Documenting Plunder

This post is for historical informational purposes only. Please do not refer to this post for information pertaining to current Claims Conference programs. Visit What We Do for current program guidelines and information. Thank you.

May 10, 2011

Samuel Norich, second from right, represented the Claims Conference at the Washington, D.C. launch of the International Research Portal For Records Relating to Nazi-era Cultural Property. Mr. Norich, a member of the Claims Conference Board of Directors, is the Chairman of the Looted Art and Cultural Property Committee.

The Claims Conference has helped launch two initiatives to enable easier and faster searches of records of artworks and cultural objects looted during the Holocaust.

Last week, the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. announced the International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property.

For the first time, a single website will allow digital access to millions of pages of records about looted items. Creating a portal to these widely dispersed records will enable families and institutions to research their losses, provenance researchers to locate important documentation, and historians to study newly accessible materials on the history of this period.

The Claims Conference has contributed access to nine different resources to this portal, including recent projects relating to the records of the main Nazi looting agency, the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR). Click here for our statement. Also participating in the portal are several national archival collections and museums.

One of the valuable resources included in the National Archives portal is the recently-completed survey of ERR records. “Reconstructing the Record of Nazi Cultural Plunder:A Survey of the Dispersed Archives of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR)” has been published online at www.iisg.nl/publications/errsurvey.

The detail with which the ERR – the special operational task force headed by Adolf Hitler’s ideological henchman Alfred Rosenberg — documented the art, archives, books, and Judaica it plundered has proven essential to recovery efforts.However, after WWII, original ERR documents were scattered and today are found in 29 repositories in 9 countries. This survey documents the current locations of all ERR records, details their contents, and provides links to online sources.

The survey was written by Patricia Kennedy Grimsted, the preeminent expert on WWII displaced archives. It was funded and assisted by the Claims Conference and published by the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam. The Survey also describes considerable documentation regarding the subsequent fate, postwar retrieval, and restitution of the ERR loot.

This survey is one of a series of interlocking Claims Conference projects that provide greater access to and information about ERR records. In 2010, the Claims Conference launched the website, Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume: www.errproject.org/jeudepaume. This searchable database of the looting of more than 20,000 individual art objects from Jews in France and Belgium showed that at least half the objects were not restituted to their original owners.

In addition, links are provided in the just-published Survey to 140,000 pages of ERR documents that went online in 2010. The Claims Conference arranged for the documents, held by the Ukrainian State Archives, to be imaged and adapted for the Internet. These records comprise the largest collection of ERR documents in the world and is at http://err.tsdavo.org.ua. Another major related group of ERR records is on the website of the Federal Archives of Germany, also assisted by Claims Conference sponsorship of digitization.

These websites make for a compelling historical glimpse into the mechanics of the greatest theft in history, and are intended to help reunite legitimate owners with long-lost family treasures.

May 10, 2011