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Spoliation of Jewish Cultural Property

To help museums implement the resolution adopted by the ICOM General Assembly in Barcelona on 6th July 2001, the UNESCO-ICOM Information Centre has put together a file of resources on the issue of spoliation of Jewish cultural property during the Second World War.

The information below includes references for national and international directives for museums concerning the identification and return of looted or stolen Jewish property. Databases of objects which were looted or have disappeared are also listed, along with several examples of individual initiatives by museums to facilitate the task of establishing the provenance of certain items in their collections.

A vast body of information is available on this topic and this file does not purport to be exhaustive. The Centre would be happy to receive any additional information or resources, particularly relating to the policies of museums on this issue.

ICOM's Resolution
Guidelines and Legislation

Databases on Art Looted from Jewish Owners

Individual Museums Provenance Research Projects
Additional Sources of Information and Contacts
International Conferences
Other links

Resolution no. 8
Aware that the Nazi regime, in power from 1933 to 1945, orchestrated and enabled during the implementation of the Holocaust, the misappropriation of art and other cultural property through means such as theft, confiscation, coercive transfer, looting and pillage,
Acknowledging that despite efforts following World War II to undertake restitution of misappropriated property, many objects were never returned to their original owners or legal successors,
Concerned that such objects may have subsequently come into the custody of museums,
Recalling ICOM's Recommendations Concerning the Return of Works of Art Belonging to Jewish Owners issued by the Executive Council in December 1998,
Noting that museum professionals, other individuals and organisations have gathered to establish international principles for addressing the problem of misappropriated objects, such as those contained in the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, December 1998, the Vilnius Forum Declaration, October 2000, and the American Association of Museums' Guidelines Concerning the Unlawful Appropriation of Objects during the Nazi Era, April 2001,

The 20th General Assembly of ICOM, meeting in Barcelona, Spain, on 6 July 2001

Urges all museums to encourage action by their national governments to ensure full implementation of the provisions of such documents, which establish international principles for addressing the problem of misappropriated objects.

Guidelines and Legislation

Immediately after the Second World War, laws were passed in European countries concerning the return of art works to their original owners. But despite this legislation, many art works remained unclaimed and were deposited with national collections. In the late 1990s, following a number of international conferences on the theme of Nazi looting of art works, the issue regained prominence and requests were made for art works to be returned, including by museums. This led to a resolution being adopted by the Council of Europe in 1999; and some countries passed new laws or issued directives for museums on the identification and return of art works stolen during the Second World War.

Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets
Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, released in connection with the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, Washington, D.C., December 3, 1998.

Council of Europe
Resolution 1205 (1999)1. Looted Jewish Cultural Property / Parliamentary Assembly. (Extract from the Official Gazette of the Council of Europe, November 1999).
Text adopted on 4 November 1999 by the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of the Assembly.

Federal law of 4 December 1998 concerning the return of works of art from Austrian federal museums and collections. In: "Federal Law Gazette" 1998/I/181.

Czech Republic
Law No. 212/2000. Act of 23 June 2000 to mitigate certain property-related injustices caused by the Holocaust and to amend Act No. 243/1992, to regulate certain issues relating to Act No. 229/1991 regarding the ownership of land and other agricultural property as amended by Act No. 92/199.

Recommandations de la mission Mattéoli concernant la restitution des oeuvres d'art spoliées
. (Recommendations of the Mattéoli Mission concerning the restitution of looted works of art). Available only in French.

Statement by the Federal Government, the Länder (Federal States) and the national associations of local authorities on the tracing and return of Nazi-confiscated art, especially Jewish property of 14 December 1999.

Netherlands (The)
The Netherlands Advisory Committee on the assessment of restitution applications for items of cultural value and Second World War, known as the Restitutions Committee, was set up by Decree of the State Secretary for the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCenW) dated 16 November 2001 for a period of three years. Under this Decree, the Restitutions Committee has been given the task of providing the State Secretary for OCenW with independent advice in respect of individual applications for the restitution of items of cultural value that the owner involuntarily lost possession of, due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime.
Both the 2002 and 2003 reports are available on line at:

Russia (Federation of)
Russian Federal Law on Cultural Valuables Displaced to the U.S.S.R. as a Result of World War II and Located in the Territory of the Russian Federation. Federal Law N 64-FZ of April 15, 1998.

