16 June 2011

Revisiting the landscape of plunder

No serious discussion on the problem of cultural plunder dating back to the Nazi/Fascist era, the Second World War, and the Holocaust, can even begin without a blunt assessment of its scope and breadth.

In other words, any serious research into cultural plunder must take into account the following:
  1. scale of cultural plunder:

    19 countries in Europe were directly affected by the policies of the Nazi government and its Fascist allies.  Those 19 nations were subject to different levels of cultural plunder either under direct German military administration or at the hands of pro-Nazi anti-Semitic governments. Net losses must be assessed as greater than 10 million objects deemed to be of some cultural value.
  2. the beneficiaries of cultural plunder:

    The beneficiaries of cultural plunder included, but were not necessarily limited to, the following:

    — auction houses
    — galleries
    — state museums and collections
    — private collectors, regardless of rank or stature in Nazi or Fascist organs of power
  3. the facilitators of illegal transfers of ownership of plundered cultural assets included, but were not limited to:

    — members of the legal profession—notaires, attorneys, judges, magistrates
    — members of the government—civil servants and party functionaries in national ministries, regional prefectures, local governments and administrations
    — members of the financial services profession—accountants, finance inspectors, brokers, appraisers, insurance assessors
    — members of the law enforcement community—policemen and police officers, agents specialized in anti-Jewish actions (inspectors, political police, judicial police, customs officers, etc…)
    — members of the art trade—antiquarians, gallery owners, museum curators and directors, art historians, auction house appraisers and experts, brokers, merchants, and dealers
  4. the following types of individuals facilitated the international recycling of plundered cultural assets:

    — consular officers, charges d’affaires, and ambassadors of nations accredited in territories under Nazi and Fascist administration, military and/or civilian.
    — corporate executives, importers, exporters, trade specialists, bankers, investment specialists, stockbrokers, currency and precious metals brokers, either native or foreign.
    — intelligence agents and officers, either native or foreign
    — criminal elements involved in racketeering, smuggling, contraband, robbery, kidnapping, and assassinations, working closely with law enforcement organizations and paramilitary formations
  5. plundered cultural assets were stored in many different locations, including, but not limited to, the following:

    — state-run depots, storehouses, and warehouses (castles, manors, state-owned or leased buildings, military bases and facilities)
    — private residences and businesses
    — safes and vaults
    — cultural edifices