Art Repatriation and Restitution in World War II:


MFAA member searching a Nazi cache of Torah scrolls.

Repatriation is not a new concept, but is one that may never be as big of an issue as it was following the end of World War II. In the context of this pathfinder, repatriation refers to the returning and/ or restitution of art work that was stolen by Nazi forces during the Second World War. The resources here allow researchers to grasp the efforts made by the Monuments Men to locate and return cultural items to their countries of origin and individual pieces to their rightful owners. Numerous foundations also allow researchers to identify those who might be eligible for restitution and detailed histories of artifacts that have been recovered and their current status.

Website: The Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art (

The official website of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation for the Arts. This site gives a very concise overview of the foundations goals of preserving the legacy of the Monuments Men. Included in the site are are well formed categories with bulleted lists detailing the objectives of the foundation. Digital photos, videos, and documents of original documents recovered by the Monuments Men can be found on the website as well.

Book: Muller, Melissa and Monika Tatzkow. Lost Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft, and the Quest for Justice. New York : Vendome Press, 2010.

The book chronicles the lives of a few prominent Jewish people during World War II whose art collections were seized by Nazis, and their struggle for restitution.

Website: Commission for Art Recovery (

A website for the Commission for Art Recovery. A rich site that enables anyone to use their resources to aid in finding and returning art stolen by Nazi forces during World War II. The site is easily searched through the top menu bar that allows the user to search by case, projects, resources, or bibliographies.

Website: Project Heart: The Holocaust Era Restitution Taskforce (

A site self-proclaimed to be the Holocaust Restitution Task Force. This site’s purpose is to identify those who are victims of Nazi art theft during World War II and reconnect them with stolen property. This is an international site as it is offered in twenty six languages. The site is set up to answer inquiries as to eligibility for their aid in recovering art and/or restitution.

Databases: Smithsonian: Provenance in the World War II Era 1933-1945 (

This specific page offers articles from a Smithsonian Institution database concerning lost art during World War II. The articles are arranged primarily alphabetically by country with a complete title. Some of the articles are available in other languages than English.

Website: National Archives Holocaust Era Assets (

This page of the National Archives and Records Administration main website consists of a photo gallery of Holocaust-Era Assets microfilms as well as a finding aid dedicated to the looting, location, and recovery of cultural as well as monetary items taken from all over the European Theatre of World War II.

Website: Presidential Commission on Holocaust Assets in the U.S.: (

The website of an organization designed to paint the most complete picture of the art that was stolen by Nazis during World War II. It also attempts to identify those whom the items belonged to by providing a list of links to register to apply as a person deserving of restitution or repatriation.

Archival Papers: Colonel Seymour J. Pomerenze papers from the American Jewish Historical Society

The papers of Colonel Seymour Jacob Pomrenze (1916-2011) contain materials relating to his role as the first director of the Offenbach Archival Depot (OAD) in early 1946, which worked to return confiscated Jewish religious cultural objects to their former owners.


Perspectives on Art Restitution and Repatriation:


A flow chart illustrating the nebulous problem of repatriation of cultural property.

Not everyone is convinced that repatriation is fair, and for that matter, legal. Question of statutes of limitation have been raised since the early 1990s. This section of the pathfinder identifies and offers scholarly opinions on the subject. A common question that is raised is why countries need an item back if they already posses a plethora of that item. These specific case studies listed give the researcher different perspectives of the concept of repatriation.

Journal Article:  Roehrenbeck, Carol A. “Repatriation of Cultural Property–Who Owns the Past? An Introduction to Approaches and to Selected Statutory Instruments.” International Journal of Legal Information 38.2 (2010): 185-200.

This article serves to provide the reader with a background on the topic of cultural repatriation. It gives very specific dates as to when repatriation became a global issue and the organizations that are at the forefront of the discussion.

Editorial: Rosenthal, Sir Norman. “The Time has come for a Statute of Limitations.” The Art Newspaper 197 (11 Dec 2008).

The author of this article, a former museum director, argues that there should be a statute of limitations on stolen cultural items from other countries. Also helpful are the comments at the bottom that propose challenges, with evidence against the author’s claims.

Journal Article: Woodward, Colin. “The War Over Plunder: Who Owns Art Stolen in War?.” MHQ: Quarterly Journal Of Military History 22.4 (2010): 44-48.

Discusses ethical and moral aspects of stolen art and cultural property through history, examples of restitution, and how repatriation eventually occurred.

Journal Article: Goodwin, Paige S. “Mapping the Limits of Repatriable Cultural Heritage: A Case Study of Stolen Flemish Art in French Museums.”University of Pennsylvania Law Review 157.2 (Dec., 2008): 673-705.

A case study of stolen Flemish art in French museums. Also challenges repatriation actions and suggests that there should be limits on what can be returned and after how long. This WorldCat search also reveals other relevant articles about the subject of repatriation.