United Kingdom
Spoliation of Works of Art During the Holocaust and World War II Period. Progress report on UK Museums' Provenance Research for the Period 1933-1945: Statement of Principles and Proposed Actions : In June 1998 the National Museum Directors' Conference (NMDC) established a working group to examine the issues surrounding the spoliation of art during the Holocaust and World War II period and drew up a statement of principles and proposed actions for member institutions. The statement was adopted by the NMDC in November 1998 and presented to the Washington Conference on Holocaust Assets in December 1998.

United States of America
Guidelines Concerning the Unlawful Appropriation of Objects During the Nazi Era. American Association of Museums. Washington, DC : AAM, 1999. 5 p. (approved by AAM and AAM/ICOM in November 1999)
Association of Art Museum Directors. Taskforce on the Spoliation of Art During the Nazi/World War II Era (1933-45): Statement of Principles and Guidelines.

Databases on Art Looted from Jewish Owners

The Art Loss Register is a private database of stolen art and antiquities. It includes works of art looted during World War II which are identified separately. The Art Loss Register "is committed to working with the Commission for Art Recovery of the World Jewish Congress and the New York State Banking Department Holocaust Claims Processing Office in order to build a database as comprehensive as possible of Holocaust and World War II art losses". Claimants are able to register a wartime theft at no charge, but there is a fee to search the database.
Email -

The Museum Provenance List is a compilation of museums that have listed works of art in their collections of uncertain or dubious provenance (between 1933 and 1945). This website attempts to list the artworks in one place in so that claimants do not have to search through several different websites. It is necessary to subscribe.
Email -

The Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP) was founded under the auspices of the Klutznick National Jewish Museum and is located within the museum in Washington DC. It aims to document cultural losses during the Holocaust and to establish a website database, but this has yet to be set up.

Czech Republic. Restitution-Art, database of Works of Art from the Property of Victims of the Holocaust. Created by the Czech Ministry of Culture and the Moravian Museum. It does not provide photographs of the works of art. Searches are carried out by title, artist or the name of the current owner, which can be the museum housing the work.

France. Musées Nationaux Récupération (MNR). The Direction des musées de France has created a database of the 2000 art works classified as MNR (national museums recovery programme) which have been stored in national museums, provincial museums and the Mobilier national (national furniture collection) since 1949. A catalogue of these works, consisting of descriptions of each art work accompanied by illustrations, has been accessible on line since November 1996.

France. Schloss Collection. Non Restituted Works Looted 1943-1998. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published on its website the catalogue of Dutch and Flemish art stolen from Adolphe Schloss' collection during World War II. Adolphe Schloss was an internationally renowned art collector with one of the last great collections of Dutch art in 19th century France. The online catalogue only lists the works not restituted by July 1st 1997. The research may be made on the whole collection and by the name of painters.

Germany. Lost Art Internet Database. This is a project of the Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste, Germany’s central office for the documentation of lost cultural property set up jointly by the German Government and the Länder. The Lost Art Database registers cultural objects which as a result of persecution under the Nazi dictatorship and/or the Second World War were relocated, moved or seized, especially from Jewish owners. Documentation includes search reports of lost cultural assets by institutions and private persons as well as found–object reports from German and international institutions and private persons.

Germany. Looted Art - First Internet Research Catalogue (Saxony-Anhalt). The catalogue lists the losses in museums, archives and libraries. By clicking on the section devoted to museums you obtain a list of works looted from the museums of the region of Saxony-Anhalt.

Hungary. A database of World War II losses was set up at the Hungarian National Gallery of Budapest following the decision of the Hungarian Restitution Committee in 1992. The objectives are to describe artworks lost between 1938 and 1945, as well as artworks smuggled out of Hungary between 1945 and 1949. The estimated number of references to lost artworks is about 3 million, of which 170,000 have already been entered into the database. The data is stored on CDs.
Contact: Laszlo Mrávol, Art Historian - Magyar Nemzeti Galéria - Budavári Palota, P.O. Box 31, 1250 Budapest, Hungary.
Tel. (36 1) 375 7533. Fax (36 1) 375 8898.

Italy. Art Treasures Removed from Italy during the War Period, 1940-1945. In October 1995, the Italian Government supervised the publication of a catalogue entitled Treasures Untraced - An Inventory of the Italian Treasures Lost during the Second World War, available in Italian, English and German. This catalogue lists over 2,500 objects and has been put online on the website of the International Commission for Art Works. It includes two sections: Treasures Untraced / Treasures Retraced.

