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Additional Documents relating to Hildebrand Gurlitt found in the Records of the Office of Military Government for Bavaria

by on March 20, 2014


Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.

Recently, I found additional documentation regarding Hildebrand Gurlitt and his art treasures that may be of interest to those following the current inquiry in Germany into his art works.  The documents were found in: File 007, Monuments and Fine Arts, General Correspondence of District III (Branch B), 1944-1949, Records of the Field Operations Division, Records of the Office of Military Government, Bavaria, Office of Military Government for Germany (U.S.), Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260.

While the records did not provide new or detailed information regarding Gurlitt’s artworks, they do add to our understanding of the U.S. Army’s dealing with Gurlitt and Karl Haberstock at Aschbach, Germany, during May and June 1945.  This information allowed the assembling of a chronological narrative, which follows, of the events that took place during those months.

During the second week of April 1945, American forces passed through Aschbach, a village in the Upper Franconia region of Bavaria, twenty or so miles southwest of Bamberg and thirty miles east of Wurzburg.  There they probably learned of German art dealers, Karl Haberstock and Hildebrand Gurlitt, were staying in the Aschbach Castle, along with some of their art treasures.

On May 1 Captain Robert K. Posey, Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) Officer, with the G-5 Section, Headquarters, Third U.S. Army, still wrapping up his activities associated with the contents of Merkers Mine, reported that German art dealers Haberstock and Gurlitt had been located and would be questioned by the MFA&A subsection.[1]  On May 2 Posey inspected the Aschbach Castle and interrogated Haberstock about his artworks and art dealings. [2]

Posey, on May 4, visited Captain Thomas Giuli, MFA&A Officer with Military Government Detachment FIA3 at Wurzburg, and requested he make an inspection of certain art collections, some of which were outside of Giuli’s area of operation.  Posey told him that other detachments were not then set up to take care of some matters, some of which were urgent.[3]

At some point on May 1st Lt. T. H. Murphy, Property Control and Arts and Monuments Officer, Military Government Bamberg, Detachment H1B3, visited the Aschbach Castle, and noted that among the valuable art treasures there were those of Hildebrand Gurlitt and Baron von Poellnitz. He also noted that Gurlitt was living in the castle with his art works.  He placed the castle “Off Limits” (signing the signs himself) and ordered an inventory be made of the art works stored there and the inventory be reported through normal channels. [4]

Captain Giuli on May 16 visited the Aschbach Castle, unaware that Aschbach was outside his area of responsibility by a few kilometers. [5]  He reported that present at the castle were the owner (Baron von Poellnitz), son, [and] “Mr. H. Gurlitt dealer from Hamburg with many Nazi-connections.”  Giuli reported that there were: “one large upstairs room with 34 boxes, 2 packages with rugs, 8 packages with books belonging to Mr. H. Gurlitt” and “one downstairs room contains further 13 boxes belonging to Mr. Gurlitt.”  He added that:

 Several sign[s] ‘Off Limit’ were posted on inner and outer doors of the castle and the owner admonished not to have anything removed from his place without special permission by this office. The castle had been previously visited by Capt. Posey, who has left a[n] “Off Limits” sing (sic). Up to now there has been no occupation by American troops of the place and no damage done. [6]

Two days later Giuli inspected Castle Aschbach, and it was reported that:

 c. Questionable Collections: In addition to the collections of private and public art treasures, the castle was found to contain certain rooms containing paintings, tapestries, statues, valuable furniture and records belonging to two notorious art collectors of Germany. Superficial inspection showed:

(3) A room on the second floor-34 wooden boxes containing paintings, 2 rugs, and 8 boxes of records, belonging to Mr. H. Gurlitt-art collector.

(4) Another room on the first floor-13 wooden boxes of art objects-also belonging to Mr. Gurlitt.

e. Mr. H. Gurlitt was an art collector from Hamburg with high Nazi-connections. He operated on behalf of other Nazi Officials and made many trips to France bringing back art collections. Mr. Gurlitt also was unable to give an inventory of his claimed possessions.

f. There are strong reasons to believe that these private art collections represent ‘Loot’ from other countries. Therefore this office has taken the following steps.

(1) Taken tem[p]orary possession of the art collections in the care of the U.S. Army.

(2) Posted the rooms ‘Off Limits’ with warning that nothing is to be disturbed or removed.

(3) Assigned Dr. Berger, art historian and fine art adviser in this office to make a complete inventory of all art treasures of wuestionable(sic) ownership.

(4) Made arrangements to have Mr. Haberstock and Mr. Gurlitt who are at present living in the castle, brought in to Wurzburg for questioning.

g. Dr. Berger, estimated the intire(sic) castle to contain 100,000,000 Dollar[s] worth of art treasures.[7]

After talking to his commanding officer, Giuli was instructed to bring Haberstock to Wurzburg. [8] Apparently Gurlitt would be left behind at Aschbach Castle.

