Looted art

Looted art

Looted art has been a consequence of looting during war, natural disaster and riot for centuries. Looting of art, archaeology and other cultural property may be an opportunistic criminal act, or may be a more organized case of unlawful or unethical pillage by the victor of a conflict.

"Looted art" is a term often reduced to refer to artwork plundered by the Nazis during World War II in Europe. [Chamberlin, E. R. "Loot!: The Heritage of Plunder". New York: Facts on File, 1983] [De Jaeger, Charles. "The Linz File: Hitler's Plunder of Europe's Art". Exeter, England: Webb & Bower, 1981] [Feliciano, Hector. The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World's Greatest Works of Art. New York: BasicBooks, 1997] However, the Nazis were neither the first nor the last to loot art on a large scale. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is on record with the following quote: cquote|"The plunder and looting of art and other treasures was not limited to the Third Reich. ... The SovietAkinsha, Konstantin, et al. "Beautiful Loot: The Soviet Plunder of Europe's Art Treasures". New York: Random House, 1995] and AmericanAlford, Kenneth D. "The Spoils of World War II: The American Military's Role in the Stealing of Europe's Treasures". New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1994] armies also participated, the former more thoroughly and systematically, the latter at the level of individuals stealing for personal gain."United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Looted Art. http://www.ushmm.org/research/library/bibliography/index.php?content=looted_art] The "Herald Times" even claims: "Napoleon was a model for Hitler in terms of art looting." [Herald Times "Napoleon was a model for Hitler in terms of art looting." Herald Times. April 29, 2007, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com] Bloomberg Radio also makes it clear, that many of the worlds greatest artworks were taken from their rightful owners.Martin Gayford. Please May We Have Our Swastika Picture Back? January 17, 2007, Available: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=aDNejfl.zqZQ&refer=home#]

Plunder, booty, appropriation and spoliation are related terms that have been used for several hundred yearsFrancis Lieber, LL.D. Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field. Originally Issued as General Orders No. 100, Adjutant General's Office, 1863, Washington 1898: Government Printing Office. Available: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/lieber.htm] to describe the process of looting. Many references still associate the term looted art with the World War II period, recent legal frameworks and treaties use the term spoliation in connection with the "large number of cultural objects and works of art looted by the Nazis and others during the Second World War and the Holocaust Era from 1933-1945". [Cultural Property Advice. United Kingdom. Looted art 1933-45. Available: http://www.culturalpropertyadvice.gov.uk/public_collections/looted_art] The term "Trophy art" is used for the cultural objects, which were taken by the Red Army and the Soviet Trophy Brigades from occupied Germany to the Soviet Union after World War II. It is a translation from the Russian "Трофейное искусство".

Related terms include art theft (the stealing of valuable artifacts, mostly because of commercial reasons), illicit antiquities (covertly traded antiquities or artifacts of archaeological interest, found in illegal or unregulated excavations), provenance (the origin or source of a piece of art), and art repatriation (the process of returning artworks and antiques to their rightful owners).


Art looting has a long history, the winning party of armed conflicts often plundering the loser, and in the absence of social order, the local population often joining in. The contents of nearly all the tombs of the Pharaohs were already completely looted by grave robbers before the invasion of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE. There have been a total of seven Sackings of Rome. The Old Testament includes several references to looting and to the looting of art and treasures, in the Book of Chronicles it is said that: "King Shishak of Egypt attacked Jerusalem and took away the treasures of the Lord's temple and of the royal palace; he took everything, including the gold shields that Solomon had made", [2 Chronicles. Chapter. 12:9. The NET Bible, New English Translation Bible (1996). Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C.] and in the Book of Jeremiah 15:11 the Lord says: "Jerusalem, I will surely send you away for your own good. I will surely bring the enemy upon you in a time of trouble and distress ... I will give away your wealth and your treasures as plunder. I will give it away free of charge for the sins you have committed throughout your land." [Jeremiah 15:11. The NET Bible, New English Translation Bible (1996). Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C.] Other famous examples include the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, the Sack of Baghdad in 1258, Hernán Cortés and the looting of the Aztec gold. In only some of these was the removal of artworks for their own sake (rather than the value of their materials for example) a primary motivation.

Since the rise of an art market for monumental sculpture, abandoned monuments all over the world have been at risk, notably in Iran, the old territories of Mesoamerican culture and Cambodia. [Mydans, Seth. Raiders of Lost Art Loot Temples in Cambodia. New York Times, April 1, 1999,Section A, Page 4, Column 3, 1152 words]

After the looting of Europe by Napoleon others copied the institutionalized model of systematic plunder and looting. During the American Civil War legal frameworks and guidelines emerged that justified and legalized the plunder and looting of opposing parties and nations. Henry Wager Halleck, a United States Army officer, scholar, and lawyer argued: "No belligerent would be justifiable in destroying temples, tombs, statutes [sic] , paintings, or other works of art (except so far as their destruction may be the accidental or necessary result of military operations.) But, may he not seize and appropriate to his own use such works of genius and taste as belong to the hostile state, and are of a moveable character?". [Halleck. International law, or, Rules regulating the intercourse of states in peace and war. Ch. XIX, Sections 10–11. (1861)]

In July 1862, Francis Lieber, a professor at Columbia College, who had worked with Halleck on guidelines for guerrilla warfare, was asked by Halleck, now General-in-Chief of armies of the Union, to develop a code of conduct for the armed forces. The code of conduct, published as General Orders No. 100 on April 24, 1863, signed by United States President Abraham Lincoln, became later known as the Lieber Code and specifically authorized the Armies of the United States to plunder and loot the enemy - a mindset that Hitler's armies copied one century later. The Lieber Code said in Article 36: "If such works of art, libraries, collections, or instruments belonging to a hostile nation or government, can be removed without injury, the ruler of the conquering state or nation may order them to be seized and removed for the benefit of the said nation. The ultimate ownership is to be settled by the ensuing treaty of peace." [Hartigan, Richard Shelly, ed. Lieber's Code and the Law of War. Chicago: Precedent, 1983.] [Friedman, Leon. The Law of War: A Documentary History. New York: Random House, 1972.] Russian and American forces relied on similar frameworks when they plundered Germany after the defeat of the Nazis.

The Lieber Code further defined the conditions of looting and the relationship between private plunder and booty and institutionalized looting "All captures and booty belong, according to the modern law of war, primarily to the government of the captor." (Article 45), "Neither officers nor soldiers are allowed to make use of their position or power in the hostile country for private gain, not even for commercial transactions otherwise legitimate." (Article 46) and "... [I] f large sums are found upon the persons of prisoners, or in their possession, they shall be taken from them, and the surplus, after providing for their own support, appropriated for the use of the army, under the direction of the commander, unless otherwise ordered by the government." (Article 72)

Looting of countries

Looting of Afghanistan

Many art pieces and artifacts from Afghanistan were looted during several wars, scores of artworks were smuggled to Britain and sold to wealthy collectors. "There are also fears that the bulk of the collection once in Kabul Museum, ... is now in smugglers' or collectors' hands. The most famous exhibits were the Bagram ivories, a series of exquisite Indian panels nearly 2,000 years old, excavated by French archaeologists in the Thirties." [Jason Burke. Looted Afghan art smuggled to London. The Observer. March 11, 2001, Available: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,450009,00.html] In November 2004 much of the missing collection numbering 22,513 items was found safely hidden. Over 200 crates had been moved downtown for storage at the end of the Soviet occupation including the Bactrian gold and Bagram Ivories. [Carlotta Gall. Afghan Artifacts, Feared Lost, Are Discovered Safe in Storage. New York Times. November 18,2004, Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/18/international/middleeast/18afghan.html] Some 228 of these treasures, including pieces of Bactrian Gold and many of the Bagram Ivories were exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC from May 25 to September 7, 2008. [Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul. Available: http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/afghanistaninfo.shtm]

