The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter XIV
The Plunder of Art Treasures
The General-Gouvernement
(Part 2 of 2)

C. Nature, Extent, and Value of Property Seized.

Virtually the entire art possession of Poland, private as well as public, was seized by the General Gouvernement (1233- PS). In a catalogue of the more important works of art seized by the General Gouvernement, paragraph 1 of the Foreword contains the following admission:

"On the basis of the decree of the General Governor for the Occupied Polish Territories of December 16,1939, the Special Delegate for the Safeguarding of Treasures of Art and Culture was able in the course of six months to secure almost the entire art treasure of the country, with one single exception: the Flemish Gobelin series from the castle in Cracow According to the latest information, these are kept in France, so that it will be possible to secure them eventually." (1233-PS)

The nature and extent of materials seized by the General Gouvernement is indicated in Document 1709-PS. The document inventories the objects seized, and divides them into two classifications: those of primary importance ("Reich- important"), and those of secondary importance. Articles of primary importance, totaling 521 separate objects, are also set forth in a descriptive catalogue. (1233-PS)

The articles catalogued include paintings by German, Italian, Dutch, French, and Spanish masters, rare illustrated books, Indian and Persian miniatures, woodcuts, the famous Veit-Stoss hand-carved altar, handicraft articles of gold and silver, antique furniture, articles of crystal, glass and porcelain, tapestries, antique weapons, rare coins, and medals. The objects were seized from both public and private sources, including the National Museum in Cracow and the National Museum in Warsaw, the cathedrals of Warsaw and Lublin, a number of churches and monasteries, the Chateau of the Kings in Warsaw, university and other

[Page 1110]

libraries, and a large number of private collections of the Polish nobility. (1709-PS)

Items placed in the second category are of the same nature as those placed in category I. Approximately 500 separate items are catalogued, many of the items including a large number of separate objects treated under a single catalogue heading. (1709-PS)

The value of the objects seized from 22 collections is stated to be 9,437,000 Zloty. The materials referred to are only a portion of those selected as being of secondary importance. No valuation is given as to the balance of the items of secondary importance or as to the 521 objects selected as being of primary importance. (1709-PS)

D. Evidence That Seizures Were Not Merely for Protective Purposes.

In Dr. Posse's report (1600-PS), a number of items are referred to which may be found in the catalogue of art objects "made secure" (1233-PS):

"I was able to gain some knowledge on the public and private collections as well as clerical property in Cracow and Warsaw. It is true that we cannot hope too much to enrich ourselves from the acquisition of great Art works, of paintings and sculptures, with the exception of the Veit-Stoss altar and the plates of Hans von Kulmbach in the Church of Maria in Cracow, the Raphael, Leonardo and Rembrandt from the collection Czartoryski, and several other works from the National Museum in Warsaw, *** works of a rather high value of whose existence we in Germany had already known. Richer and more extensive is the Polish stock of 'objects d'art', such as handicraft in gold and silver, of German origin to a large part, particularly from the Church of Maria and the Cathedral of Wawel, tapestries, arms, porcelains, furniture, bronzes, coins, valuable parchment scrips, books, etc. ***"


"As I said before, I shall not be able to make proposals regarding the distribution as long as an inventory of the entire material does not exist. However, I should like to reserve for the museum at Linz the three most important paintings of the Czartoryski collection, namely the Raphael, Leonardo and Rembrandt which are at present in the Kaiser- Frederick Museum in Berlin. We in Dresden are particularly interested in the interior decorations of the castle of the Kings in War-

[Page 1111]

saw since Saxonian architects and artists have created them; therefore, the suggestion is made that the salvaged parts of it (panellings, doors, inlaid floors, sculptures, mirrors, glass chandeliers, porcelains, etc.) be used for the interior decoration of the Pavillion of the 'Zivinges' in Dresden." (1600-PS)

The following items listed in the above report are also listed in the catalogue:

Item Catalog No. Veit-Stoss Altar 241 Hans Vol Kulmbach Works 22 Raphael 141 Leonardo 134 Rembrandt 81 Church of Maria Handicraft 262-265, 279, 280 From Jagellonic Library 166, 167, 186, 199-203, 206, 209, 212, 215-224 (See 1233-PS, 1600-PS)

Appendix 8 of Document 1709-PS lists a large number of objects which were turned over to Architect Koettgen. The items listed include, in addition to paintings, tapestries, etc., plates, dishes, cups and saucers, vases, cream pitchers, glasses, a bread basket, a service tray, and other items of table service. These objects were turned over to the architect for the purpose of furnishing the Castle at Cracow and Schloss Kressendorf for the Governor. (1709-PS)

A number of objects were transported out of Poland and placed in Berlin in the Depot of the Special Deputy or in the safe of the Deutsche Bank (1709-PS). Items at this location are also listed in the catalog (1233-PS) as numbers 4, 17, 27, 35, 42, 45, 47, 51, 138, 141, 145, and 148.

Thirty-one sketches by Durer were taken from the collection Lubomierski in Lemberg:

"The Special Deputy has personally handed over these sketches in July 1941 to the Reichsmarshal who took them to the Fuehrer at headquarters where they remain at the present time. On express direction of the Fuehrer they will stay in his possession for the time being." (1709-PS)

All art objects seized were screened for those which were important from the German point of view:

"The Reich-important pieces were collected in a catalogue of the so called 'First Choice'. One copy of this catalogue has been submitted to the Fuehrer who reserved to himself the first

[Page 1112]

decision as to location and use of the art objects of the 'First Choice' ". (1709-PS)

Dr. Muehlmann, the "Special Deputy for the Safeguarding of Art Treasures" in the General Government, has confirmed that it was the policy and purpose of the art seizure program to confiscate the art treasures and to retain them for the benefit of Germany:

"I confirm, that it was the official policy of the Governor GeneraI, Hans Frank, to take into custody all important art treasures, which belonged to Polish public institutions, private collections and the Church. I confirm, that the art treasures, mentioned, were actually confiscated, and it is clear to me, that they would not have remained in Poland in case of a German victory, but that they would have been used to complement German artistic property." (3042-PS)

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

[ Previous | Index | Next ] [an error occurred while processing this directive]