How to Use the Database
The ERR database documents art objects that were plundered by agents of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) in German-occupied France and Belgium. These objects were processed through the Jeu de Paume between late 1940 and August 1944. The database is a repository of historical and visual information concerning these objects that has been extracted from many different archival sources.
The working document for the database is a card typed by ERR staff either in Brussels, Belgium (AGB), at the Jeu de Paume/Louvre complex, in Paris (AGL); Fussen, in Germany (AGF); or Schloss Kogl, in Austria (AGK). The card contains a description of the object and an alpha-numeric code assigned by ERR personnel, one or more letters 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 projected disposition of the object.
The descriptive information regarding each object appears in German and, occasionally, in French and English
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. This information has been extracted from documents retrieved from French and German archives.
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 or decorative objects 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 at the time of their confiscation by the ERR. 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 by Allied cultural officers in Munich, Germany, 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 Old Master paintings like Schloss, Hamburger (HAM), and Neumann (NEUM). Collections in this database contain anywhere from a handful of objects to close to five thousand.
If you decide to search by artist, you will discover some notable absences—there are a handful of works by leading American artists like Whistler and Mary Cassatt, British artists are better represented most notably by Gainsborough and Reynolds but also John Opie and other early 20th century British artists. The database is an accurate reflection of the prevailing tastes of art lovers and specialists in Western Europe. Many works by artists from Central and Eastern Europe do not have identifiable owners because they came from Belgian and Dutch storage sites and were transferred for processing to Neuwied in Germany. 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 who were very much a part of the vibrant cultural scene in Paris.
There are also collections in the database that belonged to artists-the Russian-born Alexandra Pregel also known as Auxente or Avxente (Aux), the sculptor Naum Aronson (Aro), the art critic Michel Georges-Michel (M.G.M.), the graphic artist and painter, Eugen Spiro (SPIRO), to name a few.
The ERR database includes the looted collections of celebrated art dealers—among them Georges Wildenstein (W), Alphonse Kann (Ka), Paul Rosenberg (P.R., Rosenberg Paris, and Rosenberg Bernstein), the Seligmann family (SEL), Bernheim-Jeune (Bern), Bacri (Bac), the Ball brothers (BAL), and many others. Some of these dealers 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 owners that sheds 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 should take responsibility for the actual, physical return or restitution of the claimed object to the rightful owner(s). 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) in Germany and the US Allied Command Austria (USACA), processed these items, assigned sequential numbers to the objects as they entered the collection points, and shipped them back to their countries of origin by train or by truck. The most important collecting point for art objects processed by the ERR in the Jeu de Paume was located in the former administrative offices of Adolf Hitler at the Fuhrerbau 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 included in the object dataset where available.
As a matter of record, 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. Postwar notations in German documents from the Koblenz archives provide important information on the repatriation of looted objects to their countries of origin. Documents which attest to restitution of looted art in France are located in the so-called Fonds Rose Valland at the Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which are located at La Courneuve, north of Paris.
Many objects which were removed from Belgium by the German authorities and transferred to the Jeu de Paume were repatriated first to France before being shipped to Belgium. However, there were a significant number of repatriations directly to Belgium from post-war Germany.
Occasionally, a Linz number was assigned to a looted object when that object was designated as part of Adolf Hitler’s private collection earmarked for the future Linz Museum. The salt mines of Alt-Aussee in Austria were designated as a major repository of looted collections in Austria. Looted objects stored therein were assigned an Aussee number.
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 57 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 18 matches. Click "yes" for "restituted" and you will obtain 12 matches. In other words, you will retrieve 12 unsigned framed paintings by Picasso which were restituted, to Alphonse Kann (10) and to Paul Rosenberg (2).
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 July 1940 and August 1944 will pertain to the German Embassy in Paris, the Louvre, 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 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 (Alt-Aussee), 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 eleven items. If you enter the same string in "Any field", you will obtain 15 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 were marked "vernichtet" because of the objectionable nature of their theme or the artist who produced them or both. 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 at the Jeu de Paume 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.
This page last updated 2015-12-11