the setting up of the library. "All sections of Party and State are requested to cooperate with him in this task." (136-PS) What began as a project for the establishment of a research library developed into a project for the seizure of cultural treasures. (141-PS) On 1 March 1942 Hitler issued a decree in which he asserted that Jews, Freemasons, and affiliated opponents of National Socialism are the authors of the War against the Reich, and that a systematic spiritual battle against them is a military necessity. The decree thereupon authorized Rosenberg to search libraries, archives, lodges, and cultural establishments, to seize relevant material from these establishments as well as cultural treasures which were the property or in the possession of Jews, which were ownerless, or the origin of which could not be clearly established. The decree directed the cooperation of the Wehrmacht High Command and indicated that Rosenberg's activities in the West were to be conducted in his capacity as Reichsleiter and in the East in his capacity as Reichsminister. (149-PS) This decree was implemented by a letter from Dr. Lammers, Reichsminister and Chief of Chancellory, directed to the "Highest Reich Authorities and the Services directly subordinate to the Fuehrer." The letter reiterated the terms of the Hitler decree and requested support of the Reich authorities in Rosenberg's fulfillment of his task. (154-PS) B. Scope of Activities. Rosenberg's activities in fulfillment of the above decrees were extended, in the West, to France (138-PS), Belgium (139- PS), the Netherlands (140-PS), Luxembourg (137-PS), and Norway and Denmark. (159-PS) [Page 1098] In the East activities were carried out throughout the Occupied Eastern Territories (153-PS), including the Baltic states and the Ukraine (151-PS), as well as in Hungary (158- PS), Greece (171-PS), and Yugoslavia. (071-PS) The function of the Rosenberg Organization included not only the seizure of books and scientific materials specified in the original Hitler Order (171-PS), but the seizure of private art treasures (1015-B-PS), public art treasures (055- PS), and household furnishings. (L-188) C. Cooperating Agencies. On 5 July 1940 Keitel (Chief of the OKW) informed the Chief of the Army High Command (OKH) and the Chief of the Armed Forces in The Netherlands that the Fuehrer had ordered that Rosenberg's suggestion be followed, to the effect that certain libraries and archives, chancelleries of high church authorities, and lodges be searched for documents valuable to Germany or indicating political maneuvers directed against Germany, and that such material be seized. The letter further stated that Hitler had ordered the support of the Gestapo and that the Chief of the Sipo (Security Police), SS-Gruppenfuehrer Heydrich, had been informed and would communicate with the competent military commanders. (137-PS) Keitel issued a further order to the Chief of the OKH, France, on 17 September 1940, providing: "The ownership status before the war in France, prior to the declaration of war on 1 September 1939, shall be the criterion. "Ownership transfers to the French state or similar transfers completed after this date are irrelevant and legally invalid (for example, Polish and Slovak libraries in Paris, possessions of the Palais Rothschild or other ownerless Jewish possessions). Reservations regarding search, seizure and transportation to Germany on the basis of the above reasons will not be recognized. "Reichsleiter Rosenberg and/or his deputy Reichshauptstellenleiter Ebert has received clear instructions from the Fuehrer personally governing the right of seizure; he is entitled to transport to Germany cultural goods which appear valuable to him and to safeguard them there. The Fuehrer has reserved for himself the decision as to their use. "It is requested that the services in question be informed correspondingly." (138-PS) The above order was extended to Belgium on 10 October 1940 [Page 1099] (139-PS), and an identical order was issued by the Chief of the OKH to the Armed Forces Commander in The Netherlands on 17 September 1940. (140-PS) Hitler's order of 1 March 1942 stated: "Directions for carrying out this order in cooperation with the Wehrmacht will be issued by the Chief of the Wehrmacht High Command in agreement with Reichsleiter Rosenberg." (149-PS) Dr. Lammers' order of 5 July 1942 declared that the Chief of the OKH, in agreement with Keitel, would issue regulations governing the cooperation with the Wehrmacht and the Police Services for assistance in making seizures. (154-PS) An official of the Rosenberg Ministry for the Occupied East declared the Wehrmacht to be one of the primary agencies engaged in removing art treasures from Russia. (1107-PS) Cooperation of the SS and the SD was indicated by Rosenberg in a letter to Bormann on 23 April 1941: "*** It is understood that the confiscations are not executed by the regional authorities but that this is conducted by the Security Service as