How to look for records of... Looted art 1939-1961

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Commission for Looted Art in Europe

What are these records?

These are records which show the systematic looting of works of art and cultural property throughout Europe by Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945. They have been identified, described and introduced by the Commission for Looted Art in Europe in partnership with The National Archives.

The records also show British and Allied efforts to prevent the looting and to retrieve and return the property to its rightful owners both during and after the Second World War.

The selected records are drawn from 900 files at The National Archives, from a variety of government departments and officials, spanning the period from 1939 to 1961.

The Introduction provides an overview and a description of the topics covered by the records. These include wartime and post-war policies on restitution and specific cases of looted property.

We have digitised these records as part of the International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property. You can use the portal to navigate to the websites of the institutions that are participating in the project.

Special thanks go to the Commission’s team of historians including Diane Boucher, Bianca Gaudenzi, Mary-Ann Middelkoop, Toby Simpson and Hester Vaizey.

What information do the records contain?

The documents provide detailed information on

  • the processes of Nazi looting
  • disposal of the seized works of art by the Nazis
  • whether the art was recovered and where it was returned after the end of the war

The works of art and cultural property were taken from both private and public collections, and included a broad range of objects:

  • paintings and drawings
  • books and libraries
  • antiquities
  • archives and historic documents
  • furniture
  • precious works of gold and silver
  • religious artefacts
  • sculpture and statuary

The records can also shed light on the development and implementation of Allied restitution policies and practices including:

  • the issuing of the 1943 Inter-Allied Declaration against Acts of Dispossession committed in Territories under Enemy Occupation and Control
  • the creation of restitution commissions
  • the negotiation of policies to document and remedy Nazi looting

This is an ongoing process today.

How do I search the records?

You can search and download the records in Discovery (£) by using the search box below.

You can refine your results by using the filters on the left-hand side of the search results page but if you wish to change your search term you should use the search box below.

Read our guide to useful search terms for finding records relating to Nazi-era cultural property by clicking on the link below.

Guide to useful search terms (PDF, 0.04MB)

Date (YYYY):

What do the records look like?

The files are made up from a wide range of material such as:

  • correspondence
  • telegrams
  • written records of conversations
  • field reports
  • minutes and agendas of meetings
  • press articles
  • texts of Parliamentary questions
  • investigations of monuments and historic buildings
  • forms for the restitution of claimed property
  • inventories of looted works of art

Photographs of looted artworks can also occasionally be found.

Many of the records contain acronyms. See our guide (below) for definitions of some of the acronyms found in the records.

Guide to useful acronyms (PDF, 0.06MB)