How to Use the Database
The database documents the plundered art objects that came into the hands of the ERR in German-occupied France and Belgium which were processed through the Jeu de Paume between late 1940 and August 1944. It is a repository of historical and visual information concerning these objects that has been extracted from three different archival sources.
The working document for the database is the card typed by ERR staff either at the Jeu de Paume, in Paris (AGL); Fussen, in Germany (AGF); or Schloss Kogl, in Austria (AGK). The card contains a brief or detailed description of the object and an alpha-numeric code assigned by ERR personnel, a set of initials followed by a number. In many cases the card also includes the pre-1940 provenance of the object, the date at which it was inventoried and the disposition of the object.
Since the ERR card was produced in German, the basic descriptive information regarding each object appears in German and, occasionally, in French.
The database also contains historical information about the spatial distribution of the looted objects—the various sites to which they were shipped either for storage or incorporation into private or Reich collections, from the point of confiscation to the location of the object, if known, in the immediate postwar period.
The database is articulated around the looted object, the artist or creator of the object, the medium or category of the object, the historical period during which it was produced, its persecuted owner, and the plundered collection from which it came.
In order to become familiar with the database, the user may wish to focus on specific collections by clicking on the acronym assigned by the ERR to a specific collection (like R for Rothschild, Bc for Bacri, Aro for Aronson, etc…).
You can then combine a search on a collection acronym with the medium of the object. This will allow you, for example, to retrieve all paintings in a given collection.
Some collections contain multiple owners. This is due either to complex ownership interests within a family (like SEL for Seligmann or HAL for Halphen, or R for Rothschild) or because many collections that were seized belonged to art dealers who kept many works on consignment that belonged to other individuals. This is especially true for Seligmann, Kronig, and Rosenberg. In the case of the Neuwied collection, which never actually went through the Jeu de Paume, most of the items, probably initially seized by the M-Aktion, were described as seized at the German-Dutch border and processed through a customs house on the Rhine (Neuwied or Neuw/NWD), before being sent to the ERR repository in Kogl. In addition, other objects were confiscated in thousands of apartments during the Möbel-Aktion in France and in Belgium (MA and Belg. MA series).
You will discover that some owners only collected African masks like MAY (Mayr), or focused their attention mostly on classical and medieval objects like Bacri (Bc) and Ball (BAL). There are many collections in this database that contain fewer than 10 objects, but the majority of objects in the database are concentrated in a dozen collections out of more than 250.
If you decide to search by artist, you will discover some notable absences—there are no American artists like Whistler or Sargent, very few British artists, and works by iconic Austrian artists are either non-existent (Egon Schiele) or there are a handful (Gustav Klimt). The database is an accurate reflection of the prevailing tastes of art lovers and specialists in Western Europe. Most of the works by artists from Central and Eastern Europe do not have identifiable owners. You will also discover the peculiar and not uninteresting tastes of highly sophisticated families like the Rothschilds who collected everything from Vermeer’s Astronomer (R 1) to works by artists who have, for the most part, disappeared into the dustbin of art history but were part of the vibrant cultural scene in Paris.
There are also collections in the database that belonged to artists such as Alexandra Pregel also known as Auxente (Aux), the sculptor Naum Aronson (Aro), the art critic Michel Georges-Michel (M.G.M.), the graphic artist and painter, Eugen Spiro (SPIRO), and many others.
The ERR database includes the looted collections of celebrated art dealers who redefined the landscape of ownership of 19th and 20th century works—Georges Wildenstein (W), Alphonse Kann (Ka), Paul Rosenberg (P.R., Rosenberg Paris, and Rosenberg Bernstein). They not only owned but also financed the artistic careers of the icons of French Impressionism, Expressionism, and Cubism, whose works can now be found in the most famous private and public collections the world over.
Advanced searches can include the name of the artist or craftsman, the medium in which he or she worked, subject matter (for instance, landscape—Landschaft), by period or style (Deutsch/German), as well as by century (17.Jhdt.—17th century).
The ERR database provides supplementary historical information on the looted objects and their spoliated owners that sheds some light on the wartime path of the looted objects, the locations through which these works transited, and their postwar fate—whether or not the victorious western Allied powers recovered them and took the necessary steps to repatriate them to the countries from which they had come in the hope that they would be restituted to their rightful owners.
The database differentiates between repatriation and restitution because the two are fundamentally different. Allied postwar policy regarding stolen property supported the concept of restitution to the rightful owners but preferred that the governments of nations where the thefts had occurred implement restitution proceedings. The Allies, most notably the Americans, oversaw the repatriation of misappropriated objects to the countries of origin. Those looted objects which were found in hundreds of hiding places and depots across Germany and Austria were assembled in a number of so-called collecting points. There, specialized personnel directed by Museum, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) officers under the United States Office of Military Government (OMGUS), processed these items, assigned them sequential numbers as they were received in the collection points, and shipped them back to their countries of origin by train. The most important collecting point for art objects processed by the ERR in the Jeu de Paume was located in Munich – the Munich Central Collecting Point (MCCP). Most of the items in the ERR database that were recovered by American forces and sent to Munich for processing were assigned a so-called Munich number which is displayed as part of the object dataset where available.