Poland. Wartime Losses: Polish Paintings. The electronic version of the catalogue has been made possible through the generosity of the Polish American Congress. It is the first of a planned series of catalogues. It comprises 440 oil and pastel paintings, watercolours from the 17th to the 20th century. It provides an index of painters and an index of owners.

United Kingdom. UK Museums' Provenance Research. It provides a list of works with incomplete provenance in national and non-national museums and galleries.

United Kingdom. The Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945 provides a comprehensive website containing internationally available information on cultural property looted between 1933-1945. The website includes a unique database of looted objects and of objects under investigation in museums throughout the world. Other information, such as government reports, claimant information, and research resources is available and organised by country.

United States of America. Nazi Era Provenance. The American Association of Museums lists here the websites of museums which in compliance with AAM's guidelines make available to the public a list of works of art in their collections that have gaps in provenance for the period 1933-1945.

Individual Museums Provenance Research Projects

The following museums have implemented provenance research projects for works of art of questionable origin featured in their collections.

The National Gallery of Victoria (Australia)
Part of its online collection has been made public. It has dedicated a web page to its Provenance Research Project, but there is no specific section for works of art of uncertain provenance in the catalogue of the collection online.

Landesmuseum Joanneum (Austria)
Information on the museum's policy concerning restitution of Jewish property.

Gemäldegalerie Berlin (Germany)
The Gemäldegalerie has published the complete catalogue of its reunified collections, a catalogue of artworks lost during the war (Dokumentation der Verluste, 1995) and a catalogue of foreign-owned paintings (Dokumentation des Fremdbesitzes, Verzeichnis in der Galerie eingelargerten Bilder unbekannter Herkunft, 1999). However, these catalogues are not available for consultation on the Internet.
Contact: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Kulturforum im Tiergarten, 10785 Berlin, Germany.
Tel. (49 30) 2662 101. Fax (49 30) 2662 103. Email

US Museums
In compliance with AAM guidelines and with the statement of principles and guidelines of AAMD, ten museums in the country have been working to make Nazi-era provenance information on their collections available to the public and list works that have gaps in provenance for the years 1933-1945. These are: Art Institute of Chicago, Cleveland Museum of Art, Harvard University Art Museums, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, National Gallery of Art, Seattle Art Museum.


Additional Sources of Information and Contacts

The following institutions are currently working on the topic and can provide further information or assistance.

Commission for Looted Art in Europe (ECLA)
Catherine House, 76 Gloucester Place,
London, England W1U 6HJ, United Kingdom.
Tel. (44 20) 7487 3401. Fax (44 20) 7487 4211.
ECLA is an expert organisation which assists claimants to locate looted art and pursues claims on their behalf.

Bundesdenkmalamt - Abteilung für Museen und Bibliotheken, Sicherheit
Hofburg, Säulenstiege, A-1010 Wien.
Tel. (43 1) 53415-273, 53415-217. Fax (43 1) 53415-252.

Österreichische Historikerkommission
Nottendorfer Gasse 2, A-1030 Wien.
Tel. (43 1) 79540 180. Fax (43 1) 79540 186.
Email (information also available in English)

Commission d'étude sur le sort des biens des membres de la communauté juive de Belgique spoliés ou délaissés pendant la guerre 1940-1945.
Boulevard Bischoffsheim, 38, 1000 Brussels.
Tel. (32 2) 214 0910. Fax (32 2) 214 0911.

Commission pour l'indemnisation des victimes de spoliation intervenues du fait des législations antisémites en vigueur pendant l'Occupation (CIVS)
1, rue de la Manutention, 75116 Paris.
Tel. (33 1) 5652 8500. Fax (33 1) 5652 8773.

The Mattéoli Commission

Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für Angelegenheiten der Kultur und der Medien Referat K 13, Rückführung von Kulturgut
Graurheindorfer Strasse 198, D-53117 Bonn.
Tel. (49 1888) 681-0. Fax (49 1888) 681-3821.

Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste Eine Einrichtung des Bundes und der Länder beim Kultusministerium des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt
Turmschanzenstr. 32 D- 39114 Magdeburg
Tel. (49) (0)391 567 3891 Fax (49) (0)391 567 3899

Cultural Heritage Directorate
Hungarian Art Restitution Project
1053 Budapest, Magyar u. 40, 1461 Budapest Pf. 211.
Tel. 266 0027. Fax 327 7702.

Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Remembrance Authority
P.O.B. 3477, Jerusalem 91034.
Tel. 02 644 3400. Fax 02 644 3443.

