RIHA Journal 0282 | 15 September 2023


Antiquities in the Nazi Era: Contexts and Broader View

Irene Bald Romano

This introduction presents an overview of the research questions and the challenges involved in studying the fate of Middle Eastern, Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities during the Nazi era. Since the antiquities markets and the methods of trade, disappearance, and confiscation of ancient archaeological objects varied a great deal across Europe and the Middle East during the Nazi period, this article examines the evidence in individual countries, both in source countries where the archaeological objects originated and in market countries where antiquities were collected, traded, or confiscated—including the United States. Finally, some conclusions gleaned from this broader study are presented, including from the articles in this special issue.

Research questions and challenges of examining the provenance of antiquities
The fate of antiquities in individual countries
Notable German collectors of antiquities in the later 19th century and the first half of the 20th century
The Linz museum and antiquities
CCP Munich records
Major dealers of antiquities in Germany
The Netherlands
The Soviet Union: Losses and transfers from Germany
Antiquities entering American collections: Mining the Brummer archives
Egyptian antiquities
Middle Eastern antiquities
Greek antiquities
Antiquities from Italy

Research questions and challenges of examining the provenance of antiquities

[1] Despite the important role that antiquity—especially classical antiquity—and archaeology played in the ideology of the “Third Reich”1, the fate of Middle Eastern, Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities during the Nazi era is only now being presented here using a holistic approach2. Previous research on this subject has been directed mostly at specific categories of objects, such as coins3; evidence of losses from individual countries, mainly in immediate post-World War II reports (e.g., in Italy and Greece); or specific cases of individual museum objects or collections about which ethical or legal ownership questions have been raised. Questions of national antiquities laws in source countries were largely ignored by Western museums until the spirit of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property of 1970 became widely implemented and accepted by museums and professional organizations in the late 1990s and early 2000s4. Until well after the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art had been signed by 44 countries5, provenance questions regarding antiquities had mostly been rather single-mindedly focused on whether the ethical principles of the 1970 UNESCO Convention had been met6, often neglecting other histories of these objects, including their possible Nazi past.

[2] The topic of antiquities in the Nazi era is an expansive one, and the papers in this collaborative international publication still represent only part of the picture. In approaching this research, some of the major questions we have explored are as follows:

  • To what extent were Mediterranean and Middle Eastern moveable antiquities or archaeological objects subjected to confiscation, forced sale, theft, looting, loss, illegal sale and exportation, and trade in general in various countries in Europe and the Middle East from 1933 to 1945?
  • Who were the major state actors or private collectors and dealers of antiquities in the prewar period and earlier, as well as during the Nazi era?
  • What were the market mechanisms for antiquities during the Nazi era and the World War II period in Europe, the Middle East, and the US? What happened to them at the conclusion of World War II?
  • Can we trace any of these objects to their ancient contexts?
  • Can we fill the gaps in provenance to the present day?

[3] The answers to these questions are challenging. Among the many difficulties we face are the linking of these antiquities to their specific ancient contexts in the Mediterranean and Middle East and understanding how and when these objects were removed from their place of manufacture and/or archaeological deposition. In this regard, archaeologists generally use the term provenience to denote the archaeological find spot, while provenance refers to the history of that object, its transfers, locations, and owners from the time of its unearthing to the present day7. Only in rare cases have moveable antiquities never been buried and passed down through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and succeeding centuries in religious, royal, private, or, eventually, public museum collections. Identifying the provenience of antiquities once they have been removed from their ancient context is complicated. Although we might be able to pinpoint the general place of manufacture by style or technique, the archaeological deposition context is more problematic—especially for Greek and Roman objects, both small and large, which were widely transferred around the ancient Mediterranean. For example, a Greek vase might have been created in Athens but deposited in an Etruscan tomb in central Italy; a marble sculpture may have been made in a workshop in Rome for a temple in Roman Spain; Roman coins and categories of ceramics traveled widely. Thus, without excavation records and unless an ancient object is unique with its deposition restricted to one locale (e.g., very distinctive inscribed Palmyrene funerary reliefs), it is often not possible to identify even the site from which an ancient object originated once that critical archaeological information becomes separated from the object. In rare cases, dealers have recorded information about an object’s find spot, but often this information is questionable, dangerously and misleadingly labeled “said to be from” in museum records, or only revealed many years later8.

[4] Antiquities have generally been ignored in provenance studies relating to the Nazi era, dismissed as “multiples”, or categorized with decorative arts, mostly with no associated artists’ names, and thus regarded as not worth pursuing. In addition, antiquities are inconsistently or inadequately described in databases, with few or conflicting cultural affiliations or dates, sometimes with misidentifications, and few photographs9. It seems even the Allies’ Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program (MFAA) prioritized the identification of European paintings, sculpture, and treasure arts found in various Nazi repositories, giving antiquities rather cursory attention.