Looting of Cyprus

Following the invasion of Cyprus in 1974 by Turkey, and the occupation of the northern part of the island churches belonging to the Cypriot Orthodox Church have been looted in what is described as "…one of the most systematic examples of the looting of art since World War II". [cite news | first=Chris | last=Morris | coauthors= | title=Shame of Cyprus's looted churches | date=18 January, 2002 | publisher= | url =http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1768274.stm | work =BBC | pages = | accessdate = 2007-01-29 | language = ] Several high profile cases have made headline news on the international scene. Most notable was the case of the Kanakaria mosaics, 6th century AD frescos that were removed from the original church, trafficked to the USA and offered for sale to a museum for the sum of US$20,000,000. [ cite journal|title=Litigators of the lost art - court orders return of Byzantine mosaics to their homeland|journal=Saturday Evening Post|date=Oct, 1989|first=Steve|last=Mannheimer|coauthors=|volume=|issue=|pages=|id= |url=http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1189/is_n7_v261/ai_7980763|format=|accessdate=2007-01-29] These were subsequently recovered by the Orthodox Church following a court case in Indianapolis. [ cite journal|title=Autocephalous Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyrprus v. Goldberg & Feldman Fine Arts, Inc. |journal=The American Journal of International Law|date=Jan 1992|first=Christiane |last=Bourloyannis|coauthors=Virginia Morris|volume=86|issue=1|pages=128–133|doi= 10.2307/2203143|url=http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-9300(199201)86%3A1%3C128%3AAGCOCV%3E2.0.CO%3B2-O|format=|accessdate=2007-01-29|month=Jan|year=1992]

Looting of Germany

After World War II Germany was looted by Allied and Soviet forces; the systematic pillaging and looting by the Allies (particularly the Soviet Union), is still causing disputes and conflicts between Germany, Russia and the United States, as many of the objects have never been returned.

The Soviet plunder of Europe's art treasures constituted institutionalized revenge while the American military's role in the stealing of Europe's treasures mostly involved individuals looting for personal gain.

The looting of Germany by the Soviet Union was not limited to official 'Trophy Brigades', but included many ordinary soldiers and officials who plundered for personal reasons. At least 2.5 million artworks and 10 million books and manuscriptsRobert Hughes. The Spoils of War. Time. April 3, 1995, Available: http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,982773,00.html] disappeared in the Soviet Union and later in Russia, including but not limited to Gutenberg Bibles and Impressionist paintings once in German private collections. According to "Time" magazine the Soviets created special "hit lists ... of what the Soviet Union wanted" and followed the historical "examples" given by Napoleon, Hitler, British and American armies. Other estimates focus on German artworks and cultural treasures supposedly secured against bombing in safe places which were looted after World War II, detailing 200.000 works of art, 3 kilometers of archival material and 3 million books. [Peter Bruhn: Beutekunst - Trophy Art. Bibliography of the international literature on the fate of the cultural treasures displaced as trophies by the Red Army from Germany to the USSR in the result of World War II and situated now on the territory of the Russian Federation and other republics of the former Soviet Union. 4th edition. München: Sagner, 2003. In an updated version also available as bibliographical database: http://www.ib.hu-berlin.de/~pbruhn/b-kunst.htm] [Leistra, Josefine. New York Conference Spoils of War. Trans-Art International. 1995]

Germany's collections lost 180.000 artworks, which according to cultural experts are "being held in secret depots in Russia and Poland". The stolen artworks include sculptures by Nicola Pisano, a reliefs by Donatello, Gothic Madonnas, paintings by Botticelli and Van Dyck and Baroque works rendered in stone and wood. In 2007 Germany published a catalog of missing artworks to document the extent, prevent the resale, and speed up the return of the war booty. [Kate Connolly. Germany issues catalogue of missing art works in push for return of war booty. The Guardian. August 2, 2007, Available: http://arts.guardian.co.uk/art/news/story/0,,2139718,00.html] Berlin's State Museum alone lost around 400 artworks during World War II. The German state (Land) of Saxony-Anhalt still maintains a list entitled "Beutekunst" (Looted Art) of more than 1000 missing paintings and books believed confiscated by the US or the Soviet Union. [Verbrannt, verschollen - für immer verloren? Verluste deutscher Museen und Bibliotheken infolge des Zweiten Weltkriegs. Available: http://www.beutekunst.de/]

Poland is also in possessions of some collections that Germany evacuated to remote places in Eastern Germany ( occupied Poland or Regained Territories). Among those there is large collection from Berlin, in Polish referred to as Berlinka. Another notable collection in Polish possession is Herman Goring's collection of 25 historic airplanes ("Deutsche Luftfahrt Sammlung") - ironically, it contains two Polish planes, captured by Germans during their invasion of Poland (including a PZL P-11c of Army Kraków).pl icon [http://serwisy.gazeta.pl/swiat/1,34239,4554829.html Rosjanie oddają skradzione dzieła sztuki] , Gazeta Wyborcza, 2007-10-14] Poland refuses to return those collections to Germany unless Germany returns some of the collections looted in Poland and still in its possession in exchange.

Entire libraries and archives with files from all over Europa were looted and their files taken to Russia by the Soviet Trophy Brigades. The Russian State Military Archive (Rossiiskii Gosudarstvenni Voennyi Arkhiv- RGVA) still contains a large number of files of foreign origin, including papers relating to Jewish organisations. [Russian State Military Archive (Rossiiskii Gosudarstvenni Voennyi Arkhiv - RGVA). The Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property. 1933-1945, Available: http://www.lootedart.com/InformationByCountry/Russia/Orcid_GSF_38099_4694444444.asp]

Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie at Friedrichshain lost 441 major paintings, among them seven works by Peter Paul Rubens, three Caravaggios and three Van Dycks. The looted artworks might still be in "secret depositories ... in Moscow and St Petersburg".The Guardian. Looted lady. The Guardian. August 2, 2006, Available: http://arts.guardian.co.uk/features/story/0,,1835161,00.html] Veteran BBC foreign correspondent, the late Charles Wheeler, then Berlin correspondent of the BBC's German Service received a small painting as a wedding present in 1952 from an East German farmer, given it in return for some potatoes. The portrait of Eleonora of Toledo (1522-1562), the daughter of the Neapolitan viceroy and wife of the first Duke of Florence, Cosimo di Medici I, he found from the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, had been looted from the Gemäldegalerie. The gallery had photographed the picture by Alessandro Allori (1535-1607) before the closing down and in 1939 putting its collection in secure storage areas, which Soviet troops broke into at the war’s end. Wheeler covered the process in "It's My Story: Looted Art" for BBC Radio 4, contacting the Commission for Looted Art, the identification of the painting’s rightful owner in Germany and the hand-over in Berlin. On May 31, 2006, the commission, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, representing the Berlin state museums, announced the return of the painting. [Commission for Looted Art in Europe. Lost 16th Century Portrait of a Lady with a Dog Returns to the Gemäldegalerie Berlin after 60 Years. Commission for Looted Art. May 31, 2006, http://www.lootedartcommission.com/lootedart_pressreleases.htm]

The Eberswalde Gold Treasures and German Merovingian Art Treasures were taken from Berlin to Soviet Russia.

British troops and the Naval War Trophies Committee also looted artworks from Germany, including several pictures by marine artist Claus Bergen ("Wreath in the North Sea in Memory of the Battle of Jutland", "The Commander U-boat", "Admiral Hipper's Battle Cruiser at Jutland" and "The German Pocket Battleship Admiral Von Scheer Bombarding the Spanish Coast"), Carl Saltzmann ("German Fleet Manoeuvres on the High Seas") and Ehrhard (""Before the Hurricane at Apia Samoa and "During the Hurricane at Apia").Martin Bailey. Revealed: six paintings in Maritime Museum were seized by British troops from Nazi Germany. The Art Newspaper. February 1, 2007] The pictures were looted from the Mürwik Naval Academy at Flensburg, as documented by a 1965-66 Ministry of defense file in the UK National Archives. The trophies were sent to British museums, five remain in the National Maritime Museum in London (NMM) [Nigel Reynolds. Nazi painting may be returned to Germany. The Daily Telegraph. January 6, 2007, Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/01/05/nazi05.xml] , one picture ("Before the Hurricane at Apia") was lent to HMS Calliope in 1959, lost, and formally written-off in 1979. The National Maritime Museum admitted in January 2007, that "the documentation at the NMM and the National Archives is not complete", according to spoliation guidelines, the pictures should be regarded as having been "wrongly taken".