Captain Giuli’s daily report for May 19, indicated that Haberstock was brought to Wurzburg from Aschbach and placed in the civilian jail and then turned over to the CIC for questioning.  He reported that an itemized inventory of paintings and other art objects belonging to Gurlitt had been obtained by his office. [9]  Giuli’s daily report of May 20 provided a list of paintings in the possession of Dr. Hans(sic) Gurlitt and then stored in the Aschbach Castle. The list only contained 22 works of art, including those by Corot, Fragonard, Picasso, and Courbet. [10]

When Giuli became aware that Aschbach was outside of his district, he called Posey for his guidance.  Posey approved the action he had taken and informed him that in certain cases MFA&A operations could not be restricted to definite areas and instructed him to continue the Haberstock-Gurlitt investigation. [11]

Meanwhile, 1st Lt. T. H. Murphy visited Baron Poellnitz on May 20 and learned that an inventory had been prepared of the treasures of the castle but that it had been taken into custody by Captain Giuli of the Wurzburg detachment. [12]On May 24, Murphy wrote the Commanding Officer, Detachment F2A3, 3rd Civil Affairs Regiment, to complain about the situation.  He reported the facts regarding what his detachment had done with respect to the castle and learning that Giuli had taken the inventory which had been prepared and that Giuli and Dr. Berger had reinventoried the contents of the castle.  He reported that “Off Limits” signs, signed by Giuli had been placed on the castle, and that the signs he had signed had been removed.  “Due to the circumstances cited above,” he concluded, “I felt it unnecessary to reinventory the art treasures there and request notice as to what authority Capt. Guili (sic) has for operating within our Landkreis.” [13]

On May 25 Giuli called MFA&A, Third U.S. Army to talk to Capt Posey. Posey being absent [he was off to the mines at Alt Aussee and Laufen] he spoke to Lincoln Kirstein, Posey’s assistant, about Haberstock.  Kirstein told him that Lt. George L. Stout, USNR, at Twelfth Army Group was very much interested in Haberstock and suggested that Stout be contacted by phone.  Giuli then called Stout, but he not being available, he spoke to Capt. L. Bancel LaFarge.  Giuli told LaFarge what he knew about Haberstock, and LaFarge instructed him to hold Haberstock until further instruction was received from the Twelfth Army Group. [14]

Prompted to action by Murphy’s May 24 communication, the Executive Officer of Military Government Detachment F2A3, on June 2, wrote Military Government Officer, Detachment F1A3, attaching a copy of the letter, and requesting that all the papers removed by Giuli or by Capt. Schuler of his [Wurzburg] Detachment relating to Aschbach Castle or any of its contents be removed to the Arts and Monuments Officer of Detachment H1B3.  “It is,” he concluded, “also understood that OFF LIMITS signs on the premises will be in the future be as authorized by Det. H1B3.” [15]

On June 4 1st Lt. Dwight McKay, Judge Advocate General Section, Headquarters, Third U. S. Army interviewed Giuli about Haberstock. Giuli turned over to McKay all the records and files which were held in his office in Wurzburg pertaining to Haberstock and released Haberstock from the civilian jail to the custody of McKay. [16]  McKay completed his investigation of Haberstock on June 6 at Wurzburg and took him away.  Dr. Erik Berger, an art historian employed by the Military Government accompanied McKay and Haberstock, to provide his assistance. Giuli reported that day “As far as this office is concerned it has no further responsibility relative to this matter.” [17] On June 8 Giuli, in reporting on the Haberstock matter, noted:

 This office assumes no authority-nor has any interest outside of its area.

It did not remove any signs which were posted on the Castle Aschbach-it simply supplemented those which were posted by Capt. Posey.

It does not further possess any documents and papers which were taken from Aschbach for purpose of evidence, all such records were turned over to Lt. McKay. [18]

Dr. Berger, at Aschbach, on June 8, wrote Captain Giuli at Wurzburg that “the complicated investigations at Aschbach are still going on.” [19]   Indeed they were. On June 8, 9, 10, Lt. McKay, assisted by Dr. Berger, questioned Haberstock and Gurlitt about themselves and their artworks.  On June 10 McKay had Haberstock and Gurlitt sign documents acknowledging their arrests and the freezing of their property at the Aschbach Castle.  He also had Gurlitt sign an oath that all of the information he had provided in a ten-page statement was true and that he had “made a full and complete declaration of all my possessions, property and fortune, especially all paintings, sculptures, pictures and air works.” [20]  McKay also had Haberstock on June 12, at Aschbach, swear to the truthfulness of 120 documents, cards, and photographs, regarding his art works at Aschbach. [21]

