On May 5, NARA and five national and international research organizations met in Washington DC to launch a new international research portal for records related to Nazi-era cultural properties. The purpose of the project is to extend public access to the records through a single internet portal. This includes access to descriptions and digitized copies of over 2.4 million records and will link researchers to the interfaces of each participating organization. It will help families research their losses, find a professional to locate important documentation, and allow historians to study newly accessible materials on the history of this period.
The British National Archives website posting is as follows:
The National Archives and the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, along with other leading national archives and museums, today signed a global agreement in Washington DC to provide an international online catalogue of documentation on cultural artifacts taken by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945.
Files at The National Archives
Each member organisation has identified key groups of relevant records among its holdings. The National Archives has worked in partnership with the Commission for Looted Art in Europe to catalogue and digitise over 950 files from its collection, which are now available to search and download from DocumentsOnline.
The records date from 1939 to 1961 and include seizure orders, inventories and images of looted works of art, as well as field reports and claim forms for seized property. They also include interrogation reports of art dealers and reports of the transfer of looted artworks to neutral countries. All the original British government files have been newly scanned in colour and are searchable by name, place, subject and date.
A ‘unique global collaboration’
Signing the global agreement on behalf of The National Archives, Oliver Morley, Chief Executive and Keeper, said: ‘It’s a privilege to be involved in this unique global collaboration. By digitising and linking archival records online, researchers will be able to piece together the stories of what became of cultural objects, be they books, paintings, sculpture, jewellery or any other stolen artefacts from evidence fragmented across borders and languages.’
The Nazi-Era Cultural Property Project
The project is designed to extend public access to all records related to looted cultural artefacts, helping historians, researchers and families by cataloguing and digitising the archival materials and making them available through a single international research web portal hosted by the US National Archives and Records Administration.
Created through collaboration between national archives and expert organisations in Belgium, France, Germany, Ukraine, the UK and USA, the project will enable families to research their losses, provenance researchers to locate important documentation, and historians to study newly accessible materials on the history of this period.
Highlights from the files include:
- Hitler’s plans to establish a Führermuseum with the seized art in his hometown of Linz (T209/29)
- A collection of photographs of artworks looted by the Nazis from Italian and French public and private collections, and retrieved by the Allies in 1945 (T 209/31)
- Interrogation reports from the summer of 1945 of prominent art dealers involved in the seizure and trading of looted artworks (T 209/29)
- Details of repositories of looted cultural property discovered as the Allies advanced into Europe over the spring and summer of 1945, including the Alt Aussee salt mines in Austria, containing over 6,000 paintings destined for the Linz museum, and the Alto Adige repositories in Italy, containing the works of art from the Florence public galleries removed in July 1944 (T 209/27)
- Records of the Macmillan Committee (1944-1946), a specialist advisory body to the British government established to support the post-war restitution process (T 209/1-39)
- Reports of the work of the Inter-Allied Vaucher Commission (1944-1945), which operated as a central bureau in London for information on looted objects (T209/5)
- Looted works of art transferred to Switzerland and efforts to persuade the Swiss government to prevent the concealment of looted works of art found on Swiss territory (T 209/25)”