30 May 2011

Knoedler's in Paris under the Nazis

At the outbreak of World War II, the world-famous New York-based art gallery, Knoedler’s, had a branch in Paris—in fact, it had two offices there, one at 22, rue des Capucines, and the other at 17, Place Vendôme, where it was neighbors with the firms of van Cleef, Graupe and Seligmann.

In 1941, Knoedler’s Paris sold a portrait of a woman entitled “Source,” painted in 1723 by François de Troy to the "Kunstsammlung[en]der Stadt Düsseldorf." The item was picked up at the rue des Capucines address by the Schenker forwarding and transport organization. Pick-ups usually occurred on Wednesdays and Friday afternoons. According to documentation produced by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the American firm of Knoedler’s sold “works of art to German museums during the [German] occupation [of France.]” The leaders of the Schenker firm in Paris, Willi Bleye and Hans Wiederhold, worked closely with personnel from the German Embassy at its rue de Lille mansion and specialized in the transport of art—mostly plundered—to the Reich.

No one, to date, has held Knoedler’s accountable for its wartime role in Paris.