[5] It is, moreover, impossible to separate the antiquities trade from the rest of the art trade during the Nazi period. Dealers, for the most part, did not exclusively sell antiquities10, and most individuals and families with the financial means collected various categories of works of art. It is problematic, therefore, for scholars to isolate the ancient objects and neglect other categories of cultural objects or art when research questions call for a more inclusive approach11. Finally, antiquities were (and still are) often sold not through auctions or dealers but through an illegal or black/gray market in source countries, making tracing their provenience and provenance very difficult.

[6] Despite all the challenges, it is a good time to undertake such a study with many museums proactively conducting provenance research, making their collections’ databases available online, and producing exhibition catalogs with full provenance information. Research institutions, like the Getty Research Institute (GRI) and Heidelberg University Library12 or the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (ZI)13, as well as museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)14, have digitized dealer records and auction catalogs. Also, more and more relevant finding aids for archival documents (and the documents themselves) from Nazi and Allied agencies and other institutions are being made available online15. Moreover, what makes the study of the provenance of archaeological objects in general so interesting, and perhaps more difficult than other categories of art and cultural objects, is that many of these objects have led very complicated lives over many centuries, sometimes with a colonial-era past (e.g., in the Ottoman Empire for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern antiquities)16—a topic that has moved to the forefront of provenance research in recent years—and a Nazi-era or more recent history. Some of these complicated histories are unraveled in this special issue.

The fate of antiquities in individual countries

[7] Since the antiquities markets and the methods of trade, disappearance, and confiscation of ancient archaeological objects varied a great deal across Europe and the Middle East during the Nazi period, with the United States serving as one market, it is necessary to examine the situation in individual countries or regions to grasp the fuller picture. In Greece, for example, there were no official confiscations from museums, though many cases of theft or illegal excavations have been well-documented17. The possessions of Jews in northern Greek communities were inventoried and confiscated, but they seem to have included few, if any, antiquities. This is in contrast to the conditions in France and elsewhere in Europe where the collections of wealthy Jews targeted for confiscation comprised at least some antiquities. In the following sections, I summarize some of the information regarding the antiquities markets, dealers, collectors, wartime losses, and Nazi confiscations in specific countries, beginning with Greece and Italy, main source countries for classical antiquities. Details about the antiquities dealers in other source countries or regions, including Egypt and the Middle East, are included in the discussion of the US market.


[8] In Greece, the occupying forces made no official confiscations of the important antiquities collections such as those in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens or the Acropolis Museum. The majority of the collections in the major museums had been well hidden and protected; for example, when German troops arrived in Athens on 27 April 1941, they found the galleries of the National Archaeological Museum more or less empty (Fig. 1)18.

Fig. 1. Sculpture collections of the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, under preparation for safekeeping beneath the floors of the museum, 1940–1941 (photograph courtesy of National Archaeological Museum, Athens/Photographic Archive, reprod. by author from text panel in National Archaeological Museum, Athens, February 2019)

The Nazi occupation of Greece (28 October 1940 to December 1944) was framed by the Nazis as “a fourth wave of Nordic migration to defend and rejuvenate Greek soil after a long period of racial decay”19. Because the Nazis regarded themselves as the legitimate guardians of an ancient Greek culture that was part of their own legacy, they were not inclined to officially plunder or damage antiquities20. However, there were still losses, especially from smaller museums and archaeological sites all over Greece, from the many cases of random plunder during the triple occupation by German, Italian, and Bulgarian officers and enlisted men21. These losses (and some returns) of antiquities were documented in 1946 in Greek and British reports22, but it is clear from subsequent reports that the information was only preliminary since the surveys of losses were continuing as the reports were going to press23. For example, accounts of the losses at ancient Corinth differ in the Greek and British reports and in the report of the director of the excavations of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens24. German archaeologist Roland Hampe reviewed these reports and provided some rebuttals and corrections to them, calling for objectivity and verifiable information; he was especially concerned with the characterization of the situation with the material from the German Archaeological Institute’s excavations at the Heraion on Samos25.

[9] Recent repatriations illustrate the diverse nature of the thefts in Greece during this period. For example, Hermann Göring participated in 1934 in the smuggling of a collection of antiquities that Werner Peek, a Nazi sympathizer and later a famous Greek epigraphy specialist, purchased in Greece in 1933. One of these objects was a black-figure skyphos with a scene of long-distance runners; it had been awarded to Spyridon (also: Spyros) Louis, the winner of the first Olympic marathon in 1896. The cup was rediscovered in the collections of the University of Münster and repatriated to Greece in November 2019, where it is today exhibited in the Museum of the Olympic Games in Olympia26.