On 25 August 1955 the Soviet functionaries handed over to the representatives of East Germany 1240 paintings from the Dresden Gallery, including the "Sistine Madonna" and "Sleeping Venus", which had been "saved and restored" by the Soviets after the Battle of Berlin. [Yesterday and Today, 1917-1967: Contemporaries Report on the Progress of German-Soviet Friendship. Verlag Zeit Im Bild. 1967, 221 pages, Available: http://books.google.com/books?id=8bgdAAAAMAAJ&q=1956+%22dresden+gallery&dq=1956+%22dresden+gallery&pgis=1] ] According to Irina Antonova, "a cultural bureaucrat in the traditional Soviet style" and Director of the Pushkin Museum, more than 1,500,000 items of cultural value (including the frieze reliefs of the Pergamon Altar and the Grünes Gewölbe treasures) were restituted to German museums at the behest of the Soviet government in the 1950s and 1960s. "We have not received anything in return", Antonova has observed in 1999. [Radio Voice of Russia. Guest of the Voices of Russia - Irina Antonov, Director of the Pushkin Museum. Voice of Russia. 1999, Available: http://www.vor.ru/VIS_A_VIS_new/IAntonova_w1251_arx.html]

The reasons for the Soviet looting of Germany and the subsequent Russian attempts are revealed in an interview that Irina Antonova gave to the German Die Welt newspaper, the interview specifically focuses on the Russian notion of looting, using the historical example of Napoleon as a direct reference for the Russian justification of the Plunder of Germany: "Three quarters of all the Italian art in the Louvre came to Paris with Napoleon. We all know this, yet the works remain in the Louvre. I know the place where Veronese's large painting used to hang in the monastery of Vicenza. Now it's in the Louvre where it will stay. It's the same with the Elgin Marbles in London. That's just the way it is." [Die Welt. November 15, 2005, Available: http://www.welt.de/print-welt/article177864/Ueberraschungen_sind_moeglich.html, Translation available: http://www.signandsight.com/intodaysfeuilletons/463.html]

At the 1998 conference Eizenstat was "impressed ... almost overwhelmed", when Yeltsin's government promised "to identify and return art that was looted by the Nazis and then plundered by Stalin's troops as 'reparations' for Germany's wartime assault." Alarmed by these negotiations, the State Duma of the Russian Federation promulgated a law (15 April, 1998), whereby "the cultural valuables translocated to the USSR after World War II" were declared national patrimony of the Russian Federation and each occasion of their alienation was to be sanctioned by the Russian parliament. [http://www.kodeks.ru/manage/page?tid=795600177&nd=901705791&prevDoc=901907297] . The preamble to the law classifies the remaining valuables, such as Priam's Treasure, as a compensation for "the unprecedented nature of Germany's war crimes" and irreparable damage inflicted by the German invaders on Russian cultural heritage during the war. [http://www.consultant.ru/online/base/?req=doc;base=LAW;n=49308]

Following the law adopted by the State Duma on 17 April 2002, the Hermitage Museum returned to Frankfurt an der Oder the looted medieval stained-glass windows of the Marienkirche, six of the 117 individual pieces however still remain missing. Andrei Vorobiev, the former Academic Secretary of the Museum confirmed in 2005 the assumption that they are still in Russia (in the Pushkin Museum.)Hermitage Museum. Interview with the newspaper Kommersant. July 4, 2005, No. 120, Available: http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/02/hm2_6_0_20.html] According to the Hermitage, "As a gesture in return, the German company Wintershall paid for the restoration of a church destroyed during the Second World War, Novgorod's Church of the Assumption on Volotovoe Pole". In addition, the Hermitage did demand and receive a compensation of USD 400.000 for "restoring and exhibiting the windows".

A Silver collection consisting of 18 pieces was plundered from the NKVD after World War II from the German Prince of Anhalt, who suffered under both the Nazis and Bolsheviks alike, before he was posthumously rehabilitated. In a so called "good will gesture" the collection was returned to the descendants of the Prince by the Ministry of Culture even though the Russian prosecutor originally refused the request of the children of the rehabilitated prince.Kira Dolinina and Maia Stravinskaya. Ministry of Culture Won't Give Back What Doesn't Belong to It. Kommersant. February 22, 2005, Available: http://www.kommersant.com/p549322/r_1/Ministry_of_Culture_Won_t_Give_Back_What_Doesn_t_Belong_to_It/]

Lev Bezymenski, a Russian officer and translator, who became a controversial historian and professor at Moscow's military academyAssociated Press. Report: Hitler HQ Had Jewish Music. Associated Press. August 8, 2007. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6835114,00.html] , died at June 26, 2007 at age 86 in Moscow. He was a military intelligence officer of the 1st Belorussian Front under Marshal Georgy Zhukov, participated in the interrogation of German Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Paulus, and translated the message confirming Adolf Hitler's death for Stalin. After the Red Army captured Berlin in 1945 he investigated Adolf Hitler's death and headquarters. In his many articles and books (Bezymenski, L. Stalin and Hitler (2002), Bezymenski, L. (1968). The Death of Adolf Hitler: Unknown Documents from Soviet Archives. Harcourt Brace. ISBN 0-7181-0634-2) he failed to mention that he looted several containers filled with around 100 gramophone records from the Reich Chancellery, recordings performed by the best orchestras of Europe and Germany with the best soloists of the age. [Georg Bönisch and Matthias Schepp. Souvenir aus dem Bunker. Spiegel. August 6, 2007, Available: http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,498171,00.html] [Deutsche Welle. Hitler's Unearthed Music Collection Yields Surprising Finds. Deutsche Welle. August 8, 2007, Available: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2722872,00.html] [Lee Glendinning. Hitler's secret musical collection - of Russian and Jewish artists. The Guardian. August 7, 2007, Available: http://music.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,2143233,00.html] The collection stolen by Bezymenski, who himself was Jewish, included many Russian and Jewish artists. Bezymenski brought the looted collection of the Führer's favourite discs to Moscow, where he felt "guilty about his larceny and hid the records in an attic, where his daughter, Alexandra Besymenskaja, discovered them by accident in 1991". [Stephen Moss. Hitler's 'record collection' explodes a few myths. The Guardian. The Blog. Music. August 7, 2007, Available: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/music/2007/08/hilters_record_collection_expl.html] [Associated Press. Report: Hitler HQ Had Jewish Music. Associated Press. August 8, 2007. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6835114,00.html] Bezymenski understood the political implications of his actions and "kept quiet about the records during his lifetime for fear that he would be accused of looting." [Roger Boyes. Hitler relaxed to the music of Jews. The Australian August 08, 2007, Available: http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22207718-2,00.html] The collection still remains in Russia.

