Together, We Can Turn Lost into Found

Written on: May 5, 2011 | 1 Comment

Artwork, silver, books, religious objects, antiquities, archival documents, and carvings. These are just a few of the types of cultural property that were stolen, looted, seized, forcibly sold, or otherwise lost to the Nazis beginning in the 1930s and continuing through World War II. After the war, documents about this cultural property were scattered across Europe and the United States. Families and researchers have often found it a difficult and expensive challenge to find the records. The 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, the 2000 Vilnius Forum Declaration and the 2009 Terezin Declaration called on the international community to provide greater archival access to these records.

Today, colleagues from five other national archives as well as five national and international research organizations joined me at the National Archives to launch a new international research portal for records related to Nazi-era cultural property.  These archival institutions, along with expert national and international organizations, are working together to extend public access to the widely-dispersed records through a single internet portal, which provides access to descriptions and digitized copies of over 2.4 million records by linking researchers to the search interfaces of each participating organization. The portal will enable families to research their losses, provenance researchers to locate important documentation, and historians to study newly accessible materials on the history of this period.

Signers of the International Research Portal For Records Relating to Nazi-era Cultural Property

(from Left to Right) Anne Webber (Commission for Looted Art in Europe/Co-Chair), David S. Ferriero (The National Archives of the United States/Archivist of the United States), Oliver Morley (The National Archives of the United Kingdom/Chief Executive Officer and Keeper of the Public Record), Hans-Dieter Kreikamp (The Federal Archives of Germany/Leiter der Abteilung “Deutsches Reich”), Karel Velle (State Archives in Belgium/National Archivist of Belgium), Frederic Du Laurens (Archives Department, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (France)/Director), Sam Norich (The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany/Chairman of Looted Art and Cultural Property Committee of Board of Directors), Michael Grunberger (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum/Director, Collections).

 

David Ferriero signs the Arrangement for Participation

View the signed International Research Portal for Records Relating to Nazi-era Cultural Property.

 

Property Card for The Conquering of Paris by Henry IV by artist Rubens.  National Archives Identifier 2431627

The launch of the portal will be followed by a conference held May 6th and 7th on World War II provenance research that is sponsored by the American Associate of Museums, the U.S. National Archives, the American Associate of Art Museum Directors, and the Smithsonian Institution, with addition support from the Kress Foundation.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander … inspects art treasures stolen by Germans and hidden in salt mine in Germany., 04/12/1945.  National Archives Identifier 531272

It is in pursuing these kinds of collaborative projects with our colleagues from around the globe that we, as the keepers of history, ensure access to that history. Working together, we can make a real difference in the lives of people not only in the United States, but around the world.

For more information:

Project Participants:

  • The Bundesarchiv
  • The National Archives of the United Kingdom
  • The French Diplomatic Archive Center of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs
  • The Central State Archive of Supreme Bodies of Power and Government of Ukraine
  • The State Archives of Belgium
  • The Commission on Looted Art in Europe
  • The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (The Claims Conference)
  • The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • The Deutshces Historisches Museum
  • Mémorial de la Shoah
  • The National Archives of the United States

One Response to “Together, We Can Turn Lost into Found”

  1. Nadia Nasr said:

    Wow, what a great project! I was wondering if there are future plans to expand project participation. My library is custodian of books that were donated by the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction Inc., and we would be interested in sharing our holdings with the portal.

    Thanks!


    (May 11, 2011 at 3:51 pm)