Image taken from the record relating to 'Portrait of a Youth' by Raphael Santi from the Czartoryski Museum in Cracow (FO 371/53105/19)

09 May 2013

Members of the Nazi-era cultural property project met yesterday at The National Archives, Kew, to report on progress of the online international research portal for families, historians and researchers to access records on looted art from the Nazi era.

Two years after the signing of a global agreement in Washington D.C. to widen public access to all records related to looted cultural artefacts from the Nazi era, the project has gained momentum with an additional six international cultural organisations joining and access provided to a larger number and range of newly digitised documents.

Anne Webber, Co-Chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, said: 'This new collaboration of 22 institutions across Europe, Israel and the USA in this global international project demonstrates an appreciation of the huge role of the Portal can play for claimants and researchers all over the world. The extended range of participants means that the scope of materials has expanded exponentially, now including auction and dealer records, and post-war claims. These new developments will be of immense help for claimants in identifying and recovering their missing property.'

Access to new material

The National Archives has completed a description and digitisation project which provides access to over 4,350 searchable items on Nazi-era cultural property, in partnership with the Commission for Looted Art in Europe.

Oliver Morley, Chief Executive and Keeper of The National Archives, said: 'We are delighted to have completed the digitisation and linking of all archival looted art records held by The National Archives. These records complement the extensive range of material made accessible through the portal, helping people to uncover the rightful origins of many more looted artefacts.'

The records, from a number of government departments including the Foreign Office and the Treasury, date from 1939 to 1961 and include seizure orders, inventories and images of looted works of art, as well as field reports and claim forms for seized property. They also include interrogation reports of art dealers and reports of the transfer of looted artworks to neutral countries. All the original UK government files have been newly scanned in colour and are searchable by name, place, subject and date.

Highlights from the files digitised by The National Archives include:

  • Record relating to the famous 'Portrait of a Youth' by Raphael Santi from the Czartoryski Museum in Cracow (FO 371/53105/19)
  • Telegram from the British High Commissioner in Rome, dated September 1944, states that the Petacci sisters (Mussolini's mistresses) and their brother have arrived in Spain under a false name and are said to be carrying jewels and valuables (FO 371/40996/30 & FO 371/40997/16)
  • List of stolen works of art from France, dated 4 April 1947. The list contains the names of approximately 50 artists (which include Van Gogh, Tiepolo, Titian, Monet, Goya, Vermeer and Renoir), details of the stolen works as well as the owners of the works (FO 371/65055/4)
  • Correspondence relating to a snuff box of Frederick the Great in the possession of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, dated June 1951 (FO 371/94079/1)

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