In another high profile case Viktor Baldin, who served as a front-line soldier and Soviet army captain in World War II and later directed the Shusev State Scientific Research Museum of Architecture in Moscow, stole 362 drawings and two small paintings on May 29, 1945 from the Kunsthalle in BremenDie Welt. Es ist sein letzter Wille. Die Welt. February 22, 2005, Available: http://www.welt.de/print-welt/article483191/Es_ist_sein_letzter_Wille.html] , which the Russian Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi estimates at USD 1.5 billion.Judith Ingram. Disputed German Art Opens in Moscow. St. Petersburg Times. April 1, 2003, Available: http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=100&story_id=9718] Judith Ingram. Disputed German Art Put on Display. The Moscow Times. March 31, 2003, Available: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2003/03/31/014.html] From the entire collection of the Kunsthalle, more than 1,500 artworks are still missing, [David Remnick. The Guardian of the Lost Art. The Washington Post. August 17, 1990, Style Section] in 1991 and 1997 the Kunsthalle published printed catalogues of the works of art from the lost during the evacuation in the Second World War. [Catalogue of the Works of Art from the Collection of the Kunsthalle Bremen Lost during Evacuation in the Second World War (1997) (in English) / Dokumentation der durch Auslagerung im 2. Weltkrieg vermißten Kunstwerke der Kunsthalle Bremen. Bremen, (1991) (in German), 279 pages, ca. 550 pictures, Available: http://www.kunsthalle-bremen.de/Shop/Publikationen/Sammlungskataloge.html]

Baldin claims that he protected the collection of works from Corot, Delacroix, Degas, Dürer, Van Gogh, Goya, Manet, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rodin, Rubens, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Titian after his engineers and sappers' unit from the 38. Soviet Army had requisitioned and plundered the storage place, the hunting lodge Karnzow Castle, at Kyritz, north of Berlin in Germany.Andrei Zolotov Jr. Shvydkoi Could Face Charges Over German Art Exchange. "St. Petersburg Times". March 28, 2003, Available: http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=100&story_id=9705] Baldin traded personal items to keep the collection together and hid the artworks after the war at his home until he gave it to the Shusev State Scientific Research Museum of Architecture before the collection was hurriedly transferred to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in 1991 in a cover-up attempt (and where it was exhibited in 1993). Baldin tried for several decades to give the stolen art back to Germany, he even wrote to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1973 and to many Soviet political and cultural officials including Mikhail Suslov, as well as Raisa and Mikhail Gorbachev - to no avail, until 1990, when it seemed that the art pieces could return to their rightful owner. [Jo Ann Lewis. World War II German Art Hoard To Be Returned by Soviet; 360 Master Drawings Taken for Safekeeping. "The Washington Post". August 16, 1990] According to Wolfgang Eichwede, an art expert and history professor at Bremen University, in a gesture of reconciliation 101 pieces, including Albrecht Duerers 1494 watercolor "View of a Rock Castle by a River", were returned in 2000, following the simultaneous return of two artifacts of the Amber Chamber, bought and financed by a German merchant from Bremen to speed their return to Russia.Peter Finn. Bremen Basks In Return of Art Looted by Soviet Army. The Washington Post. November 24, 2000, A Section] The history of the stolen paintings and the odyssey of partial return back to Bremen is featured in the 2007 book "Victor Baldin - The Man with the Suitcase/Victor Baldin - Der Mann mit dem Koffer". [Rainer B. Schossig. Viktor Baldin - Der Mann mit dem Koffer. Die Odyssee der 1945 nach Moskau verbrachten Blätter der Kunsthalle Bremen. Der Kunstverein in Bremen, Hachmannedition, Bremen 2007, 80 pages, 31 b/w. drawings, 31 b/w. photographs] The Russian Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoy even confirmed in 2003 Russian General Prosecutor's Office orders concerning the resolution of the Hanse Supreme court deciding that the the entire 364 remaining items are property of the Bremen Kunsthalle. [Pravda. Russian Minister of Culture: Return of "Baldin Collection" to Germany is Legally Relevant. "Pravda". April 07, 2003. Available: http://newsfromrussia.com/culture/2003/04/07/45701_.html] The former culture minister Mikhail Shvydkoy supported the return of the looted art to Germany, but faced opposition from nationalist leaders, including Communist legislator and former Culture Minister Nikolai Gubenko. It must be noted that Nikolai Gubenko was already involved in the Russian attempt to hide the Baldin collection in 1991 when the collection was "hurriedly transferred to the assets of the Ministry of Culture" (led by Gubenko). The State Duma, including Gubenko as a member of the Duma, on March 12, 2003 even passed a nonbinding resolution asking President Putin to prevent the Culture Ministry from returning to Germany the Baldin Collection [Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty. Duma Calls for Go-Slow Approach on Trophy Art. March 13, 2003, Available: http://www.rferl.org/newsline/2003/03/130303.asp] , even though the artworks were clearly stolen by an individual and thus not covered by the Russian Trophy Art law. Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoy opposed these nationalistic attempts: "In all spheres, the war is over for us. We're already friendly with Germans, we marry them, we dream of traveling there and they here ... But for some reason, there's a terrible war going on for culture." Shvydkoy and the German Minister of Culture (Kulturstaatsministerin) Christina Weiss even signed an agreement, that 20 pieces of the Baldin ensemble will remain in Russia. ["Die Welt". Die Liste beginnt mit Dürer. "Die Welt". March 22, 2003, Available: http://www.welt.de/print-welt/article509898/Die_Liste_beginnt_mit_Duerer.html] Mikhail Shvydkoy has later received an official warning and reprimand and was threatened by deputy prosecutor Vladimir Kolsenikov with criminal charges if he would return the art collection to Germany.
Anatoly Vilkov, from the Russian ministry of culture and mass communications, stated that "Russia has no right to keep the Baldin collection. We did not receive this right through a gift, since by law the collection did not belong to the donor Baldin", but in 2005 Aleksandr Sergeyevich Sokolov, Russia's minister of culture and mass communications, contradicted several statements and promises given before and opposed the return of the so-called Baldin collection to Germany. According to an interview given by his wife Julia Siwakowa, it was Victor Baldin's last will that the looted art will be returned to the Kunsthalle: "The collection belongs to human mankind, not only Germany, but the collection was located at the Kunsthalle Bremen, and she must be returned to this place." While the Allied committees restored the art to its rightful owners as "fast as possible after the war, ... the Russians refused to" - until now the stolen artwork remains in Russia.

Looting of Iraq under United States Occupation

More recently the term is used to describe the looting in Iraq after the American-led invasion,O'Rourke, Meghan. Raiders of the Lost Art. Why didn't we protect the National Museum and Library in Baghdad? Slate. April 17, 2003, http://www.slate.com/id/2081647/] including but not limited to the National Museum of Iraq.Simon Jenkins. In Iraq's four-year looting frenzy, the allies have become the vandals. British and American collusion in the pillaging of Iraq's heritage is a scandal that will outlive any passing conflict. "The Guardian". June 8, 2007, Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2098272,00.html] Following the looting, the British and American collusion in the pillaging of Iraq's heritage, the mystery why the National Museum and Library in Baghdad were not protected, "American officials came under sharp criticism from archaeologists and others for not securing the museum, a vast storehouse of artifacts from some of civilization's first cities."Barry Meier and James Glanz. Looted treasure returning to Iraq national museum. The New York Times. July 26, 2006, Available: http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/07/26/news/treasure.php] Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Sumerian statue looted from Iraq found by U.S. investigators. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. July 26, 2006, Available: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/story/2006/07/26/looted-iraq.html]

After the U.S. troops entered Baghdad on April 9, 2003, at least 13,000 artifacts were stolen during the lootingEllen Knickmeyer. Iraqi Museum Sealed Against Looters. Antiquities Chief Quits Post, Flees Country, Citing Lack of Safeguards for Historic Treasures. "Washington Post". August 27, 2006, Available: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/26/AR2006082600810_pf.html] , including many moved from other sites into the National Museum for safekeeping. U.S. American troops and tanks were stationed in that area but without orders to stop the looting "watched for several days before moving against the thieves." In 2006 it was estimated that the National Museum lost around 50,000 items from its collection of Mesopotamian antiquities.

The Boston Globe writes: "Armies not of fighters but of looters, capitalizing on a security vacuum after war, have pillaged Babylon" and Donny George, the curator of Iraq's National Museum says about the art looting: cquote|"It's the crime of the century because it affects the heritage of all mankind." Thanassis Cambanis and Charles M. Sennott. Looters Pillage Babylon Leaving Iraqis, Archeologists Devastated. The Boston Globe Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. April 21, 2003] According to museum officials the looters concentrated on the heart of the exhibition: "the Warka Vase, a Sumerian alabaster piece more than 5,000 years old; a bronze Uruk statue from the Acadian period, also 5,000 years old, which weighs 660 pounds; and a headless Sumerian statue. The Harp of Ur was torn apart by looters who removed its gold inlay." Among the stolen artifacts is the Basitke statue made out of bronze, a life-size statue of a young man, originally found in the village Basitke in the northern part of Iraq, an Acadian piece that goes back to 2300 B.C. and the stone statue of King Schalmanezer, from the eighth century B.C.Newsweek. The Last Word: Donny George. A Real-Life Treasure Hunt. "Newsweek" International. March 21, 2007, Available: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7169977/site/newsweek/] The horror of art looting in general is made clear by Hashem Hama Abdoulah, director of the museum of antiquities in Sulaymaniyah, in the Kurdish-controlled zone of northern Iraq. cquote|"When your history is stolen from you, you lose your sense of that history. Not just the Iraqi people, but all of civilization that can trace its roots back to this area."