[10] In May 2022 a Mycenaean (12th-century BC) gold signet ring with a representation of two confronting sphinxes was returned to Greece from the Nobel Foundation in Sweden. The ring had been excavated in 1927 from a Mycenaean chamber tomb in Ialysos, Rhodes, by the Italian Archaeological School at Athens and published a few years later by the excavator, Giulio Jacopi, with a photograph and drawing27. It had been stolen from the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes while the city was under Italian occupation during World War II. In 1975 Carl-Gustaf Styrenius, former director of the Swedish Institute at Athens (1963–1970) and then director of the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities (Medelhavsmuseet) in Stockholm (1971–1989), wrote to Christos Doumas, then curator of the Ephorate of Antiquities of the Dodecanese, to inform him that the ring in his Stockholm museum was likely from Rhodes. The ring had entered the museum in 1974 from the Nobel Foundation, to which it had been bequeathed by the late Nobel laureate Georg von Békésy, who had bought it in the United States in the 1950s or 1960s. It wasn’t until recently that this correspondence was rediscovered by the Directorate of Documentation and Protection of Cultural Goods of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports, and the ring was returned to Greece by the Nobel Foundation. Hundreds of other finds were stolen during World War II from the Rhodes museum (coins, gold and silver jewelry, and other small items), which are still missing28.

[11] Thefts in 1941 by Austrian general Julius Ringel at the Villa Ariadne and the Stratigraphic Museum at Knossos on Crete have also been well-documented, with a 2017 repatriation of some of these objects from the University of Graz29. There were also losses from illicit exports from German or Austrian excavations that were not sanctioned by the Greek Archaeological Service, especially on Crete30 and in the central Greek region of Thessaly31. Nazi archaeologist Hans Reinerth, head of the Reichsbund für Deutsche Vorgeschichte (Reichsbund for German Prehistory) and of the Sonderkommando Griechenland (Special Task Force Greece) of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), conducted large-scale excavations at the Neolithic (5000–8000 years BP) site of Visviki-Magula in Thessaly, undertaken in an effort to find proof of the presence of Nordic people who might have migrated to Greece in prehistoric times32. Large numbers of archaeological objects were removed to Germany and housed in the Pfahlbaumuseum Unteruhldingen on Lake Constance. Around 10,000 pottery sherds and other artifacts from both excavations and surveys in Thessaly were returned to Greece in 2014 from this museum33. In addition, some repatriations were successful immediately after World War II as a result of the work of Spyridon Marinatos, who was deputized by the Greek government to be its emissary in the recovery of material taken from Greece to Germany, Austria, or Italy, though he was never admitted to Germany34. More information about Greek antiquities gleaned from dealer records of sales, especially to American buyers, in this period is discussed below.


[12] One of the most difficult issues to summarize regarding the Fascist period in Italy relates to Jewish art and antiquities dealers, Jewish collectors, and the fate of their ancient collections. Italy and Italian museums have been criticized until recently for having done little to advance provenance research on Jewish collections that changed hands during the period, especially from 1938 to 194435: In the immediate postwar period, when Rodolfo Siviero, the charismatic, self-promoting, and dogged ministro plenipotenziario, was assigned the diplomatic mission to bring back to Italy art treasures that had been taken by the Nazis, little attention was paid to stolen Jewish collections, except for the libraries of the Jewish communities in Rome and Florence, which were found and restituted36. Following the 1998 Washington Conference and its resulting Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, to which Italy was signatory, Italy established a governmental advisory commission (named after the chairwoman: Anselmi Commission) to move forward the return of cultural objects seized during the Nazi era to the rightful owners or legitimate heirs of mainly Jewish owners. The commission produced a 2001 final report that included a brief section entitled “Looting of Artistic, Cultural and Religious Assets”, but little has been done in its wake37.

[13] In the Fascist period (1922–1943) and during the German occupation of the former ally between September 1943 and April 1945, thousands of Jews were compelled to flee Italy, especially after the implementation of the racial laws in 1938. Moreover, Italy—in particular Trieste—played a major role as a port of transit in the process of emigration. As a matter of fact, more than 8,200 Jews in Italy were murdered in the death camps, but we have no clear accounting of most of these individuals’ assets, the confiscations, or the duress sales, in which Jews were forced to sell their property at diminished value. Scholars have recently explored questions surrounding the fate of cultural objects that belonged to Jewish individuals and institutions in Italy—a topic that was largely ignored, indeed brushed under the table, by Italian museums and governmental bodies, minimizing the role the Fascist government of Mussolini played in the persecution of Jews and allowing the mistaken presumption to exist that Italy was a victim of the Nazis and that the only persecution and theft of cultural property from Jews in Italy took place under coercion of the Nazis or by the Nazis themselves38.

[14] The dispersal of one Jewish-owned antiquities collection in Italy, that of Ludwig Pollak (1868–1943), the Prague-born Jewish art dealer, archaeologist, connoisseur, and director of the Museo Barracco di Scultura Antica in Rome, is an important case study in this regard. Pollak was highly respected and well-connected in the art world in Rome as well as internationally. He was famous for having identified the right arm of the Laocoön, found not far from the site of the statue’s 1506 discovery in Rome39. His Tagebücher, with the last entries written just a month before his death, demonstrate the extent to which he intimately understood the Roman art trade, including fakes on the market, the major dealers of antiquities and their networks, and the important institutions; these diaries are also a gold mine of information on the cultural life of Rome from the end of the 19th century to 194340.

