03 May 2011

What’s up with Norway?

On the face of it, the Norwegian government is behaving most appropriately. It has imposed a strict bank on all imports of cultural artifacts whose provenance cannot be demonstrated properly. As proof, posters greet you when you enter the country by air which ask: “are you robbing the cultural heritage of another people?”.

Norway has adhered since 2001 to the UNIDROIT Convention on the Illicit Trade of Cultural Property and has passed legislation to reflect that posture.

And yet…

When it comes to historical thefts dealing with one of the country’s darkest chapters—the Nazi occupation starting in Spring 1940--, Norway is mum and absent. Why?

To wit:

In 1948, Norwegian institutions and private individuals had filed claims with the US authorities in occupied Germany which covered close to two thousand objects. The US military in charge of investigating claims pertaining to thefts of works and objects of art during the Second World War shut down those claims in June 1948. One of the more important claims stems from the National Gallery of Oslo, not for its own losses, but for the forced removable of more than 900 works of art consigned to its care by private individuals across Norway.

Claim Claimant Number of Items
NOR-1 Norwegian government 1 painting
NOR-2 Norwegian Army Museum an entire exhibit
NOR-3 National Gallery of Oslo 20 paintings
NOR-4 Rastad, Arnold 10 paintings
NOR-5 Norwegian Free Masons 2 paintings, books and a sword
NOR-6 Private collections 796 paintings
NOR-7 Norwegian government 2 paintings, 1 water color
NOR-8 Norwegian government 1 painting
NOR-9 Norwegian government 1 painting
NOR-10 Norwegian government 1 picture, 1 painting, 4 books
NOR-11 Norwegian government 956 paintings

"Norwegian government" may mean either State institutions or the government on behalf of private owners. In that regard, NOR-6 and NOR-11 fit in that category.

Today, the country which went on record for prosecuting most vigorously those within its ranks who had collaborated with Quisling and his pro-Nazi acolytes has turned a blind eye on any attempt to recover items plundered from its territory to the point of sheer indifference. What’s up with that?