Meanwhile, on June 5, a discussion was held with Mrs. Haberstock in a CIC office. She provided information about her husband.  Associated with the report of this discussion is a report on Aschbach castle and Haberstock.  It notes that at the castle was Hildebrand Gurlitt and his paintings and that “His business dealings also brought him in contact with the [Nazi] party but only in a minor capacity.” [22]

On June 9 Headquarters, Detachment F1A3 responded to the June 2 communication from Detachment F2A3, regarding Lt. Murphy’s complaints.  It laid out the chronology of events, from Posey’s visit to the castle on May 4 to June 6, when McKay was given all the records and papers relative to the matter of the art treasures in the castle.  The communication concluded by indicating that the Fine Arts and Monuments Officer of the detachment stated he did not remove any “Off Limits” signs that were at the castle, but merely supplemented those posted by Capt. Posey. [23]

On June 12, the Executive Officer of Military Government Detachment FIA3 sent to the G-5 Section, Third U.S. Army, at its request, a list of the possessions of Gurlitt then at Aschbach Castle. The list consists of 45 boxes and 8 packages. [24]

The following day, June 13, Berger returned to Wurzburg.  He reported that he had worked with McKay, on the questioning, inventorying of transactions, and translating the statements made by Haberstock, Gurlitt, and the von Poellnitz family. He noted that Haberstock and Gurlitt “have been put under house arrest” and both “most probably to go to the saltmines in Aussee, where the paintings of the Fuehrer are kept.” He added that McKay would call at the Wurzburg MFA&A office within the next seven days. [25]

On June 29 Military Government Detachment E1B3 wrote Military Government Detachment F1A3 requesting that all papers taken by Captain Giuli, which still remained in its possession, be forwarded to Military Government Detachment H1B3.  Two weeks later Military Government Detachment F1A3 responded that the Fine Arts and Monuments Officer of the detachment was not in possession of “any papers, records, or other documents” responsive to the request. [26]

On July 31, Captain Giuli made his final report regarding Haberstock and Gurlitt and their art works at Aschbach Castle. He wrote:

 …Lt. McKay of the War Crimes Sect. of the Judge Adv Office Hq Third Army has investigated these two men and has made photostatic records of all their purchases in France, Holland and Belgium from 1940 to present date. These records and other data concerning Aschbach in general are in the War Crimes Office of Third Army HQ….It is understood by this office that the above mentioned dealers are under house-arrest at Aschbach and that the owner Baron Poelnitz (sic) is in jail. [27]


[1] Robert K. Posey, Captain, Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives, G-5 Section, Headquarters, Third U.S. Army to MFA&A, G-5 Section, Headquarters, Twelfth Army Group, Subject: Semi-Monthly Report on Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives for Period Ending 30 April 1945, May 1, 1945, Third U.S. Army Reports – January Thru May 1945, Activity Reports, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 1561462), Record Group 260 (hereafter cited as RG 260). NARA M1941, Roll: 31.

[2] Robert K. Posey, Captain, Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives, G-5 Section, Headquarters, Third U.S. Army to MFA&A, G-5 Section, Headquarters, Twelfth Army Group, Subject: Semi-Monthly Report on Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives for Period Ending 15 May 1945, May 16, 1945, Third U.S. Army Reports – January Thru May 1945, Activity Reports, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 1561462), RG 260, NARA M1941, Roll: 31.

[3] Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[4] [1st Lt. T. H. Murphy, Property Control and Arts and Monuments Officer], Military Government Bamberg, Detachment H1B3, Co. B., 3rd ECA Regiment to Commanding Officer, Det. F2A3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Attn: Fine Arts and Monuments Officer, G-5 Section, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, May 24, 1945, File 007, Monuments and Fine Arts, General Correspondence of District III (Branch B), 1944-1949, Records of the Field Operations Division, Records of the Office of Military Government, Bavaria, RG 260. In a Intra-Office Memo, dated May 20, 1945, it was noted that Murphy had indicated that he had been working at the castle with Hildebrand Gurlitt “and a well known art dealer, listing and cataloging paintings.” ibid.

[5] Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[6] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” May 16, 1945, Annexure 6 to Thomas Giuli, Capt., MFA&A Officer, Headquarters Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Wurzburg, to Commanding General, Third U.S. Army, Attn: Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Officer, G-5 Section, July 31, 1945, July 1945- Monthly Report On Monuments Fine Arts And Archives Eastern Military District — Third United State Army Activity Reports, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 1561462), RG 260. NARA M1941, Roll: 31.

[7] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” May 18, 1945, Annexure 7 to Thomas Giuli, Capt., MFA&A Officer, Headquarters Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Wurzburg, to Commanding General, Third U.S. Army, Attn: Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Officer, G-5 Section, July 31, 1945, July 1945- Monthly Report On Monuments Fine Arts And Archives Eastern Military District — Third United State Army Activity Reports, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 1561462), RG 260. NARA M1941, Roll: 31.