[15] Persecution of Jews in Italy officially began in the winter of 1938–1939 with prohibitions on Jewish-owned businesses and employment and confiscation of Jewish property, with increasing levels of persecution until 1943–1944, when all Jewish businesses were shut down41. As a Jew in Rome feeling the increasing pressure of the Fascist and Nazi anti-Semitic policies, in 1940 Pollak began to disperse some of his personal collection by depositing for safekeeping eleven ancient sculptures in the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva42. He consigned the remainder of his collection of paintings, as well as ancient gems, jewelry, bronzes, vases, and small marble sculptures, for sale in three auctions in Rome in 1942 and 1943, the first comprising 118 objects at the Casa di vendite Palazzo Simonetti in May 1942. Only 23 of Pollak’s objects sold43. The objects that did not sell at the first auction were put up for sale again at the Galleria d’Arte L’Antonina in March and April 1943, but only 30 items sold44. In the marginalia of the sales catalog, Pollak noted that those that did not sell were put in a deposit “bei Romiti”; it is not clear who (painter Gino Romiti 1881–1967?), what, or where Romiti is45. Despite overtures to assist his escape, Pollak remained in his beloved Rome; he, his wife, and two children were rounded up with other Roman Jews on 16 October 1943 and murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau shortly thereafter46. In addition to the sculptures in the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire—three purchased from Pollak’s heirs in 1949 and 1951 and eight donated by Pollak’s sister-in-law, Margaret Süssmann-Nicod, in 195747—parts of Pollak’s personal collection are located today in the Musei Capitolini, the Museo Barracco, and the Museo di Roma48. Those auctioned off in 1942 and 1943 are scattered to various locations unknown to me.

[16] Many of the antiquities plundered by the Nazis from public institutions and non-Jewish private collections in Italy have been located and restituted. The list of known items lost or still to be recovered includes archaeological material from the Finaly Collection in a villa in Florence (six antiquities) and from the Museo della Torre di Pandolfo Capodiferro, near the ancient site of Minturnae in Campania (23 ancient items)49. Twelve other antiquities are listed in Morozzi and Paris’s 1995 catalog of missing works of art from Italy, but several of these have since been repatriated50.

[17] A second-century AD marble statuette of Artemis/Diana of the Versailles-Leptis Magna type with a dog beside the goddess, excavated at Minturnae in the 1931–1933 University of Pennsylvania/Soprintendenza in Naples campaign, was acquired by the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Trier in 1963 from a private collection in Trier; it had almost certainly gone missing during World War II51. It was repatriated to Italy in January 200352 and is on display in the Antiquarium at Minturno today (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Marble statuette of Artemis/Diana with a hunting dog, second century AD. Antiquarium of Minturnae, Minturno, Italy (photograph by Carole Raddato, 1 July 2014, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Another sculpture from these same excavations, a marble portrait head of the late third to early fourth century AD, possibly of the emperor Maximianus Herculeus, was purchased by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA Boston), in 1961 from Münzen und Medaillen AG in Basel, deaccessioned by the museum on 8 October 2020, and transferred to Italy in April 202253. Rodolfo Siviero provided some details of the movement of the Minturnae collections, including that in a five-month period in 1944, when the Kunstschutz was moving collections from regional museums and deposits to Rome, selected artifacts were removed, with some sent to Germany54. Another orchestrated plunder of antiquities in Italy during the Nazi period is illustrated by the October 1943 theft by the 1st Paratroop Panzer Division “Hermann Göring” of collections from Naples museums, which were recovered in Altaussee and repatriated to Italy55.

[18] Cases of random plunder in Italy during the war have been highlighted by a recent research project and restitution. The project is being jointly conducted by the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli and St. Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada, on the archaeological collection of indigenous, Greek, and Etruscan objects found on the estate of Baron Marcello Spinelli at ancient Suessula in the Piana Campana (inland Campania, northeast of Naples). During World War II, first German and then American troops occupied the Baron’s estate with Spinelli’s private museum, the Casina Spinelli, used from October 1943 as an Allied cinema and barracks. During this period, the museum was looted, with objects dispersed56.

[19] Another case of random plunder is illustrated by a Roman marble portrait of Drusus Minor that was deaccessioned by the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2016 and repatriated to Italy in 2017 after it was proven to have been excavated at the Campanian site of Sessa Aurunca in 1925 or 1926 and published in the report of the excavations. It went missing in 1944 from the archeological museum in Sessa Aurunca in Caserta province (Fig. 3)57. It was likely looted under cover of war, and its removal from Italy without a permit would have been prohibited under Italian laws 364/1909 and 108/1939, although we know these laws were sometimes bypassed with permits approved by Fascist officials, including Mussolini himself in high-profile cases58.

Fig. 3. Marble portrait of Drusus Minor, excavated in Sessa Aurunca, Campania, repatriated from the Cleveland Museum of Art to Italy in 2017 (photograph by David Brichford, Cleveland Museum of Art, Gallery 103, 14 August 2012, with permission of Cleveland Museum of Art)

[20] The antiquities trade in Italy and the taste for Italian antiquities showed few signs of diminishment during the Fascist and Nazi periods in Italy. The looting of ancient sites there continued, and antiquities were plundered under cover of war in both random and systematic ways. Italian antiquities dealers59, art advisers, and agents were enriched by sales to the Nazis and to foreign dealers, museums, and collectors, despite attempts by the Italian state to regulate the exportation of culturally significant works of art60.


