You Will Get Upset When You See These Photos of Priceless Art Stolen by the Nazis

By Jacob Miller

Nazi plunder refers to art theft and other items stolen during the organized looting of European countries during the Third Reich. The plundering began in 1933 and continued through the second World War.

Kunstchutz (art protection) is the German term for the principle of preserving cultural heritage and artworks during armed conflict with the stated aim of protecting the enemy’s art and returning it after the end of hostilities.

The Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce, ERR) was a Nazi organization dedicated to appropriating cultural property during World War II. Between 1940 and 1945, the ERR operated in France, Poland, the Baltic States, Greece, Italy, the Benelux countries, and occupied territory of the Soviet Union.

In a Führer Directive mandated on 5 July 1940, Hitler authorized the ERR to confiscate: precious manuscripts and books from national libraries and archives, important artifacts of ecclesiastical authorities and Masonic lodges, and all valuable cultural property belonging to Jews.

The Nazis stole gold, silver, cultural items of significance including paintings, ceramics, books, and religious treasures.

The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, (MFAA) also known as the Monuments Men, sought to search out and, eventually, recovered many of these items. The effort continues even today as there are currently international efforts to identify the missing Nazi plunder and return it to its rightful owners.

Official seal stamped on materials looted by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg. Wikipedia
American soldier inspects German loot stored in a church at Elligen, Germany, April 24, 1945.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, accompanied by General Omar Bradley and Lt. Gen. George Patton, Jr., inspects stolen art treasures.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, and Gen. Omar N. Bradley, CG, 12th Army Group, examine a suitcase of silverware, part of German loot stored in a salt mine. Photographer: Lt. Moore.
Hermann Goering s art collection, stolen from museums across Europe, is stored temporarily in a building near Berchtesgaden while being cataloged, June 9, 1945.
The Fuhrer at the Haus of German Art, Munich.
U.S. Soldiers examine Edouard Manet s In the Conservatory, April 25, 1945.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, accompanied by Gen. Omar Bradley, left, CG, 12th Army Group; Maj. Gen. Manton Eddy, CG, XII Corps, and Col. H.A. Burnstern, Washington, DC, tours German salt mines in which stolen treasure was hidden. Photographer: Lt. Moore.
Florentine Art Treasures Returned Six trucks with part of the half billion dollars worth of Florentine art treasure, which was taken to Bolzano by retreating Germans, arrives at Piazza Dei Signoria, Florence, Italy and passes by reviewing stand of American, English and Italian officials. 7/21/45.
Royal Crown of the Hungarian Royal Holy Crown Jewels The Hungarian Royal Crown jewels had been in the custody of the Seventh U.S. Army along with the Hungarian guard. The jewels were going to the U.S. Army repository at Frankfort, Germany for safe keeping. 8/3/
Looted Books in Riga, November 1943. Wikipedia
A Us Soldier Inspects Priceless Art Taken From Jews By The Nazi’s And Stashed In The Heilbron Salt Mines May 3, 1945, In Germany. The Treasures Were Uncovered By Allied Forces After The Defeat Of Nazi Germany. Photo By National Archives/Getty Images
MP stands guard in front of a truck loaded with art treasures stolen by German Army and recovered by U.S. Army. The paintings are being returned to the city of Florence. 07/23/1945.
Germany. The 90th Division, the U.S. Third Army, discovered this Reichsbank wealth, SS loot, and Berlin museum paintings that were removed from Berlin to a salt mine vault in Merkers, Germany. 04/15/1945.
Durer Engraving M. SGT Harold Maus of Scranton, PA is pictured with the Durer engraving, found among other art treasures at Merker. 5/13/45.
Polish art historian Karol Estreicher and military members prepare to repatriate da Vinci’s Lady With an Ermine. sfgate
An unknown Rembrandt recovered and safe in Munich. 5/13/45.