In response to complaints from the art world of the difficulty and expense in viewing the scattered and complex records needed to ascertain whether an artwork was looted, the Claims Conference/WJRO have initiated and supported a series of interlocking projects that provide greater access to and information about the records of the main Nazi agency responsible for looting cultural valuables in Nazi-occupied countries. Original Nazi files of the looting of hundreds of thousands of art, books, archives, and other cultural valuables have now been located and documented in these efforts to make accessible the Nazis’ own records of their plunder.
Specifically, the Claims Conference/WJRO have undertaken the following initiatives regarding the scattered records of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), the largest of the Nazi agencies engaged in the plunder of art, libraries, archives, and Judaica:
Reconstructing the Record of Nazi Cultural Plunder:A Survey of the Dispersed Archives of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) has been published online atwww.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 proved essential for recovery efforts.However, after WWII, original ERR documents were scattered and today are found in 29repositories in 9 countries. This survey documents the current locations of all ERR records, details their contents, and provides links to online sources. Written by Patricia Kennedy Grimsted, the preeminent expert on WWII displaced archives, the Survey was funded and assisted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims AgainstGermany (Claims Conference) and published by the International Institute for Social History, whose own massive Amsterdam and Paris library and archival collections were plunderedby the ERR, and whose building on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam was used for the ERR headquarters in the Netherlands. The Survey also describes considerable documentation regarding the subsequent fate, postwar retrieval, and restitution of the ERR loot.
Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg:Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume has been made available online at www.errproject.org/jeudepaume. This searchable database of the looting of more than 20,000 individual art objects from Jews in France and Belgium shows that at least half the objects were not restituted to their original owners. The Claims Conference, working with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, presents each of the original ERR registration cards for over 20,000 art objects in electronic form, listing Nazi ERR code numbers, artwork titles, artists, and detailed descriptions of each work. Many entries include photos of the artworks or objects as well as a scan of the original Nazi record. The database can be searched by owner, artist, or collection, or a combination of criteria.
The largest collection of ERR documents in the world – 140,000 pages -has been made available at http://err.tsdavo.org.ua. The Claims Conference arranged for the documents, held by state archives in Ukraine since 1945 (in secret before 1990), to be imaged andadapted for the Internet. Many documents describe individual items. Others list the number of crates from specific museums or libraries, detailing their origin, date of plunder, and where they were storedor relocated by the Nazis.
The second largest collection of ERR documents in the world – that held by the Federal Archives of Germany – has been made available at http://startext.net-build.de:8080/barch/MidosaSEARCH/NS30/index.htm and http://startext.net-build.de:8080/barch/MidosaSEARCH/B323-5209_Version_online/index.htm. The Claims Conference sponsored the digitization of the bulk of these records.
Additional collections of ERR documents held by archives and institutions in other countries are expected to be made available online soon with the assistance of the Claims Conference to provide improved access to a major component of the record of wartime cultural plunder and retrieval.