[21] To gain a sense of the relative interest in antiquities among Jewish collectors in France in the pre-Nazi period and, therefore, the availability of various categories of ancient art for Nazi looting, we can examine the database of art objects confiscated from late 1940 through August 1944 by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) in France and Belgium, the vast majority of which were stored in the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris61. In his report in July 1944, Robert Scholz, head of the Sonderstab Bildende Kunst, enumerated 21,903 works of art confiscated by the ERR from about 250 private collections and institutions. Only 239 of these works of art are antiquities62. We now understand that this was not a comprehensive statistic since a search through just two of these collections produces over 300 antiquities. For example, Alphonse Kann’s collection of 1,614 works of art, confiscated in October 1940 from his mansion in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (assigned “Ka” inventory numbers by the ERR), comprised at least 150 ancient objects, including Egyptian (Pharaonic, Ptolemaic, and Coptic periods; ca. 65), Middle Eastern (ca. 10), Greek (ca. 51), Etruscan (some red-figure vases or sherds labeled Etruscan, but are possibly South Italian; ca. 7), Roman (ca. 13), and Byzantine (ca. 6) objects for around 9 percent of Kann’s eclectic collection (Fig. 4)63. The incomplete descriptions of some of the objects and the lack of photographs make further identifications of ancient objects in this collection impossible, especially works in glass and ceramic, which are categorized as decorative arts with no further descriptions in the ERR database.

Fig. 4. Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg(ERR) catalog card (Ka 517) for an Egyptian bronze bowl on a tripod with two upright handles, decorated with three bird heads, from the collection of Alphonse Kann, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France (photograph from “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume”, https://www.errproject.org/jeudepaume/card_view.php?CardId=1085 [accessed 5 February 2020])

[22] In addition, more than 5,000 works of art were confiscated from the collections of the French Rothschilds in Paris (all of the collections of the various Rothschild family members were labeled “R” in the ERR catalog system). Of the 1,288 objects cataloged from Maurice de Rothschild’s confiscated Paris estate, there are at least 154 ancient objects (almost 12 percent of the collection), with the largest category being Greek and Roman jewelry (135 entries), including some labeled with a Southern Russian provenience, possibly from tombs on the Crimean peninsula (Fig. 5)64. At least six Greek vases from Rothschild’s collection are documented in Hermann Göring’s Carinhall, as Laura Puritani outlines in her paper in this publication and in her major publication of the Carinhall antiquities65.

Fig. 5. Ancient gold ring with a Greek inscription from the collection of Maurice de Rothschild, Paris, and ERR catalog card (R 2208) (photographs from “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume”, https://www.errproject.org/jeudepaume/card_view.php?CardId=14132 [accessed 11 April 2021])

[23] Moïse Lévy de Benzion (1873–1943), a Sephardic Jewish department store owner in Cairo with property in and around Paris, amassed a large collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine (Coptic) antiquities, some of which he acquired in his native Egypt and some in Europe. In 1940–1941, the ERR confiscated over 1,000 works of art and objects from Lévy de Benzion (designated “LB” in the ERR’s inventories) in his Chateau de la Folie in Draveil, outside Paris; more than 275 of these were antiquities66. Part of this collection was restituted to Lévy de Benzion’s widow in 1946–1948, and a portion was sold at an auction in Cairo in 194767. Some of his collection have entered various American and European collections—for example, the Antonine bust of a woman now in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts that was purchased at the 1947 sale of Lévy de Benzion’s collection (Fig. 6)68.

Fig. 6. Marble bust of a female, Antonine period, ca. AD 150. Former collection of Moïse Lévy de Benzion, now in Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment, 2017.4 (photograph by Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)

[24] In addition, the Möbel-Aktion (“Furniture Operation”), an arm of the ERR, plundered 69,619 homes in France, some 38,000 in Paris alone. The confiscated household goods comprised much more than furniture, however, and included some ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern objects. The ERR database lists lots (sometimes with groups of objects listed under one entry) of 4 Egyptian antiquities (ERR inv. nos. MA-AEGY); 152 Asian antiquities (i.e., Middle Eastern [pre-Islamic and Islamic] and Indian), 59 of which are pre-Islamic (listed variously as Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, and Luristan69, with East Asian objects listed separately); 102 “Antik(e)”, in general (inv. nos. MA-AN), which include an array of objects of various periods and types, only some of which are ancient (pointing to the problems interpreting the German use of the adjective antik or the noun Antike); and 63 coins (inv. nos. MA-MÜ), only seven of which are ancient70. Such a limited number of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern antiquities in comparison to the very large total of confiscated objects speaks perhaps to a minor interest in ancient artifacts among average Jewish families in France, as opposed to wealthy collectors.