[8] Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[9] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” May 19, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[10] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” May 20, 1945, Annexure 8 to Thomas Giuli, Capt., MFA&A Officer, Headquarters Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Wurzburg, to Commanding General, Third U.S. Army, Attn: Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Officer, G-5 Section, July 31, 1945, July 1945- Monthly Report On Monuments Fine Arts And Archives Eastern Military District — Third United State Activity Reports, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 1561462), RG 260. NARA M1941, Roll: 31.

[11] Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[12] [1st Lt. T. H. Murphy, Property Control and Arts and Monuments Officer], Military Government Bamberg, Detachment H1B3, Co. B., 3rd ECA Regiment to Commanding Officer, Det. F2A3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Attn: Fine Arts and Monuments Officer, G-5 Section, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, May 24, 1945, File 007, Monuments and Fine Arts, General Correspondence of District III (Branch B), 1944-1949, Records of the Field Operations Division, Records of the Office of Military Government, Bavaria, RG 260.

[13] ibid.

[14] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” May 25, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[15] Garrett C. Houman, Major, Executive Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment F2A3, Co. A., 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Officer, Detachment F1A3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 2, 1945, File 007, Monuments and Fine Arts, General Correspondence of District III (Branch B), 1944-1949, Records of the Field Operations Division, Records of the Office of Military Government, Bavaria, RG 260.

[16] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” June 4, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), NARA M1946, Roll 98; Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, ibid.

[17] Excerpts from “Daily Reports,” June 6, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98; Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, ibid.

[18] Thomas Giuli, Captain, MFA&A Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment to Military Government Executive Officer, Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Subject: Report on art at Aschbach, June 8, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[19] Erik Berger, Aschbach to Captain Thomas Giuli, Military Government, Wurzburg, June 8, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[20] The referenced documents can be found at Interrogations: Statements Of Art Dealers, Restitution Research Records, 1945-1950 (National Archives Identifier 3725274), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 134.

[21] The referenced document can be found at Haberstock, Karl: Material Not Used In Linz Report, Restitution Research Records, 1945-1950 (National Archives Identifier 3725274), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 131.

[22] Lt. Frank, Third Army to Capt. Robert K. Posey, MFA&A, third U.S. Army, Discussion with Mrs. Haberstock in the CIC office, June 5, 1945, Haberstock, Karl: Material Not Used In Linz Report, Restitution Research Records, 1945-1950 (National Archives Identifier 3725274), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 131.

[23] R. P. Chestnutt, Major, Executive Officer, Headquarters, Detachment F1A3, 3rd ECA Regiment to Commanding Officer, Detachment F2A3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment, 1st Indorsement, June 9, 1945, File 007, Monuments and Fine Arts, General Correspondence of District III (Branch B), 1944-1949, Records of the Field Operations Division, Records of the Office of Military Government, Bavaria, RG 260.

[24] R. P. Chestnutt, Major, Executive Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment FIA3, 1st Ind., to Commanding General Third U.S. Army, Attn: Maj. Mick G. Williams, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5 Section, June 12, 1945, and undated enclosure entitled Possessions Dr. Hans (sic) Gurlitt, at present Castle Aschbach, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[25] Memorandum, E. B., Subject: Castle Aschbach, June 13, 1945, Repositories, Correspondence: North Bavaria (Aschbach-Aura), Records Relating To The Status Of Monuments, Museums, And Archives, 1945-1949 (National Archives Identifier 3725272), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 98.

[26] James T. Tillinghast, Captain, Executive Officer, Headquarters, Military Government Detachment E1B3, Co. B, 3rd ECA Regiment to Commanding Officer, Detachment F1A3, Co. A, 3rd ECA Regiment, 2nd Indorsement, June 29, 1945; File 007, Monuments and Fine Arts, General Correspondence of District III (Branch B), 1944-1949, Records of the Field Operations Division, Records of the Office of Military Government, Bavaria, RG 260; R. P. Chestnutt, Major, Executive Officer, Headquarters, Detachment F1A3, 3rd ECA Regiment to Commanding Officer, Detachment E1B3, Co. B, 3rd ECA Regiment, 3rd Indorsement, July 9, 1945, ibid.

[27] Thomas Giuli, Capt., MFA&A Officer, Headquarters Detachment FIA3, 3rd ECA Regiment, Wurzburg, to Commanding General, Third U.S. Army, Attn: Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Officer, G-5 Section, July 31, 1945, July 1945- Monthly Report On Monuments Fine Arts And Archives Eastern Military District — Third United State Army Activity Reports, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 1561462), RG 260. NARA M1941, Roll: 31.


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