well as by the police. *** it has been communicated to me in writing by a Gauleiter, that the chief office of the Reich Security (RSHA) of the SS has claimed the following from the library of a monastery: **." (071-PS) The above letter also points out that there has been "*** close cooperation on the widest scale with the Security Service and the military commanders. *** "This affair (Operations in Salonika) has already been executed on our side with the Security Service (SD) in the most loyal fashion." (071-PS) The National Socialist Party financed the operations of the Einsatzstab Rosenberg. (090-PS; 145-PS) In a letter to Goering, 18 June 1942, Rosenberg voiced the opinion that all art objects and other confiscated items should belong to the National Socialist Party because the Party has been bearing the brunt of the battle against the persons and forces from whom this property was taken. (1118- PS) D. Cooperation of Hermann Goering. On November 1940, Goering issued an order specifying the distribution to be made of art objects brought to the Louvre. This order lists as second in priority of disposition, "Those art objects [Page 1100] which serve to the completion of the Reichsmarshal's collection" and states that the objects will "be packed and shipped to Germany with the assistance of the Luftwaffe." (141-PS) On 1 May 1941 Goering issued an order to all Party, State, and Wehrmacht Services requesting them: "*** to give all possible support and assistance to the Chief of Staff of Reichsleiter Rosenberg's Staff, Reichshauptstellenleiter Party Comrade Utikal, and his deputy DRK -- Feldfuehrer Party Comrade von Behr, in the discharge of their duties. The above-mentioned persons are requested to report to me on their work, particularly on any difficulties that might arise." (1117-PS) On 30 May 1942, Goering claimed credit for the success of the Einsatzstab: "*** On the other hand I also support personally the work of your Einsatzstab wherever I can do so, and a great part of the seized cultural goods can be accounted for because I was able to assist the Einsatzstab by my organizations." (1015-I-PS) E. Method of Operation. The staff of the Einsatzstab Rosenberg seized not only "abandoned" art treasures but also treasures which had been hidden, or were left in the custody of depots or warehouses, including art treasures that were already packed for shipment to America. (1015-B-PS) Robert Scholz, Chief of the Special Staff for Pictorial Art, described the thoroughness with which the Einsatzstab conducted investigations and seizures: "*** These seizures were carried out on the basis of preliminary exhaustive investigations into the address lists of the French Police authorities, on the basis of Jewish handbooks, warehouse inventories and order books of French shipping firms as well as on the basis of French art and collection catalogs. "*** The seizure of ownerless Jewish works of art has gradually extended over the whole French territory." (1015-B-PS) In the East, members of Rosenberg's staff operated directly behind the front in close cooperation with the infantry. (035-PS) Von Behr, in a progress report dated 8 August 1944, described the method of seizing household furnishings: [Page 1101] "The confiscation of Jewish homes was effected in most cases in such a way that the so-called confiscation officials from house to house when no records were available of addresses of Jews who had departed or fled, as was the case for example, in Paris *** They drew up inventories of these homes and subsequently sealed them......... "The goods are dispatched first, to large collecting camps from where they are turned over, sorted out and loaded for Germany. "*** work shops were established for cabinet-makers, watchmakers, shoemakers, electricians, radio experts, furriers, etc. All incoming goods were diligently sorted out and those not ready for use were repaired. Moreover special boxes were dispatched for the use of special trades *** "For the sorting out of the confiscated furniture and goods on the invisible assembly line and for the packing and loading, exclusive use was made of interned Jews. Because of its experience as to confiscation, as to working systems within the camps, and as to transportation, the Office West was able to reorganize their entire working system and thus to succeed in providing for the use in Germany of even things,which appeared to be valueless such as scrap paper, rags, salvage, etc. ***" (L-188). F. Nature, Extent, and Value of Property Seized. (1) Books, manuscripts, documents, and incunabula. A report on the library of the "Hohe Schule," prepared by Dr. Wunder, lists the most significant book collections belonging to the library and confiscated by the Einsatzstab Rosenberg in accordance with the orders of the Fuehrer, as follows (171- PS): (approx) Alliance Israelite Universelle 40,000 Vols. Ecole Rabbinique 10,000 Vols. Federation de Societe des Juifs de France 4,000 Vols. Lipschuetz Bookstore, Paris 20,000 