Many other looted art objects end up in black markets with rich art collectors and art dealers, mostly the United States, Great Britain, Italy and Syria, in 2006 the Netherlands returned to Iraqi authorities three clay tablets that it believes had been stolen from the museum. One of the most valuable artifacts looted during the plunder of the National Museum of Iraq, a headless stone statue of the Sumerian king Entemena of Lagash, was recovered in the United States with the help of Hicham Aboutaam, an art dealer in New York. While thousands of other, smaller pieces have remained in Iraq have been returned by other countries, including Italy and the Netherlands, the Entemena statue, "estimated to be 4,400 years old, is the first significant artifact returned from the United States and by far the most important piece found outside Iraq. American officials declined to discuss how they recovered the statue." The statue of the king, located in the center of the museum's second-floor Sumerian Hall, weighs hundreds of pounds, making it the heaviest piece stolen from the museum - the looters "probably rolled or slid it down marble stairs to remove it, smashing the steps and damaging other artifacts."

Some of the artifacts have been recovered, [National Public Radio. The Looting and Recovery of Iraqi Treasures. National Public Radio. May 25, 2005, Available: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4667811] custom officials in the United States intercepted at least 1,000 pieces, but many are still advertised at eBay or are available through known collectors and black markets. "U.S. troops, journalists and contractors returning from Iraq are among those who have been caught with forbidden souvenirs". [Betsy Pisik. Thousands of stolen Iraqi artifacts found. "Washington Times". June 3, 2005, Available: http://www.washingtontimes.com/world/20050603-121944-8610r.htm] The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs maintains a list and image gallery of looted artworks from Iraq at the Iraq Cultural Property Image Collection. [U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Iraq Cultural Property Image Collection. Available: http://exchanges.state.gov/culprop/imimage.html]

Despite public announcements and temporary efforts by the Iraqi and American administration the situation in Iraqi Museums and archaeological sites did not improve. Donny George, the curator of Iraq's National Museum, the first person who raised his voice and alarmed the world about the looting in Iraq after the American invasion and publicly stated his opinion about the "ongoing failure of Iraqi leaders and the American military to protect the sites", has left the country and resigned in August 2006. Before he left he closed and sealed the museum and plugged the doors with concrete. In an article to "Newsweek" he even said that the stolen items should not be returned to Iraq under the given circumstances:"We believe this is not the right time now to have them back. Since we know all about them and are promised them back whenever we want them, it is better to keep them in these countries."

The "Washington Post" cites another expert on Mesopotamian archeology at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, McGuire Gibson, with the following words: "There was a lot of attention paid to the looting of the museum the very same days the war started. ... It hasn't stopped. There has been looting of sites on an industrial scale. Some of the greatest Sumerian sites have gone."

Looting of Italy

The looting of Italian art was not limited to Napoleon alone, Italian criminals have long been, and remain, extremely active in the field and Italy's battle to recover the antiquities it says were looted from the country and sold to museums and art collectors worldwide is still ongoing. The Italian government and the Art Squad of the Carabinieri, Italy's national police force, made special efforts to " [crack] the network of looters, smugglers, and dealers supplying American museums", collecting "mountains of evidence--thousands of antiquities, photographs, and documents--seized from looters and dealers in a series of dramatic raids". According to the BBC, Italian authorities have for several years insisted on the return of stolen or looted artworks from wealthy museums and collectors, particularly in America. BBC. Getty Museum returns stolen art. BBC. February 6, 1999, Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/273618.stm] Italy is demanding the return of the looted art and antiquities from many famous American institutions, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Princeton Museum of Art, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the private collection of the Leon Levy and his wife Shelby White. [Archaeology. Raiding the Tomb Raiders. Archaeology. Volume 59 Number 4, July/August 2006, Available: http://www.archaeology.org/0607/abstracts/raiders.html]

In an Interview with Archaeology, a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America, investigative journalist Peter Watson writes in June 2006 that according to the Italian public prosecutor Paolo Ferri 100,000 tombs have been looted in Italy alone, representing a value of half a billion (US$). He estimates that the overall monetary value of looted art, including Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Cyprus, West Africa, Central America, Peru, and China, is at least four times the Italian figure.Archaeology. Exposing the Culture Thieves. Archaeology. June 14, 2006, Available: http://www.archaeology.org/online/interviews/watson.html] Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini authored The Medici Conspiracy, a book that uncovers the connection between looted art, the art and antiquities markets, auction houses, and museums. In 2007 the Los Angeles J. Paul Getty Museum, at center of allegations by Italian officials about the pillaging of cultural artifacts from the country and other controversies,Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Getty Trust head resigns amid controversy. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. February 10, 2006, Available: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/story/2006/02/10/getty-munitz.html] was forced to return 40 artifacts, including a 5th century B.C. statue of the goddess Aphrodite, which was looted from Morgantina, an ancient Greek settlement in Sicily.Ariel David. Getty to Return Antiquities to Italy. Forbes. August 1, 2007, Available: http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/08/01/ap3976757.html] Elisabetta Povoledo. Getty Agrees to Return 40 Antiquities to Italy. New York Times. August 2, 2007, Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/02/arts/design/02gett.html] The Getty acquired the statue in 1988 for $18 million USD from an anonymous collector fully aware about the controversy focusing on the unclear provenance and origin. [Roberto Suro. Italy Accuses Getty Museum on Sculpture Loan. New York Times. August 13, 1988] [Douglas C. McGill. Italy Seeks Origins Of Getty Acquisition; Police Back Museum. New York Times. August 6, 1988] [Roberto Suro. Italy Seeks Origins Of Getty Acquisition. New York Times. August 6, 1988] [New York Times. Acquisition by the Getty Reportedly Investigated. New York Times. August 3, 1988] The Getty Museum resisted the requests of the Italian government for nearly two decades, only to admit later that "there might be 'problems'" attached to the acquisition."Elisabetta Povoledo. In a Tug of War, Ancient Statue Is Symbol of Patrimony. New York Times. July 4, 2007, Available: http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/07/04/arts/design/04dig.html] In 2006 Italian senior cultural official Giuseppe Proietti said: "The negotiations haven't made a single step forward", only after he suggested the Italian government "to take cultural sanctions against the Getty, suspending all cultural cooperation," [North County Times. Getty will return Aphrodite statue if it has origins in Italy. North County Times. November 22, 2006, Available: http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2006/11/22/entertainment/art/12_04_5011_22_06.txt] did the J. Paul Getty Museum return the antiquities. According to the New York Times, the Getty Museum confirmed in May 2007, that the statue "most likely comes from Italy."

Similar disputes about stolen and looted art have also involved the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which was forced to return a set of 16 silver pieces from the third century B.C., illegally excavated from Morgantina, Italy. In 2006 the Metropolitan Museum of Art relinquished ownership of a 2,500-year-old Greek vase known as the Euphronios krater, a krater painted by Euphronios, stolen from an Etruscan tomb and smuggled from Italy; 15 pieces of Sicilian silver and four ancient vessels in exchange for long-term loans of other prized antiquities. According to the New York Times, the case, "of its kind, perhaps second only to the dispute between Greece and Great Britain over the Elgin marbles", "became emblematic of the ethical questions surrounding the acquisition of ancient art by major museums". [Randy Kennedy and Hugh Eakin. Met Sending Vase to Italy, Ending 30-Year Dispute. New York Times. February 2, 2006, Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/02/arts/02cnd-museum.html]

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston was forced to return 34 stolen artifacts - including Hellenistic silverware, Etruscan vases and Roman statues. The aforementioned institutions have agreed to hand over the artworks in exchange for loans of other treasures. The former curator of the Getty Museum Marion True and the art dealer Robert Hecht are currently on trial in Rome, Italy accuses them of buying and trafficking stolen and illicit artworks (including the Aphrodite statue). [Randy Kennedy. Collecting Antiquities, Cautiously, at the Getty. New York Times. June 26, 2007, Available: http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/06/26/arts/design/26getty.html] Evidence against both emerged in a 1995 raid of a Geneva, Switzerland warehouse which contained many stolen artifacts.

