History of the Art Market in the Nazi Period

The Kunstbibliothek has several resources available to readers on the history of the art market and art looted in the Nazi period as well as provenance research. Research into the origins and previous owners of artworks is a central part of the following projects and databases:

Initiatives and topics

Diese Datenbank basiert auf einer Auswertung von Dokumenten des "Einsatzstabs Reichsleiter Rosenberg" (ERR), der im Zweiten Weltkrieg mit der Plünderung von Kulturgütern aus jüdischem Besitz befasst war. Die Kunstwerke waren von den Nationalsozialisten in Paris im Museum Jeu de Paume zusammengeführt und schriftlich sowie zum Teil fotografisch erfasst worden.

The Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933–1945. This website has two databases: the Information Database (laws, archives, inventories, websites etc.) and the Object Database with data on more than 25,000 artworks.

Getty Provenance Index

Germans Sales

Lost Art Internet Database
The Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste (German Lost Art Foundation) is responsible for dealing with and documenting all queries and reports of findings related to cultural property that was appropriated under duress by the Nazis or that was otherwise relocated or lost during the war. The database is divided into two sections: Search Requests and Found-Object Reports. It also has a useful link collection, including online databases and catalogues.

Databases of Nazi Archival Material at the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM)
The DHM has two open-access databases: one on the collection related to Special Commission: Linz and a second on the Central Collecting Point Munich.

Deutsche Zentrum für Kulturgutverluste (DZK)
The German Lost Art Foundation (DZK) supports museums, libraries, archives and other publicly funded institutions in Germany that house cultural heritage in the identification of works in their collections and holdings that were confiscated from their lawful owners during the Nazi period.

Catalogue of the MNR (Musées Nationaux Récupération)
The MNR catalogue was set up on behalf of the Réunion des Musées nationaux in France and contains all confiscated artworks in Germany at the end of the Second World War. Numerous objects were already returned in the 1950s. The updated list of remaining objects is published in book form and online.

This database contains information on art and cultural objects currently housed in Austrian museums and collections that, according to the latest provenance research, were possibly expropriated from their rightful owners during the Nazi period.

Kommission für Provenienzforschung
The Commission for Provenance Research conducts systematic and seamless investigations of the holdings of the Austrian national museums and collections. Employees of the commission work in the various museums and collections throughout the state where they examine inventories, archival holdings and the art objects themselves for further evidence of their origins.

Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal
This database lists more than 28,347 objects that changed owners during the Nazi era from 171 participating museums across the USA.

Guide of National Archives and Records Administration (NARA, US)
NARA provides detailed information and materials on their collections that are relevant to the looting of art during the Second World War.

Provenance Guide of the International Foundation for Art Research
The IFAR explains why and for whom provenance research is important. The website contains a bibliography and a list of links on art looting and theft especially during the Second World War.

The Documentation Project
This project of the Cultural Property Research Foundation (New York) comprises both information and digitisation, including photographs from the Jeu de Paume (1940–1944), the ‘Art Looting Investigation Unit Final Report’ (1946), the preliminary report ‘Looted Art in Occupied Territories’ (1945), and ‘Russian Law on “Trophy Art” Contents’ (1998).

Forschungsstelle "Entartete Kunst"
The research centre for ‘degenerate art’ was set up at the beginning of 2003 by the art history department at the Freie Universität Berlin. Since April 2004, a parallel focus group has been established by the art history course Kunstgeschichtliches Seminar at the Universität Hamburg. The research centre has been largely funded by the Ferdinand-Möller-Stiftung (Berlin) since its initiation.

Inventory of confiscated ‘degenerate art’
The Gesamtverzeichnis (entire directory) is available on the website of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in a digital reproduction of a typed inventory of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda from 1941/1942, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence (CC-BY-NC 4.0 international).

“Degenerate Art” Database
The “Degenerate Art” Database was produced using numerous archive materials, primarily from the Federal Archives, the Central Archive of Berlin Museums and other museum archives, and through the evaluation of relevant literature, and is constantly updated and supplemented. 

The estate of art dealer Ferdinand Möller (1882–1956) comprises extensive material on the development of the art trade in the first half of the twentieth century. Due to his extensive network of collectors and agents in Germany and overseas, he became involved after 1937 in the Nazi programme for the ‘utilisation’ of artworks that had previously been declared ‘degenerate’ and seized from museums and public collections in Germany.