Vols. Rothschild Family, Paris 28,000 Vols. Rosenthaliana, Amsterdam 20,000 Vols. Sefardischen Jewish Community, Amsterdam 25,000 vols. Occupied Eastern Territories 280,000 Vols. Jewish Community, Greece 10,000 Vols. "Special Action", Rhineland 5,000 Vols. Other sources 100,000 Vols. ---------------- 552,000 [Page 1102] An undated report on the activities of the Einsatzstab Working Group, Netherlands, lists Masonic Lodges and other organizations whose libraries and archives have been seized. The report states that 470 cases of books had already been packed and reports materials seized from 92 separate lodges- of the "Droit Humain", the "Groot Oosten", the "IOOF" and the "Rotary Club". An additional 776 cases containing approximately 160,000 volumes were seized from the International Institute for Social History at Amsterdam. An additional 170 cases were seized from the "Theosophischen Society" and other organizations. (176-PS) The report further states that the value of the above works is between 30 million and 40 million Reichsmarks. Additional materials to be derived from other sources, including 100,000 volumes from the "Rosenthaliana" collection, are estimated to have a value of three times that of the above, or an additional 90 million to 120 million Reichsmarks. The estimated over-all value is thus between 120 and 160 million Reichsmarks. (176-PS) (2) Household furnishings. The entire furniture seizure action, known as "Action M", is summarized in a report of Von Behr, Chief of the Office West, dated 8 August 1944. The report furnishes the following statistics on results up to 1 July 1944: Jewish homes confiscated 71,619. Loading capacity required - cu. ms 1,079,373. Railroad cars required 26,984. Foreign currency and securities confiscated RM 11,695,516 Scrap metal, scrap paper, and textiles dispatched kgms 3,191,352 (L-188) The report goes on to list in detail the number of boxes of miscellaneous items seized, including china (199 boxes), curtains (72 boxes), coat hangers (120 boxes), toys (99 boxes), bottles (730 boxes), etc. The report concludes with an itemized statement of the number of wagons dispatched to various cities throughout Germany, to German camps, to SS Divisions, the German State Railways, the Postal Service, and the Police. (L-188) (3) Works of Art (East). With reference to the work of the Einsatzstab in the Eastern Territories, Robert Scholz reported as follows: "In the course of the evacuation of the territory several hundred most valuable Russian ikons, several hundred Russian [Page 1103] paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries, individual articles of furniture and furniture from castles were saved in cooperation with the individual Army Groups, and brought to a shelter in the Reich." (1015-B-PS) In August 1943, just prior to the loss of Charcow by the Germans, 300 paintings of West European masters and Ukrainian painters, and 25 valuable Ukrainian carpets, mostly from the Charcow museum, were packed and shipped by the Einsatzstab. (707-PS) Reporting on the withdrawal from the Ukraine, Staff Director Utikal accounted for the removal of the following materials: From the Museum of Art at Charcow: Ukrainian paintings 96 Western European paintings 185 Wood carvings and etchings 12 Carpets and tapestries 25 From the Ukrainian museum in Kiev: Textiles of all sorts. Collection of valuable embroidery patterns. Collection of brocades. Numerous items of wood, etc. (035-PS) In addition Utikal reported shipment of a total of 131 cases containing: 10,186 books, the catalog of the "East" library, art folios, samples of magazines, Bolshevist pictures, and Bolshevist films. Utikal also stated: "Moreover an essential part of the prehistoric museum was transported away." (035-PS) Another report on the shipment of works of art from the Ukraine, 12 September 1944, indicated the value of the contents of 85 chests of art objects: "There are a great many of the oldest ikons, works of famous masters of the German, Dutch and Italian schools of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, as well as works of the best Russian artists of the 18th and 19th centuries. On the whole, the contents include the most valuable works of the known Ukrainian art possession, which in themselves represent a value of many millions after a cursory appraisal." (055-PS) Attached to the above report is a detailed inventory listing hundreds of individual objects. Additional evidence as to the extent of material seized in Kiev is found in a secret note, 17 June 1944, dealing with measures taken prior to the Russian Occupation. The note reported the taking of materials from museums, archives, institutions, etc., [Page 1104] during the autumn of 1943 on the order of the Einsatzstab and of the Reichs-commissar. During October there were sent to the Reich 40 railway trucks, carrying mostly goods belonging to the Central Research Institute of the Ukraine. The report concluded with the statement that when the Soviets