Indiana University Art Museum Provenance Project
More Provenance Information
Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis looted public art museums and private art collections and presided over forced sales of art objects in Germany and in the European countries they occupied. In July 1937 the “Degenerate Art” exhibition opened in Munich, displaying over 600 modern paintings and sculptures confiscated from German art museums. In general, the confiscated works were destined either for sale (by auction or through dealer) to raise money for the Nazi party, or they entered the private collections of high-ranking Nazi officials, including Hitler, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, and Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels. Many of these works were subsequently sold abroad or destroyed.
Art looting became a major operation in France with the establishment of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), under the supervision of Alfred Rosenberg. Large-scale confiscations also took place in other occupied countries, including the Netherlands, Austria, the Soviet Union, and Poland. Many Jewish collectors and gallery owners sold their artworks “under duress”—through Nazi coercion—or to raise funds needed to flee Europe. Finally, large collections of Judaica (Jewish ceremonial objects and jewelry) were confiscated from homes and synagogues by the Nazis or were left ownerless in the aftermath of the Holocaust.
During the chaos immediately following the war, German museums lost more works to Soviet troops, and on a smaller scale, to thefts by British, American, or other Allied troops. Following the war, Allied governments engaged in a large-scale restitution project, returning many looted works to their former owners. However, in the last decade, it has become apparent that, despite Allied efforts, many looted art objects had entered the art market, and were subsequently sold to new owners in Europe and the United States. A painting that an American museum legitimately purchased or accepted as a gift may, in fact, have been looted during the war.
The Indiana University Art Museum is committed to following the American Association of Museums’s “Guidelines Concerning the Unlawful Appropriation of Objects During the Nazi Era.” We have recently stepped up our efforts to research and document provenance for works that are known or suspected to have been in Europe during the Nazi era (1933–1945), and that may have changed hands during that time period.
What works are listed on this site?
The works listed on this site were created prior to 1946, and are known or thought to have been in Europe between 1933 and 1945. Nazi-era provenance research is focused on European paintings, sculptures, drawings, watercolors, and Judaica. Excluded from this site are prints, American art, ancient art, and non-Western art.
What type of information is included in the records?
The information listed includes the work’s exhibition and provenance history, relevant publications, and previous titles and attributions. At the present time, available information on some works may be limited. Provenance research is challenging, and because some documents and records no longer exist, some of the gaps in our information may never be filled in. Additionally, many dealers and auction houses no longer exist; others may have lost or destroyed their old records. Please bear in mind that gaps in the provenance of a piece reflect the current state of research, and do not prove that the work was looted, confiscated, or sold under duress. Any works with gaps in their provenance for the Nazi era (1933–1945) are, however, our highest priority for research, and the records will be updated as more information becomes available.
For an in-depth look at Nazi cultural policy and Nazi-era looting and confiscation of art objects, the following books are useful.
- Barron, Stephanie, ed. "Degenerate Art:" The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany. exh. cat. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991.
- Feliciano, Hector. The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World's Greatest Works of Art. New York: Basic Books/Harper Collins, 1997.
- Nicholas, Lynn. The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Art Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. New York: Knopf, 1994.
- Petropolous, Jonathan. Art as Politics in the Third Reich. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
- Petropolous, Jonathan. The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
- Simpson, Elizabeth, ed. The Spoils of War: World War II and Its Aftermath. The Loss, Reappearance, and Recovery of Cultural Property. New York: Harry N. ABrams, 1997.
- Yeide, Nancy H., Konstantin Akinsha, and Amy L. Walsh. The AAM Guide to Provenance Research. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums, 2001.