Notable German collectors of antiquities in the later 19th century and the first half of the 20th century

[25] There were several notable German collectors of the later 19th century and the early 20th century whose interests were focused primarily on antiquities; all of them were Jewish. Friedrich Ludwig von Gans (1833–1920), a Frankfurt am Main industrialist, was one of these. We know a great deal about his collecting preferences from publications of the part of his collection that he donated to the Berlin Königliche Kunstsammlungen (Antikensammlung today) in 191271 and from a catalog of the Bachstitz Gallery in The Hague, which had acquired von Gans’s collection en bloc after his death72. His Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Late Roman/Byzantine jewelry, gems, and glass collections are especially notable. His name is mentioned repeatedly throughout this special issue73.

[26] Beginning in 1902 with purchases, especially of Greek vases from the English collection of William Henry Forman, the German-American James Loeb (1867–1933) formed a collection of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities that was bequeathed just at the beginning of the Nazi era to the Museum Antiker Kleinkunst (Staatliche Antikensammlungen today) in Munich. It comprises some 800 objects—primarily small items such as jewelry, gems, glass, and other luxury objects, bronze statuettes and terracotta figurines, Roman ceramics—as well as around 180 Greek vases and fragments and three large Etruscan bronze cauldrons on stands, the latter excavated from the Tomba di Fonte Ranocchia near Perugia in 1904 and bought in Rome in 1905 (Fig. 7)74.

Fig. 7. Etruscan bronze tripod (tripod A), ca. 540–530 BC, found in the Tomba di Fonte Ranocchia in San Valentino di Marsciano, near Perugia. Acquired by James Loeb in 1905, now in Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich (photograph: from Wikimedia Commons, 22 October 2016 [accessed 11 April 2021])

[27] Archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt (1863–1938), from a distinguished Berlin family of antiquarians and patrons of Egyptology and founder of the German Archaeological Institute’s Cairo department in 190775, acted as an agent or middleman in Egypt for the acquisition of antiquities for German museums.76 Borchardt is most famous for his excavations at Tell el-Amarna (ancient Akhetaten), where from 1907 to 1914 he directed archaeological research for the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft and in 1912 discovered the bust of Nefertiti in the workshop of the sculptor Thutmose77. Controversy over the presence of the bust in Berlin (now in the Neues Museum) has continued on and off from soon after its discovery78. A patron for those excavations was James Simon (1851–1932), son of a prominent textile manufacturer. Simon, a major donor to Berlin museums, donated the bust of Nefertiti to the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin along with other important ancient Egyptian objects in 192079, while parts of his collection, including the ancient jewelry, were sold at Lepke auction house in 1932, just on the cusp of the Nazi era (Figs. 8a-b)80.

Figs. 8a-b. Facing title pages for auction catalog for sale of James Simon’s collection, Nachlass Dr. James Simon, Berlin. Miniaturen, Gemälde, Plastik, Kunstgewerbe und Textilien, antiker Goldschmuck, Möbel, Bücher, Rudolph Lepke’s Kunst-Auctions-Haus, Berlin, 29 November 1932 (photographs: from Internet Archive, 12 December 2016, [accessed 11 April 2021])

[28] Rudolf Mosse (1843–1920), a Berlin publisher, arts patron, philanthropist, and sponsor of archaeological excavations in Egypt, donated a large Egyptian collection (ca. 700 objects) to the Ägyptisches Museum in Berlin between 1892 and 1894. In 1933 his daughter and heir, Felicia Lachmann-Mosse, and her husband, Hans Lachmann-Mosse, the publisher of the Berliner Tageblatt, fled Germany because of Jewish persecution. Remaining parts of the Mosse collection were confiscated and auctioned in 1934 by the Berlin auction house Lepke. That auction comprised 63 ancient works of art, including Egyptian stone sculptures, bronze statuettes and vessels, wooden objects, faience amulets, terracottas, as well as several Greek and Roman objects81. The formation, provenance, and dispersal of Mosse’s private Egyptian collection and his donations to the Egyptian museum in the context of Jewish patronage of excavations and museums are discussed in this special issue by Thomas L. Gertzen and Jana Helmbold-Doyé82.

The Linz museum and antiquities

[29] The database of works of art that were bought or confiscated for the planned Gemäldegalerie (“Führermuseum”) in Linz includes very few antiquities—around 30 known, in addition to coins, from a total of some 6,755 works of art. Surviving Linz photo albums, in which the art works procured for Hitler were documented, show only seven antiquities83. Some of these are from the former collection of the prominent Frankfurt industrialist and art collector Friedrich Ludwig von Gans (1833–1920) (Fig. 9). In her article in this special issue, Claire L. Lyons traces the history of two of these antiquities in the J. Paul Getty Museum today: a Roman bronze statuette of the moon goddess Luna and a cornelian intaglio gem with a depiction of Venus and Anchises84. The latter has a long and well-documented history since the 18th century, once part of the famous Marlborough collection. Both were bought from a sale of von Gans’s collection by Kurt Walter Bachstitz (1882–1949), a prominent German-Austrian art dealer in The Hague, following von Gans’s death. In 1941 Bachstitz sold a number of works of art at below-market prices to Hans Posse for the “Führermuseum”, including important antiquities such as the Luna statuette and the gem85.