Users of the ERR database should be mindful of this distinction between repatriation and restitution. A repatriated object may or may not also be a restituted object. The database will indicate if objects were repatriated. However, it will not indicate that an object has been restituted unless there exists firm documentation to that effect. The vast majority of those documents are held by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, France. Access to those records has been limited, which explains why few objects in the ERR database are marked as restituted even if they have been repatriated to France or to Belgium.
On a side note, most objects which were taken out of Belgium by the German authorities and transferred to the Jeu de Paume were repatriated first to France before being shipped to Belgium.
There are also Linz numbers assigned to the looted object when that object was designated as part of Adolf Hitler’s future Linz Museum. On occasion, there will be an Aussee number assigned to the looted object because the salt mines of Altaussee in Austria were designated as a central repository of looted collections as well as of State collections from Vienna.
The database is equipped with a series of filters that permit the user to refine searches. These filters allow you to determine, where applicable, if objects are framed, signed, slated for destruction, repatriated, and/or restituted.
As you become familiarized with the database, combine medium or artist with one or more filters. For example: Type “Picasso” in the artist field and click on Paintings under Medium. You will receive 51 matches. Turn on the “framed” and “signed” filters and you will obtain 1 match. Click on the item to view details. If you turn off the “signed” filter, you will obtain 17 matches. Click “yes” for “restituted” and you will obtain 9 matches. In other words, you will retrieve 9 unsigned framed paintings by Picasso which were restituted, all of which belong to Alphonse Kann.
The Attributes section of the database includes the following fields:
- Intake date
- Intake place
- Transfer place
- Transfer date
- Repatriated from?
- Repatriation date
- Framed? Yes/No
- Signed? Yes/No
- Slated for destruction? Yes/No
- Munich No.
- Linz No.
- Aussee No.
- Restituted? Yes/No
- Restitution Date
Searching by date
Searching by date can be tedious unless you know when the item entered the Jeu de Paume, or was transferred to an ERR repository, or was repatriated or restituted. As a rule of thumb, any date between 1940 and 1944 will pertain to the Jeu de Paume, ERR repositories, exchanges, M-Aktion, and possible destruction. From 1945 on, your query will focus on repatriation and restitution.
The date format in the Attributes Section is: year-month-date (yyyy-mm-dd)
For wartime searches, narrow your queries by using year and month since, in a number of instances, there are no exact dates at which inventories were taken at the Jeu de Paume.
Example: Type 1944-04-00 for April 1944 and you will retrieve over 90 items.
Delimit your query by selecting a medium. Click on “paintings” and you will generate a list of 18 paintings that were inventoried by the ERR staff at the Jeu de Paume in April 1944.
Use filters to refine your search. You will find out very quickly whether or not any of the 18 paintings that were inventoried in April 1944 were repatriated and/or restituted, of if they were framed or signed.
Searching by ERR repository (Kogl, Fussen, Neuschwanstein, Lager Peter, Herrenchiemsee, Seissenegg, Nikolsburg, Buxheim)
If you wish to obtain a list of items which were sent to a specific ERR repository on a particular date, you will need a complete date for that search. In order to familiarize yourself with the dates of transfer to ERR repositories, type either 1943 or 1944 in “Any field” [these are years for which, at present, we entered transfer dates into the database], then click on a medium. You will obtain a lengthy list of items. Click on any of the items and you will obtain an exact date of transfer. Resume the search using that date and you should be able to retrieve only those items transferred on that date to a particular repository.
Otherwise, use “Any field” for items shipped to various ERR repositories. It is advisable to combine your search with a medium (Paintings, Works on Paper, etc.). This will help you identify collections, artists, owners, and transfer dates.
You can search for items using measurements either through “Any field” or through the “Description” field.
When entering a measurement, be mindful that the database does not recognize periods and commas. But it does recognize the multiplication sign and double quotation marks.
Type “55 x 45” in the “Description” field including the quotation marks. You will obtain six items. If you enter the same string in “Any field”, you will obtain 10 matches.
Use the “any field” to complement your queries with additional terms or dates. Information entered as “attributes” in the database can only be searched through the “any field”.
For example: Select “Ka” [Kann] in the ERR collection field, “works on paper” in the “medium” field, and “Nikolsburg” in “Any field”, You will obtain a list of all works on paper from the Kann collection which were shipped to Nikolsburg.
“vernichtet” or “slated for destruction”
Users are able to search for objects that were slated for destruction because of the objectionable nature of their theme or the artist who produced them or both (some such cards were marked “vernichtet”). You can refine your query by selecting a medium (paintings, works on paper, etc.).
“Returned to M. A. for sale”
Type “returned to M. A. for sale” or any part of that expression in the “Provenance and Comments” field and you will obtain a list of objects set aside to be sold on the art market (cards marked “zum Verkauf”) through the section responsible for the so-called Möbel-Aktion or M-Aktion or M.A. You can refine your query by selecting a medium (paintings, works on paper, etc.).
“Considered for exchange”
Type “considered for exchange” or “exchange” in the “Provenance and Comments” field and you will obtain a list of works of art exchanged by the ERR staff with art dealers as “payment-in-kind” for works of art desired by Hermann Goering and other Nazi dignitaries for their collections or that were considered for exchange (so-called “Tausch” or “Tauschbild”) so that Nazi dignitaries could acquire other works more suitable for incorporation into their private collections or those designated for the Reich.