Commissione Interministeriale per le Opere d'Arte
Via degli Astalli 3/A, 00186 Roma.
Tel. (39 06) 679 2871. Fax (39 06) 679 2880.

International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes
Gedemino ave. 11, Vilnius 2039.
Tel. (370 2) 66 38 04. Fax (370 2) 66 38 05.

Inspectie Cultuurbezit / Cultural Heritage Inspectorate
Prinsessegracht 31, 2514 AP Den Haag.
Tel. (31 70) 302 8120. Fax (31 70) 365 1914.

Nederlands Kunstbezit collection
Origins Unknown
Prins Willem Alexanderhof 20
NL-2595 DE Den Haag
Tel. (31 70) 3028120 Fax (31 70) 3651914

Commission indépendante d'Experts - Suisse - Seconde Guerre mondiale
Esther Tisa, Postfach 259, CH-3000 Bern 6.
Tel. 31 325 1195. Fax 31 325 1238

Office fédéral de la culture, Bureau de l'art spolié
Hallwylstrasse 15, CH-3003 Bern.
Tel. (41 31) 322 0325. Fax (41 31) 322 9273.

United Kingdom
Spoliation Advisory Panel c/o Department for Culture, Media and Sport
204 Cockspur Street, London, England SW1Y 5DH.
Tel. (44 20) 7211 6200.

Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945
76 Gloucester Place London, England W1U 6HJ.
Tel. (44 20) 7487 3401. Fax: +44 (0)20 7487 4211.

United States of America
Association of Art Museum Directors
41 East 65th Street New York, NY, 10021
Tel. (1 212) 249 4423. Fax (1 212) 535 5039.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW, Washington, DC 20024-2150.
Tel. (1 202) 479 9732. Fax (1 202) 488 2693.

Holocaust Claims Processing Office of the New York State Banking Department
One State Street, New York, NY 10004-1417.
Tel. (1 212) 709 5583. Fax (1 212) 709 5592. (800) 695-3318 (U.S. toll-free)

The Project for the Documentation of Wartime Cultural Losses (Cultural Property Research Foundation)
CPRF is a non-profit organisation based in New York. The Project "has been formed to gather and make available information relating to works of art, archives, and other types of cultural property displaced as a consequence of war. The main focus of the research is the period of World War II although other conflicts are also considered relevant".

Commission for Art Recovery. World Jewish Congress
767 Fifth Avenue, Suite 4600, New York, NY 10153.

State Department Information. Holocaust issues

US National Archives and Records Administration
Holocaust-Era Assets: Records and Research at the NARA


International Conferences

Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (1951)
The Claims Conference has had several primary missions, in particularly to recover unclaimed Jewish property.

International Scientific Conference on Restitution of Cultural Values: the Problems of Return and Joint Use (Legal, Scientific and Moral Aspects), Minsk, Belarus, (19-20 June 1997).
This conference was attended by delegates from seven countries (Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom). It focused mainly on the issue of looting as it related to Russia and the other CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries. The conference produced a final declaration calling on the CIS countries in particular to strengthen legislation and create the requisite institutions to deal with this question.

Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets (30 November-3 December 1998)
International Conference on the spoliation of Jewish property during World War II. Eleven "Principles With Respect to Nazi-Confiscated Art" have been adopted. The proceedings are available on:
Or order from: U.S. Government Printing Office (Prix : US$61.00).
Tel. (1 202) 512 1800. Fax (1 202) 512 2250)/

Vilnius International Forum on Holocaust Era Looted Cultural Assets (3-5 October 2000)
Proceedings are available for consultation on Internet:
For more information, contact: International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania
Gedemino ave. 11, Vilnius 2039, Lithuania.
Tel. (370 2) 66 38 04. Fax (370 2) 66 38 05.


Other links

The Museum Security Network Mailing List has created a page dedicated to World War II and the looted art problem.

The Getty Research Library holds documents relevant to spoliation of art during World War II. It has put its resources on Nazi-era assets on the Web:

The Art Institute of Chicago's Ryerson Library has compiled a bibliography and list of websites related to the search and recovery of lost European works of art.

The University of Chicago Library presents a bibliography on: Law-Related Resources on Nazi Gold and Other Holocaust Assets, Swiss Banks during World War II, and Dormant Accounts.

The Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal Project
The Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal provides a searchable registry of objects in U.S. museum collections that changed hands in Continental Europe during the Nazi era (1933-1945).

An abridged version has been published in: ICOM News, Vol. 54, No. 4, 2001. © ICOM

Updated: 10 May 2007