Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression Volume I Chapter XIV The Plunder of Art Treasures Einsatz Rosenberg

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Chapter XIV:


A. Formation, Purpose, Powers.

On 29 January 1940 Hitler issued a decree in the following

“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)
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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.

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

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(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-

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

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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.”

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.”

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.”

In the East, members of Rosenberg’s staff operated directly
behind the front in close cooperation with the infantry.

Von Behr, in a progress report dated 8 August 1944,
described the method of seizing household furnishings:
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“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

“*** 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-


Alliance Israelite Universelle 40,000
Ecole Rabbinique 10,000 Vols.
Federation de Societe des Juifs de France 4,000
Lipschuetz Bookstore, Paris 20,000 Vols.
Rothschild Family, Paris 28,000 Vols.
Rosenthaliana, Amsterdam 20,000 Vols.
Sefardischen Jewish Community, Amsterdam 25,000
Occupied Eastern Territories 280,000 Vols.
Jewish Community, Greece 10,000 Vols.
“Special Action”, Rhineland 5,000 Vols.
Other sources 100,000 Vols.

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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
Loading capacity required – cu. ms
Railroad cars required
Foreign currency and securities confiscated
RM 11,695,516
Scrap metal, scrap paper, and textiles dispatched
kgms 3,191,352

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

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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.,

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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-

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

“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

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

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-

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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

“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,

“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

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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.