Dr. Bruno Lohse, who published a scholarly thesis on painter Jacob Philipp Hackert in 1936, worked as an art dealer in Berlin from 1936 to 1939, selling paintings out of his father’s home. Having joined the SS in 1933, Lohse became a member of the Nazi Party in 1937 He would eventually be drafted into Goering’s Luftwaffe, then appointed by Göring to the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Alfred Rosenberg (ERR)
, Hitler’s special art looting unit.
Lohse arrived in Paris by November 1940 to help catalog the celebrated and eclectic collection of Alphonse Kann, which numbered 1,202 items.Though Lohse reported to Paris ERR chief Baron Kurt von Behr(1890–1945) , he enjoyed “special agent” status conferred on him by Goering. Among other privileges, Lohse was not required to wear a uniform for the nearly four years he lived in occupied Paris. As the ERR’s Deputy Director in Paris from 1942 to 1944, Lohse helped supervise the systematic theft of at least 22,000 paintings and art objects in France, most of which were taken from Jewish families.
Although Lohse set aside the most highly prized Old Masters for Hitler’s Führer Museum (planned in Linz), he helped Goering develop his own enormous private art collection , which accumulated during the war at Goering’s vast German estate, Carinhall. Between November 1940 and November 1942, Lohse staged 20 exhibitions of looted art for Hitler’s second-in-command in the Jeu de Paume, from which Goering selected at least 594 pieces for his own collection.
Lohse was awarded the War Merit Cross, 2nd class by Adolf Hitler because of his activities in art theft in Paris.
In May 2007, the seizure of a secret Zurich bank vault registered to Schönart Anstalt (under Lohse’s control since 1978) turned up a valuable Camille Pissarro painting stolen by the Gestapo from a prominent Jewish publisher in Vienna in 1938, as well as paintings of uncertain provenance by Monet and Renoir. According to U.S. historian and looted art expert Jonathan Petropoulos, who “got to know [Lohse] well” in the last decade of his life, the existence of the vault makes it “not only possible, but likely” that Lohse had sold looted artworks in recent decades.Painted in 1903 and the first in Pissarro’s last series of Paris city views, “Le Quai Malaquais, Printemps” was restituted later in 2007 by a Liechtenstein court to an heir of Gottfried Bermann Fischer, and ultimately auctioned in November 2009 for $1,850,000 ($2,154,000 with Christie’s premium) under its new title, “Le Quai Malaquais et l’Institut”.
European prosecutors seized documents confirming that at least 14 paintings left Lohse’s safe since 1983, including paintings by Corot and Sisley as well as-yet-unnamed works by Dürer and Kokoschka, among others. An international investigation of Lohse’s activities (as well as possible collusion with galleries and auction houses) was opened as of 2006 and currently involves three European countries: Germany, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. According to widely accepted estimates, of the 600,000 artworks looted by the Nazis in World War II, up to 100,000 were destroyed or are still missing.
Dr. Bruno Lohse, art historian and agent to Hermann Goering, died in Munich on March 21st, 2007, age 95. Lohse was one of only a few of the many art agents and dealers to Hitler and the Nazis who was tried, convicted and punished after the war for his role as Deputy Chief of ERR operations in Paris