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Project for the
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Wartime Cultural Losses


The Art Looting Investigation Unit Final Report

  The document reproduced below, the Art Looting Investigation Unit Final Report, was produced by art experts within the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), who researched the Nazis' plundering of cultural property in Europe. The OSS operated as the principal U.S. intelligence organization during World War II. The art experts' research took place mainly in 1945 and 1946 and involved interviews with most of the functionaries who implemented the Nazis' policies, as well as a review of thousands of captured documents. The OSS then issued a series of reports.

  The preliminary reports were called Detailed Interrogation Reports (DIRs). Each focused on a specific individual who played an important role in the German plundering bureaucracy. There were officially thirteen DIRs, covering figures such as the dealer Karl Haberstock, who sold more art to the Nazi elite than any other individual; the art historian Kajetan Mühlmann, who organized plundering agencies in Poland and the Netherlands; and photographer Heinrich Hoffmann, who was close to Hitler and helped the dictator collect art. Several reports along the lines of the DIRs were subsequently issued by the OSS, including one on the dealer Hans Wendland.

  The information in the DIRs was synthesized and analyzed in the more extensive Consolidated Interrogation Reports (CIRs). These reports also contained supplements, which comprised a series of relevant documents reproduced in the original language (usually German) and in English.

  The first of the CIRs was written by James Plaut and concerned the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, the Nazi looting agency headed by Alfred Rosenberg which seized archives and artworks in the occupied western and eastern territories from 1940 to 1945. The second report, authored by Theodore Rousseau, treated Hermann Göring's art collection; and the third, tentatively titled German Methods of Acquisition, never appeared. The fourth, written by S. Lane Faison, covered the Führermuseum planned by Hitler for Linz.

  Additionally, a report on the Germans' plundering in the Netherlands was written by Jean Vlug, a Dutch national who worked closely with the OSS. This document, titled Report on Objects Removed to Germany from Holland, Belgium and France during the German Occupation on the Countries, followed the same format as the CIRs. Two reports on art looted in Switzerland utilized OSS/Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU) research, and were produced under the auspices of the US State Department.

  The Art Looting Investigation Unit Final Report reproduced below provides a history of the unit and a series of recommendations for action, but it is best known for its "Biographical Index of Individuals Involved in Art Looting." This is a list of hundreds of individuals who appeared in the documents and interviews that provided the basis for the ALIU reports.

  It must be stressed that this list has several limitations. First, the appearance of a name does not necessarily implicate that person, directly or indirectly, in the looting of art or handling of stolen works. The presence of a name on the list indicates only that the name came up in connection with the investigation. The names can serve to alert those conducting research into the provenance of an artwork--yes, works that passed through the hands of individuals on this list may have been looted--but not all of the individuals on this list were guilty of criminal behavior.

  Second, although the ALIU personnel conducted invaluable inquiries, the reports cannot necessarily be considered complete, and they do contain inadvertent errors. This was inevitable because many of the subjects intentionally tried to deceive their interrogators, and because available documentation was at times insufficient. Some mistakes are relatively minor--an umlaut, for example, might be missing from a name. In other cases, the reports do not characterize an event or an individual in an entirely accurate manner. It appears, for example, that the extent of Karl Haberstock's antisemitism is exaggerated in DIR No. 13. These reports were draft documents and should be treated that way.

  Despite these limitations, the ALIU reports are among the most valuable resources available concerning the Nazi art looting programs. The Art Looting Investigation Unit Final Report has been well known to researchers and has recently been excerpted and distributed privately by the Commission for Art Recovery of the World Jewish Congress and excerpted by The Art Newspaper (No. 88, January 1999). The members of The Documentation Project have decided to release the entire Art Looting Investigation Unit Final Report here, along with this commentary, in order to make the report even more widely available and to make clear the context in which the names on the list should be considered.

The ALIU Final Report Contents

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