April 12, 1945. Lt. Moore. (Army) NARA FILE #: 111-SC-204516
During the Second World War, the forces of Nazi Germany set off to conquer Europe and destroy anyone who stood in their way. Millions of people lost their lives, but the forces of Germany were also notorious for looting their victims. Many of Hitler’s Generals stole priceless artwork from the people they conquered and the hunt for these pieces still continues today.
The looting of artwork and other important relics began as early as 1933 and continued up until the end of WWII. Although many cities were ravaged by the conflicts of WWII, Hitler instructed units to preserve artwork whenever possible. This may have been inspired by Hitler’s past as a fine artist, but nevertheless, he was a rabid consumer of great artwork.
Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring was also a very prolific art collector and had amassed a huge collection of looted art. The Germans took special measures to protect these pieces from Allied bombing raids by storing them underground in salt mines. The end goal was for Hitler to establish a Führermuseum in his hometown of Linz to display all of the artwork.
After the war, Allied Soldiers began collecting the artwork and putting in an effort to return it to its rightful owners. The Lourve currently has 31 pieces of artwork looted by German soldiers on display in an effort to aid in that search. Publicly displaying them will attract more attention and owns or heirs of the owns can find them.
“The idea with the two rooms is that if there are any beneficial owners of the people who have been dispossessed during the Second World War… they can see these artworks, declare that these artworks belonged to them, and officially ask for their return.”
– Sebastien Allard (Head of the Paintings Department at the Louvre)
To this day well over 100,000 pieces of looted artwork remain missing, but the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) continues to search and set things right.