February 15, 2014

Vol. 29 , No. 09   

View Entire Issue (Vol. 29 , No. 09)

The "Real" (and Reel) Monuments Men, the Gurlitt Cache, and the Continuing Challenges of Nazi Looted Art

The Nazis were not only the most systematic mass murderers in history, but arguably the greatest thieves. Recovering the property they stole and returning it to the rightful owners continues sixty-nine years after the end of World War II.

Two recent developments have drawn public attention to the on-going restitution work: George Clooney’s feature film The Monuments Men, which sports an all-star cast and a sizeable production budget; and the discovery of the Gurlitt cache, some 1,300 pictures concealed in a Munich apartment that were found in the possession of the son of a well-known art dealer. Both the film and the sensational discovery have had significant reverberations for those addressing the history of Nazi art looting and the Allies’ restitution work.

In his talk, CMC Professor Jonathan Petropoulos will discuss what we can learn from the Clooney film and the revelation of the Gurlitt pictures. He will then relate these observations to the present-day restitution work undertaken by national (and state) governments, by museums around the world, by collectors of art, and by victims of the Holocaust and their heirs.

Jonathan Petropoulos is the John V. Croul Professor of European History at CMC. He is the author of four monographs, including Art as Politics in the Third Reich (1996), The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany (2000), and the forthcoming Artists Under Hitler: Collaboration and Survival in Nazi Germany (due out from Yale University Press in September). He also served as Research Director for Art and Cultural Property on the Presidential Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States, and has been engaged as an expert witness in a number of Holocaust-era art restitution cases.