Fig. 9. Portrait photograph of Friedrich Ludwig von Gans, unknown date, shown with three antiquities: a Greek vase behind his head, a Roman sculpted head at the left edge of the photo, and an Egyptian dark stone head on the mantle (photograph “Friedrich von Gans” provided by Angela von Gans, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, 24 January 2009 [accessed 11 April 2021])

CCP Munich records

[30] From the online database of the restitution cards of the Munich Central Collecting Point we get a general picture of the antiquities recovered by Allied forces. Approximately 170,000catalog cards (including duplicates) show that around 2,000 ancient objects were recovered, with the largest category being coins (“Coins” and “Greek”: 5 entries for a total of 1,213 objects; “Coins” and “Roman”: 42 entries)86. Roman (535 objects, including gold jewelry and sculpture from the Rothschild collection), Greek (411 objects), and Egyptian (162) antiquities, in that order, comprise the majority of them, with Etruscan (18) and Middle Eastern (2) artifacts among the fewest. In fact, the topic of Middle Eastern antiquities during the Nazi period in general has not been well studied until very recently87.

Major dealers of antiquities in Germany

[31] Berlin and Munich were the most important loci for the art trade in Germany at the turn of the 19th century into the 20th, including during the Nazi period. In the catalogs for the “Große Deutsche Kunstausstellungen” (Great German Art Exhibitions) from 1938 to 1944 (but not in the 1937 catalog), there are advertisements for various art-related and other businesses (such as travel and spas), including ads in the 1942, 1943, and 1944 catalogs for the Berlin auction house Hans W. Lange at Bellevuestraße 7. Lange advertised his expertise in paintings, antiques/antiquities, and carpets, coinciding with the height of his prominence as an important dealer for sales to Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring, and Albert Speer88. His use of the word Antiquitäten on his business card and in his advertisements may be misleading, however, as it could refer to antiques that might include decorative arts and furniture from the 19th century or earlier, as well as objects from the ancient world. The vagueness of the term antique in various languages is a general problem in provenance studies of this period, especially in searching databases. Moreover, the descriptions in inventories or in auction catalogs are often not sufficient to identify the objects and distinguish the meaning of the term.

[32] The large archive of about 7,800 photographs and associated object cards documenting works of art bought and sold from 1903 to 1994 in some 61,500 transactions by Julius Böhler, the leading Munich art dealership (with joint businesses in Lucerne (Böhler and Steinmeyer, 1919–1976), Berlin, and New York(Böhler and Steinmeyer, Inc.), was acquired in 2015 by the ZI in Munich89. This remarkable resource, combined with the company’s stock ledgers in the Bayerisches Wirtschaftsarchiv (Archive of the Bavarian Chambers of Industry and Commerce), provides evidence for the activities of one of the major players in the German art market, including to a limited extent in the antiquities trade, before and during the Nazi period. Irrespective of the preliminary state of research, it is already known that Böhler’s activities were complicated, with collaboration (half ownership) with the Nazi auction house owner and dealer Adolf Weinmüller (1886–1958) in Munich and Vienna90 to sell collections belonging to Jews who were forced to liquidate their property in order to raise cash for their “flight tax” to flee Nazi-occupied lands. Böhler profited greatly during the Nazi era. The portion of Böhler’s business devoted to antiquities, however, has not been systematically studied; nevertheless, it appears to be minor compared to other categories of art. Although the majority of the 26 antiquities thus far identified in the archival photographs and stock cards were purchased by Böhler in the 1910s and 1920s, some must have been sold by him over the next decades91. In her paper in this publication and in her major publication on the antiquities at Carinhall, Laura Puritani mentions the 1941 sale by Böhler to Göring of a Roman imperial marble portrait of a woman, probably Vibia Matidia, that was formerly in the collection of Hugo Liebermann-Rosswiese in Vienna and acquired by Böhler in 193992.


[33] The art trade during the Nazi era was enhanced and complicated by activities in Switzerland, which took advantage of its neutrality and protective banking and business laws to serve as a major hub for art salesand transfers of stolen art and a haven for hidden assets93. As Emanuele Sbardella discusses in his paper, the Jewish coin dealers and the ancient coin trade moved from Germany to Switzerland during this time94. Julius Böhler effectively used his branch business in Lucerne (1919–1976) and his Swiss relationships during the Nazi period. Hans Wendland (1880–1972), a Nazi dealer who moved easily between Germany, Switzerland, and France, was a key mastermind of the Swiss art networks, in general acting as an intermediary between Walter Andreas Hofer, Göring’s chief purchasing agent, and Theodor Fischer, whose Lucerne gallery conducted the infamous 1939 auction of “degenerate art”95. British art historian, art critic, collector, and MFAA officer Douglas Cooper, along with MFAA officers James Plaut and Theodore Rousseau Jr., produced reports on the Swiss market for the Allies in 1945 and concluded that at least 16 Swiss dealers were involved in trafficking in stolen art during this period96. The largest buyer was Emil Georg Bührle (1890–1956), for many years managing director and majority shareholder of machine tool factory Oerlikon, and as such an arms manufacturer and supplier to the Wehrmacht, though it seems there were no antiquities in his collection97.

