During the years 1933 through 1945, Nazi officials systematically confiscated, looted, destroyed, and forced the sale of vast numbers of works of art and other cultural property that belonged to private citizens and museums throughout occupied Europe. Adolph Hitler and other Nazi officials retained many works of art for their private collections; others were intended for Hitler’s proposed National Museum or sold to support the Nazi regime. Although tens of thousands of these works were recovered by Allied troops and repatriated to their rightful owners after the end of World War II, others were never found or returned.
Supported by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and the Association of American Museums (AAM), the establishment of complete provenance (the history of ownership) has become an ever-increasing concern of American museums. Concerted efforts are being made to establish the ownership history of works of art dated before 1946 and acquired after 1933 that possibly changed hands in Continental Europe during the Nazi era (1933-1945). Museums are actively researching the provenance of European paintings and Judaica (categories established by the AAM) that meet these criteria and posting them on their websites. To facilitate these efforts, the AAM has established a Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal, or centralized database, that will allow the public to expedite the search for provenance information. MAG’s provenance research can be accessed through the AAM portal as well as our website.
The Memorial Art Gallery is working to establish a complete provenance for works in our collection and make this information readily available to the public. This site is a living document and does not comprise a complete list of holdings with incomplete provenance. We will continue to add new information to the website as it becomes available.