The warehouses were registered to a Swiss company called Editions Services, which police traced to an Italian art dealer Giacomo Medici. The Carabinieri stated that warehouses contained 10,000 artifacts worth 50 billion lire (about $35 million). [Andrew L. Slayman. Geneva Seizure. Archaeology. May 3, 1998, updated September 14, 1998, Available: http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/geneva/index.html] In 1997 Giacomo Medici was arrested; his operation is believed to be "one of the largest and most sophisticated antiquities networks in the world, responsible for illegally digging up and spiriting away thousands of top-drawer pieces and passing them on to the most elite end of the international art market"Men's Vogue, November/December 2006, Vol. 2, No. 3, pg. 46.] . Medici was sentenced in 2004 by a Rome court to ten years in prison and a fine of 10 million euros, "the largest penalty ever meted out for antiquities crime in Italy".

In another unrelated case in 1999 the Getty Museum had to hand over three antiquities to Italy after determining they were stolen. The objects included a Greek red-figure kylix from the fifth-century B.C., signed by the painter Onesimos and the potter Euphronios as potter, looted from the Etruscan site of Cerveteri; a torso of the god Mithra from the second-century A.D., and the head of a youth by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos. [Andrew L. Slayman. Getty Returns Italian Artifacts. Archaeology. Volume 52 Number 3, May/June 1999, Available: http://www.archaeology.org/9905/newsbriefs/getty.html] According to the New York Times, the Getty Museum refused for several years to return the antiquities to their rightful owners. [Alessandra Stanley. Getty to Give 3 Artifacts Back to Italy. New York Times. February 4, 1999]

Yet another case emerged in 2007, when Italy's art-theft investigation squad discovered a hidden cache of ancient marble carvings depicting early gladiators, the lower portion of a marble statue of a man in a toga and a piece of a column. Italian Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli used the case to underline the importance of these artifacts for Italy. [CBC. Rare gladiator marbles discovered in major Italian art bust. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. January 24, 2007, Available: http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2007/01/24/italy-marbles-gladiator.html]

Looting of Poland

The Załuski Library, the first public library in Poland, was founded by two brothers, Józef Andrzej Załuski, crown referendary and bishop of Kiev, and Andrzej Stanisław Załuski, crown chancellor and bishop of Cracow. The library was considered one of the most important libraries of the world, featuring a collection of about 400,000 printed items, manuscripts, artworks, scientific instruments, and plant and animal specimens. Located in Warsaw's Daniłowiczowski Palace it was looted in the aftermath of the second Partition of Poland and Kościuszko Uprising in 1794 by Russian troops, on orders from Russian Czarina Catherine II, the stolen artworks were transported to St. Petersburg, and became part of the Russian Imperial Library which was founded one year later. Although some pieces were returned by the Soviet Union in 1921 and were burned during the Warsaw Uprising against German forces, other parts of the collection have still not been returned by Russia. Polish scientists have been allowed to access and study the objects. [The Warsaw Voice. What's On. Library Anniversary. The Warsaw Voice. August 18, 1997, Available: http://www.warsawvoice.pl/archiwum.phtml/7723/]

Polish Crown Jewels were robbed by the Prussians in 1795 after the Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. [en icon cite web |author = |url = http://www.wawel.krakow.pl/en/index.php?op=8,1,5 |title = Crown Treasury |work = wawel.krakow.pl |publisher = |pages = |page = |date = |accessdate = 2008-03-03] These items were then destroyed in Königsberg in 1809. The gold went to the mint and the precious stones and pearls were sold for profit. Some lesser items went to the Prussian royal collection and other things were sold all over the world.

After collapse of the November Uprising the Poles were deprived of civil liberties, their country was robbed of literary and art treasures, and severe measures were taken to Russianize public institutions and administration. [en icon cite web |author = |url = http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/geoghist/histories/history/hiscountries/P/poland.html |title = Poland |work = cartage.org.lb |publisher = |pages = |page = |date = |accessdate = 2008-03-03] Poland regained some of the artefacts after Treaty of Riga. It formed the nucleus of the State Art Collections, comprising in the main the furnishings of the Warsaw Castle and the Wawel Castle. [en icon cite web |author = Pat MacAdam |url = http://stefanbatoryoceanliner.homestead.com/PolishTreasures.html |title = Evacuated Polish Royal Treasures onboard of M/S BATORY & the amazing story of keeping it safe in Canada, 1940 - 1961... |work = homestead.com |publisher = Ottawa Citizen columnist |pages = |page = |date = April 10, 1999 |accessdate = 2008-03-03] [en icon cite web |author = |url = http://www.wawel.krakow.pl/en/index.php?op=4 |title = History of the Royal Residence |work = wawel.krakow.pl |publisher = |pages = |page = |date = |accessdate = 2008-03-03]

During Second World War as Germany tried to completely destroy Poland and exterminate its population as well as culture. Robbery by the German occupant, initially to a large extent organised, and towards the end of the war changing into uncontrolled pillage, was aggravated by the plundering Soviet army. en icon cite web |author = |url = http://www.polamcon.org/lostart/intro.htm |title = Wartime Losses-Polish Painting |work = polamcon.org |publisher = |pages = |page = |date = |accessdate = 2008-03-03] In the case of the Germans, one can approximately specify the extent to which works of art were "secured", both on territories belonging to the German-occupied Poland and those areas that were incorporated into the Reich. When considering the number of works stolen by the military administration of the former Soviet Union, however, one can only make rough approximations. At the end of 1939, when Governor General Hans Frank decreed that all property belonging to "the former Polish state" should be taken away, the universal confiscation of all objects of artistic value in fact became a justification to steal works of art. According to Frank's decree, public ownership of works of art became illegal.

Countless art objects were looted, as Germany systematically carried out a plan of looting prepared even before the start of hostilities (see also Nazi plunder). 25 museums and many other facilities were destroyed. The total cost of German theft and destruction of Polish art is estimated at 20 billion dollars,pl icon [http://serwisy.gazeta.pl/swiat/1,34239,4554829.html Rosjanie oddają skradzione dzieła sztuki] , Gazeta Wyborcza, 2007-10-14] or an estimated 43% of Polish cultural heritage; over 516,000 individual art pieces were looted (including 2 800 paintings by European painters; 11 000 paints by Polish painters; 1 400 scultpures, 75 000 manuscripts, 25 000 maps, 90 000 books (including over 20 000 printed before 1800) and hundreds of thousands of other items of artistic and historical value).pl icon [http://www.msz.gov.pl/Rewindykacja,dobr,kultury,1775.html Rewindykacja dóbr kultury] ]

Looting by perpetrator

Looting by the British empire

The transformation of theft and plunder as an incentive for troops to institutionalized, indiscriminate looting following military conflict can be observed in the wake of British conquest in Asia, Africa and India. The looting of artifacts for "both personal and institutional reasons" became "increasingly important in the process of ‘othering’ Oriental and African societies and was exemplified in the professionalism of exploration and the growth of ethnographic departments in museums, the new ‘temples of Empire’." Looting, not necessarily of art became a vital instrument for the projection of power and the British imperial desire to gather and provide information about the "exotic" cultures and primitive tribes. [Michael Carrington. Officers Gentlemen and Thieves: The Looting of Monasteries during the 1903/4. Younghusband Mission to Tibet, Modern Asian Studies 37, 1 (2003), pp 81-109, Available: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=139485] ["Empire and authority: Curzon, collisions, character and the Raj, 1899–1905". Michael Carrington. A Ph. D (British Library)]

Looting by Napoleon

Napoleon's conquests in Europe were followed by a systematic attempt, later more tentatively echoed by Hitler, to take the finest works of art of conquered nations back to the Louvre in Paris for a grand central Museum of all Europe. Napoleon boasted: cquote|"We will now have all that is beautiful in Italy except for a few objects in Turin and Naples".Masterpieces of the Louvre. Time Magazine. June 30, 1958, Available: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,891933-1,00.html] Many works were returned after his fall, but many others were not, and remain in France. Many works confiscated from religious institutions under the French occupation now form the backbone of national museums: "Napoleon's art-loot depots became the foundation of Venice's Accademia, Milan's Brera galleries. His brother Louis founded Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum; brother Joseph started Madrid's Prado" (for the Spanish royal collection).

