During World War II, Adolph Hitler's Third Reich systematically plundered the art collections of Europe. An estimated 600,000 paintings, sculptures and other objects were stolen and the crime, supported by State policy. From public museum collections to private collections, the Nazis robbed Europe of its greatest treasures. In this matter, the Third Reich faced stern internal competition. The Reich's treasury competed with well orchestrated teams of art thieves sponsored by individual ranking Nazi leaders, including Nazi Reichmarshall Hermann Goering, SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler and the head of state, Adolph Hitler. Each 'robber baron' motivated with the obsession to build a huge private collection for themselves. The State and the "State within the State" plundered and looted on a grand scale, often at odds with one-another. The end result: The greatest theft of art in modern history.
Much of this plunder ended up in southern Germany and Austria, in the region of the so-called "Nazi National Redoubt" or "Alpenfestung", in the death knell final days of Hitler’s Reich. Stolen works were carefully protected and concealed in castles, mansions, farms and deep within the salt-mines throughout the southern Reich. Some of these were from Hitler’s private cache of stolen art, destined as future exhibits in his long-planned and yet to be constructed massive personal art museum in his home town of Linz Austria.
Sadly, one cultural legacy left over from the Third Reich 60 years removed is the wide-scale failure to return much of the stolen art. To this day, the rightful heirs continue to fight bitterly in the courts of law for the return of their property.
Help is requested. Please send us a note if you have information about the art or the circumstances of its capture depicted in the images below. All objects were captured by the GIs from the U.S. 44th Infantry Division.
Click on any art image to magnify