entered the town nothing of value was left. (1109- PS) On 28 September 1941, the General Commissar for White Ruthenia reported the seizure of art treasures in the area of Minsk, destined for Konigsberg and Linz. The value of these confiscations was stated to amount to millions of marks. (1099-PS) (4) Works of Art (West). The Robert Scholz report declared that: "During the period from March 1941 to July 1944, the Special Staff for Pictorial Art brought into the Reich: 29 large shipments including 137 freight cars with 4,17 cases of art works." (1015-B-PS) The report stated that a total of 21,903 art objects of all types had been counted and inventoried, and stated: "With this scientific inventory of a material unique in its scope and importance and of a value hitherto unknown to art research, the Special Staff for Pictorial Art has conducted a work important to the entire field of art. This inventory work will form the basis of an all-inclusive scientific catalog in which should be recorded history, scope and scientific and political significance of this historically unique art seizure." (1015-B-PS) The following is a summary of the inventory attached to the report: Paintings 10,890. Plastics 583. Furniture 2,477. Textiles 583. Hand-made art objects 5,825. East Asiatic objects 1,286. Antiquities 259. ---------- Total 21,903 (1015-B-PS) The report stated that the above figures would be increased since seizures in the West were not yet completed and it had not been possible to make a scientific inventory of part of the seized objects because of the lack of experts. (1015-B- PS) [Page 1105] As early as 28 January 1941, Rosenberg stated, with reference to properties seized in France alone: "*** the value involved will come close to a billion Reichsmarks." (090-PS) Scholz, in his report on activities from March 1941 to July 1944, expressed the value of the seizures as follows: "The extraordinary artistic and material value of the seized art works cannot be expressed in figures. The paintings, period furniture of the 17th and 18th Centuries, the Gobelins, the antiques and renaissance jewelry of the Rothschild's are objects of such a unique character that their evaluation is impossible, since no comparable values have so far appeared on the art market. "A short report, moreover, can only hint at the artistic worth of the collections. Among the seized paintings, pastels and drawings there are several hundred works of the first quality, masterpieces of European art, which could take first place in any museum. Included therein are absolutely authenticated signed works of Rembrandt van Rijn, Rubens, Frans Hals, Vermeer van Delft, Valasquez, Murillo, Goya, Sebastiano del Piombo, Palma Vecchio, etc. "Of first importance among the seized paintings are the works of the famous French painters of the 18th Century, with masterpieces of Boucher, Watteau, Rigaud, Largielliere, Rattler, Fragonard, Pater, Danloux and de Troy. "This collection can compare with those of the best European museums. It includes many works of the foremost French masters, who up to now have been only inadequately represented in the best German museums. Very important also is the representation of masterpieces of the Dutch Painters of the 17th and 18th Centuries. First of all should be mentioned the works of van Dyck, Saloman and Jacob Ruisdal, Wouvermann, Terborch, Jan Weenix, Gabriel Metsu, Adrian van Ostade, David Teniers, Pieter de Hooch, Willem van der Velde, etc. "Of foremost importance also are the represented works of English painting of the 18th and early 19th centuries, with masterpieces of Reynolds, Romney, and Gainsborough. Cranach and Amberger, among the German masters, should be mentioned. "The collection of French furniture of the 17th and 18th centuries is perhaps even more highly to be evaluated. This contains hundreds of the best preserved and, for the most part, signed works of the best known cabinet-makers from [Page 1106] the period between Louis XIV to Louis XVI. Since German cabinetmakers played an important part in this golden age of French cabinetry, now recognized for the first time in the field of art, this collection is of paramount importance. "The collection of Gobelins and Persian tapestries contains numerous world-famous objects. The collection of handicraft works and the Rothschild collection of renaissance jewelry is valuable beyond comparison." (1015-B-PS) The report refers to 2 portfolios of pictures of the most valuable works of the art collections seized in the West, which portfolios were presented to the Fuehrer. Ten additional portfolios are stated to be attached to the report and additional portfolios are said to be in preparation. Thirty-nine leatherbound volumes prepared by the Einsatzstab contain photographs of paintings, textiles, furniture, candelabra, and numerous other objects of art and illustrate the magnitude and value of the collection made by Einsatzstab Rosenberg.
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