Napoleonic commander and Marechal Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult stole in 1810 six large pictures painted by Murillo in 1668 for the Hospital de la Caridad in Seville. One painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son, is now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, a second looted painting, The Healing of the Paralytic, is in the National Gallery, in London, only two of the original paintings have returned to Seville.

Another French general looted several pictures, including four Claudes and Rembrandt's Descent From the Cross, from the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel in 1806. The stolen goods were later bought by the Empress Josephine and subsequently by the tsar. Since 1918, when the Bolshevik government signed a peace treaty with Germany and Austria have German negotiators demanded the return of the paintings. Russia refused to return the stolen goods, the pictures still remain in the Hermitage.

Looting by Nazi Germany

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, accompanied by General Omar N. Bradley, and Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., inspects art treasures hidden in a salt mine in Germany.]

During World War II the Nazis set up special departments "for a limited time for the seizure and securing of objects of cultural value" [Letter from Rosenberg to the Reich Commissioner for the East and Reich Commissioner for the Ukraine, April 27 1942, as cited in: Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 4. Twenty-Second Day. December 18, 1945, Morning Session, Document 153-PS, Exhibit USA-381, Available: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/12-18-45.htm] , especially in the Occupied Eastern Territories, including the Baltic States, the Ukraine, Hungary and Greece. The Russian imperial residences around St. Petersburg were thoroughly looted and deliberately blown up, so that their restoration is still under way. The Catherine Palace and Peterhof were reduced to smoldering ruins; among the innumerable trophies was the world-famous Amber Room. [Peter Bruhn: Das Bernsteinzimmer in Zarskoje Selo bei Sankt-Petersburg, 2nd edition. Berlin, 2004 ISBN 3-86155-109-8). In an updated version also available as bibliographical database: http://www.ib.hu-berlin.de/~pbruhn/bernzim.htm] Medieval churches of Novgorod and Pskov, with their unique 12th-century frescoes, were systematically plundered and reduced to piles of rubble. Major museums around Moscow, including Yasnaya Polyana, Joseph-Volokolamsk Monastery, and New Jerusalem, faced a similar fate, with their architectural integrity irrevocably impaired.

The legal framework and the language of the instructions used by Germany resembles the Lieber Code, but in the Nuremberg Trial Proceedings the victorious Allied armies applied different standards and sentenced the Nazis involved as war criminals. The Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal of Nuremberg, detailing the Jurisdiction and General Principles, declares the "plunder of public or private property" a war crime [Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 1, Charter of the International Military Tribunal, II. Jurisdiction and General Principles, Article 6, Available: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/imtconst.htm#art6] , while the Lieber Code and the actions of the Allied armies in the aftermath of World War Two allowed or tolerated the looting. The main objective of the looting is made clear by Dr. Muhlmann, responsible for the securing of all Polish art treasures: "I confirm that the art treasures ... would not have remained in Poland in case of a German victory, but they would have been used to complement German artistic property."Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 4. Twenty-Second Day. December 18, 1945, Morning Session, Available: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/12-18-45.htm]

One inventory of 39 volumes featuring the looted art and antiques, prepared by the Nazis and discussed during the Nuremberg trials lists "21,903 Works of Art: 5,281 paintings, pastels, water colors, drawings; 684 miniatures, glass and enamel paintings, illuminated books and manuscripts; 583 sculptures, terra cottas, medallions, and plaques; 2,477 articles of furniture of art historical value; 583 textiles (tapestries, rugs, embroideries, Coptic textiles); 5,825 objects of decorative art (porcelains, bronzes, faience, majolica, ceramics, jewelry, coins, art objects with precious stones); 1,286 East Asiatic art works (bronzes, sculpture, porcelains, paintings, folding screens, weapons); 259 art works of antiquity (sculptures, bronzes, vases, jewelry, bowls, engraved gems, terra cottas)."

When Allied forces bombed Germany's cities and historic institutions, Germany "began storing the artworks in salt mines and caves for protection from Allied bombing raids. These mines and caves offered the appropriate humidity and temperature conditions for artworks." [Anne Rothfeld. Nazi Looted Art. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. The Holocaust Records Preservation Project, Part 2. Fall 2002, Vol. 34, No. 3, Available: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2002/summer/nazi-looted-art-2.html?template=print] Although most of the stolen artworks and antiques were documented, found or recovered by the "victorious Allied armies ... principally hidden away in salt mines, tunnels, and secluded castles", many artworks have never been returned to their rightful owners. Art dealers, galleries and museums world-wide have been compelled to research their collection's provenance in order to investigate claims that some of the work was acquired after it had been stolen from its original owners.cite news
publisher=Spiegel Online International
title=Jewish Heirs Want Their Art Back
date=November 8, 2006
] Already in 1985, years before American museums recognized the issue and before the International conference on Nazi-looted assets of Holocaust victims, European countries released inventory lists of works of art, coins and medals "that were confiscated from Jews by the Nazis during World War II, and announced the details of a process for returning the works to their owners and rightful heirs." [Douglas C McGill. Austria Sets Up System to Yield Nazi-Held Art. "New York Times". December 3, 1985] In 1998 an Austrian advisory panel has recommended the return of 6,292 objets d'art to their legal owners (most of whom are Jews), under the terms of a 1998 restitution law.cite news
publisher=The Jerusalem Post
title=Austria prepares restitution of Nazi art loot
date=September 9, 1998

Pieces of art looted by the Nazis can still be found in Russian/Soviet [Honan, William H. Soviets Reported to Hide Looted Art. "New York Times". March 30, 1991, Section 1, Page 9, Column 4, 887 words] and American institutions: the Metropolitan Museum of Art revealed a list of 393 paintings that have gaps in their provenance during the Nazi Era, the Art Institute of Chicago has posted a listing of more than 500 works "for which links in the chain of ownership for the years 1933-1945 are still unclear or not yet fully determined.", the San Diego Museum of Art [San Diego Museum of Art. http://www.sdmart.org/provenance/Index.html] and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art [Los Angeles County Museum of Arthttp://www.lacma.org/art/ProvIntro.aspx] provide lists on the internet to determine if art items within their collection were stolen by the Nazis.

Stuart Eizenstat, the undersecretary of state and head of the U.S. delegation sponsoring the 1998 International conference on Nazi-looted assets of Holocaust victims in Washington conference stated that "From now on, ... the sale, purchase, exchange and display of art from this period will be addressed with greater sensitivity and a higher international standard of responsibility." CNN. Guidelines set for returning Nazi-looted art. Conference calls for 'just and fair solution'. CNN. December 3, 1998, Available: http://www.cnn.com/US/9812/03/holocaust.conference/]

After the conference Association of Art Museum Directors developed guidelines which require museums to review the provenance or history of their collections, focusing especially on art looted by the Nazis.CNN. Manhattan museum plans to issue Holocaust looted-art study. March 2, 2000, Available: http://archives.cnn.com/2000/STYLE/arts/03/02/holocaust.art.reut/] The National Gallery of Art in Washington identified more than 400 European paintings with gaps in their provenance during the World War II era. One particular piece of art, "Still Life with Fruit and Game" by the 16th century Flemish painter Frans Synders, was sold by Karl Haberstock, whom the World Jewish Congress describes as "one of the most notorious Nazi art dealers." In 2000 the New York City's Museum of Modern Art still told congress that " [they] are not aware of a single Nazi-tainted work of art in our collection, of the more than 100,000 [they] hold".

