Nazi plunder refers to art theft and other items stolen as a result of the organized looting of European countries during the time of the Third Reich by agents acting on behalf of the ruling Nazi Party of Germany. Plundering occurred from 1933 until the end of World War II, particularly by military units known as the Kunstschutz, although most plunder was acquired during the war. In addition to gold, silver and currency, cultural items of great significance were stolen, including paintings, ceramics, books, and religious treasures. Although most of these items were recovered by agents of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program (MFAA, also known as the Monuments Men)
, on behalf of the Allies immediately following the war, many are still missing. There is an international effort under way to identify Nazi plunder that still remains unaccounted for, with the aim of ultimately returning the items to the rightful owners, their families or their respective countries
Adolf Hitler) (did you know) was an unsuccessful artist who was denied admission to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts . Nonetheless, he thought of himself as a connoisseur of the arts, and in Mein Kampf he ferociously attacked modern art as degenerate, including: Cubism, Futurism and Dadaism, all of which he considered the product of a decadent twentieth century society. In 1933 when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany , he enforced his aesthetic ideal on the nation. The types of art that were favored amongst the Nazi party were classical portraits and landscapes by Old Masters, particularly those of Germanic origin. Modern art that did not match this was dubbed degenerate art by the Third Reich, and all that was found in Germany’s state museums was to be sold or destroyed. With the sums raised, the Führer’s objective was to establish the European Art Museum in Linz. Other Nazi dignitaries, like Reichsmarschall Herman Goering, Minister of Armaments and War Production, Albert Speer and Foreign Affairs minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, were also intent on taking advantage of German military conquests to increase their private art collections.
The Herman Goering collection, a personal collection of Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, was another large collection including confiscated property, consisted of approximately 50 percent of works of art confiscated from the enemies of the Reich. Assembled in large measure by art dealer Bruno Lohse Goering’s adviser and ERR representative in Paris, in 1945 the collection included over 2,000 individual pieces including more than 300 paintings. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administartion’s. Consolidated Interrogation Report No. 2 states that Goering never crudely looted, instead he always managed “to find a way of giving at least the appearance of honesty, by a token payment or promise thereof to the confiscation authorities. Although he and his agents never had an official connection with the German confiscation organizations, they nevertheless used them to the fullest extent possible.
During the war, Goering boasted that he owned the largest private art collection in Europe. An unrepentant Nazi, Lohse was among several former Nazi art dealers who, after the war, pressed their own restitution claims for work they claimed to have lost during the years of conflict. Lohse’s legitimately acquired collection of Dutch old masters and Expressionist paintings was said to be valued in the “millions.” Lohse’s death on March 9th 2007, age 95, was little-noticed, apparently because few realized one of the Third Reich’s most notorious art looters was still alive.