However, restitution efforts initiated by German politicians have not been free of controversy either. As the German law for restitution "applies to "cultural assets lost as a result of Nazi persecution, "which includes paintings that Jews who emigrated from Germany sold to support themselves" [Der Spiegel http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,449556,00.html] , pretty much any trade involving Jews in that era is affected, and the benefit of the doubt is given to claimants. German leftist politicians Klaus Wowereit (SPD, mayor of Berlin) and Thomas Flierl (Linkspartei) were sued in 2006 for overly willing to give away the 1913 painting "Berliner Straßenszene" of expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner which was in Berlin's Brücke Museum. On display in Cologne in 1937, it had been sold for 3.000 Reichsmark by a Jewish family residing in Switzerland to a German collector. This sum is considered by experts to have been well over the market price. [Der Spiegel: TROTZ STRAFANZEIGE Kirchner-Gemälde wird versteigert, 07. November 2006 [http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/gesellschaft/0,1518,446999,00.html] ] . The museum, which obtained the painting in 1980 after several ownership changes, could not prove that the family actually received the money. It was restituted [ [http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/gesellschaft/0,1518,428888,00.html "Entartete" Kunst: Kirchner-Gemälde wieder in Privatbesitz - Kultur - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten ] ] to the heiress of the former owners, and she had it auctioned off for $38.1 Million. [Der Spiegel: CHRISTIE'S AUCTION RAISES GHOSTS Painting Confiscated by the Nazis Sold for $38.1 Million [http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,447475,00.html] ]

Looting by the Soviet Union

Soviet Union engaged in systematic looting during World War II, particularly of Germany - seeing this as a reparations for damage and looting done by Germany in the Soviet Union. [Peter Bruhn: Beutekunst - Trophy Art. Bibliography of the international literature on the fate of the cultural treasures displaced as trophies by the Red Army from Germany to the USSR in the result of World War II and situated now on the territory of the Russian Federation and other republics of the former Soviet Union. 4th edition. München: Sagner, 2003. In an updated version also available as bibliographical database: http://www.ib.hu-berlin.de/~pbruhn/b-kunst.htm] [ [http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/05/16/news/loot.php Cultural divide exists over Russian war loot] ] The Soviets also looted other occupied territories; for example, looting by Soviets was common on the territories theoretically assigned to its ally, the communist Poland.Norman Davies, "God's Playground, a History of Poland", Columbia University Press, 2005, ISBN 0231128193, [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0231128193&id=EBpghdZeIwAC&pg=PA359&lpg=PA359&dq=Soviet+Poland+reparations+loot+Germany&sig=UeKw0bNmkqujNrCj71SSH7uVQFc#PPA359,M1 Google Print, p.359] ] Richard C. Raack, "Stalin's Drive to the West, 1938-1945: the origins of the Cold War", Stanford University Press, 1995, ISBN 0804724156, [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0804724156&id=pAdZMaWn8cIC&pg=PA90&lpg=PA90&dq=Soviet+looting+Poland&sig=N9zAycLeRRNKJ3-MhYZEDOzQNSQ Google Print, p.90] ] Even Polish Communists were uneasy, as in 1945 the future Chairman of the Polish Council of State, Aleksander Zawadzki, worried that "raping and looting of the Soviet army would provoke a civil war".Norman Davies, "God's Playground, a History of Poland", Columbia University Press, 1982, ISBN 0231053525, [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0231053525&id=DMoPXktGwiUC&pg=RA1-PA558&lpg=RA1-PA558&ots=4tl247yUYi&dq=Unqualified+Soviet+support&sig=6EXfaHpPRiIwu1cVi8AdO4OdeVM Google Print, p.558] ] Soviet forces had engaged in plunder on Recovered Territories which were to be transferred to Poland, stripping it of anything of value.cite web| url= http://www.ipn.gov.pl/biuletyn/13/biuletyn02_2.html |archiveurl= http://web.archive.org/web/20050321165047/http://www.ipn.gov.pl/biuletyn/13/biuletyn02_2.html| title= MIĘDZY MODERNIZACJĄ A MARNOTRAWSTWEM |archivedate= 2005-03-21 |publisher= Institute of National Remembrance|language=Polish See also [http://www.niniwa2.cba.pl/komunizm_gospodarka_prl_ipn.htm other copy online] ] cite web|url=http://www.ipn.gov.pl/biuletyn/4/biuletyn4_51.html|title=ARMIA CZERWONA NA DOLNYM ŚLĄSKU|publisher=Institute of National Remembrance|archiveurl=http://web.archive.org/web/20050321233124/http://www.ipn.gov.pl/biuletyn/4/biuletyn4_51.html|archivedate=2005-03-21|language=Polish] A recently recovered masterwork is Gustave Courbet's "Femme nue couchée", looted in Budapest, Hungary, in 1945.

Looting by the Spanish Empire and others

The conquistadors looting the Latin and South Americas became one of the most commonly recognize plunders in the world.

Roger Atwood writes in "Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World": "Mayan stonework became one of those things that good art museums in America just had to have, and looters in the jungles of southern Mexico and Guatemala worked overtime to meet the demand." [Atwood, Roger. Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World. St. Martin's Press. November 18, 2004] [Colin Woodard. Destructive Looting Threatens Archaeological Work at Maya Sites. The Chronicle of Higher Education. October 20, 2000.] [Jeremy McDermott. Looting a lost civilization. Maya scholars in race with thieves. San Francisco Chronicle. June 7, 2001, Available: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2001/06/07/MN221710.DTL&type=science] [Princine Lewis. Archaeologists partnership with Maya villagers pays off in looters� conviction. Vanderbilt Register. June 23, 2004, Available: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/register/articles?id=12691]

Looting in Mesoamerica has a long tradition and history, many graves are looted before the archaeologists could reach them, the artifacts are then sold to wealthy collectors in the United States, Japan or Europe. Guillermo Cock, a Lima-based archaeologist says about a recent find of Dozens of exquisitely preserved Inca mummies on the outskirts of Peru's capital city Lima: "The true problem is the looters", he said. "If we leave the cemetery it is going to be destroyed in a few weeks." [John Roach. Dozens of Inca Mummies Discovered Buried in Peru. National Geographic News, March 11, 2004, Available: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/03/0311_040311_incamummies.html]

ee also

*Illicit antiquities
*Art theft
*Royal Casket
*Polish Crown Jewels
*Hector Feliciano


Further reading

* Akinsha, Konstantin, et al. Beautiful Loot: The Soviet Plunder of Europe's Art Treasures. New York: Random House, 1995
* Alford, Kenneth D. The Spoils of World War II: The American Military's Role in the Stealing of Europe's Treasures. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1994.
* Atwood, Roger. Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World. St. Martin's Press. November 18, 2004
* Carrington, Michael. 'Officers Gentlemen and Thieves: The Looting of Monasteries during the 1903/4 Younghusband Mission to Tibet' Modern Asian Studies, 37, 1, (2003) pp. 81-109. (Cambridge University Press).
* Chamberlin, E. R. Loot!: The Heritage of Plunder. New York: Facts on File, 1983.
* De Jaeger, Charles. The Linz File: Hitler's Plunder of Europe's Art. Exeter, England: Webb & Bower, 1981.
* Feliciano, Hector. The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World's Greatest Works of Art. New York: BasicBooks, 1997.
* Milbry Polk (Author) and Angela M.H. Schuster. The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad: The Lost Legacy of Ancient Mesopotamia. Harry N. Abrams, May 1 2005

External links

* [http://lsh.it-norr.com/default.asp?id=3032&refid=0 "War-booty" exhibition at Livrustkammaren, Stockholm, 22 November, 2007-28 February, 2009 (In English)]
* [http://www.lootedartcommission.com/ Commission for Looted Art in Europe]
* [http://www.lostart.de/?lang=english Lost Art Database, Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste, Magdeburg, Germany (In English)]

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