[34] A well-known name in the postwar Swiss (Geneva) as well as Paris antiquities trade, Nicolas Koutoulakis (1910–1996), began his career in the late 1930s with his uncle Manolis Segredakis (1891–1948) in the Paris antiques shop that Koutoulakis inherited on his uncle’s death. Segredakis, in collaboration with another Parisian dealer with Greek ties, Jean Mikas, and Ernest Brummer sold Joseph Brummer a lot of 20 Greek vases on 24 September 1935, which Joseph then sold to William Randolph Hearst in April 1936 (Fig. 10)98.

Fig. 10. Stock card from Brummer Gallery Records for a fourth-century BC Greek hydria, one in a lot of 20 vases sold by Manolis Segredakis with Jean Mikas and Ernest Brummer to Joseph Brummer on 24 September 1935, then sold to William Randolph Hearst in April 1936. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Thomas J. Watson Library Digital Collections, Cloisters Archives Collections, Brummer Gallery Records, P12057_recto (photograph from Brummer Gallery Records, https://libmma.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16028coll9/id/39796/rec/1 [accessed 11 April 2021])

Koutoulakis kept the Paris establishment but moved to Geneva, where he ran his antiquities business from his home. The majority of Koutoulakis’s documented antiquities dealings began in the 1950s and continued through the early 1980s, during which he developed close relationships with a number of collectors of antiquities, such as J. Paul Getty and George Ortiz, as well as with US museums, including The Met and the J. Paul Getty Museum99. Koutoulakis is known as the dealer through whom the illicitly excavated Keros Hoard of Cycladic figurines became dispersed throughout American and European collections100, and he is among the infamous dealers and collectors in the chain of looting outlined in the organigram recovered in a raid on the premises of Danilo Ziccho in Italy in September 1995 by the Carabinieri; there is a direct line from dealer Robert Hecht’s name to Koutoulakis and collector George Ortiz101.

[35] Several wealthy Swiss collectors may have augmented their antiquities collections during the Nazi era, though the full picture of their purchases is not clear. The Antikenmuseum Basel, opened in 1966, has one of the largest public collections of antiquities in Switzerland, and one of the two major sources of its collection is Robert Käppeli (1900–2000), a pharmaceutical executive from Lucerne. Part of Käppeli’s collection was exhibited in Lucerne in 1963, and many objects were already included in Karl Schefold’s catalog for a special exhibition of Greek masterpieces held in Basel in 1960102. The provenance for some of these objects indicates purchases at various auctions, mostly in Switzerland, from 1951 into the early 1960s. However, one Geometric bronze horse in Käppeli’s collection was formerly in the private collection of Swiss classical archaeologist Ernst Pfuhl (1876–1940), whose collection was sold in 1941 at the Galerie Fischer in Lucerne103. Pfuhl’s father-in-law was the Greek antiquities dealer Athanasios Rhousopoulos (1823–1898), from whom he may have acquired ancient objects104. One transfer of the complicated provenance of the bronze statuette of Luna in the Getty Villa can be traced to Käppeli105. In addition, a Hellenistic marble torso of Aphrodite in the Cleveland Museum of Art, acquired in 1988 and said to have been found in Southern Italy (Tarentum) early in the 20th century106, was also in Käppeli’s collection and, like the bronze statuette of Luna, was part of the von Gans collection that was bought by the Bachstitz Gallery in 1921 (Fig. 11).

Fig. 11. Marble torso of Aphrodite, said to be from Tarentum, Hellenistic period. Formerly in the collections of Jacob Hirsch, Ludwig von Gans, Bachstitz Gallery, Max Emden, and Robert Käppeli, who sold it to The Cleveland Museum of Art in 1988 (acc. 1988.9) (photograph, “Aphrodite Torso”, courtesy of Cleveland Museum of Art, https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1988.9 [accessed 6 April 2022])

According to the Cleveland Museum of Art’s online information, before 1935 the marble Aphrodite torso was in the collection of Max Emden (1874–1940), a Jewish-German chemist, entrepreneur and owner of a department store group. The Emden family was persecuted during the Nazi era, with their German businesses, properties, and financial assets seized in 1934 and 1935. In 1937 Emden was forced to sell his art collection107. In addition, the family’s works of art at their villa on the Brissago Islands in the Swiss part of Lake Maggiore were stolen during World War II108. The last name listed for the provenance of the Cleveland Aphrodite is Dr. Robert Käppeli, in whose hands the torso was by 1935, though it is not stated how he acquired it. He sold the torso to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

[36] Another collector in the Swiss art market was Josef Müller (changed to Mueller) (1887–1977) from Solothurn, a collector of primarily Modern art and African ethnographic objects but also antiquities. Some of these are displayed today, along with the collection of his son-in-law, Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller, in the Musée Barbier-Mueller in Geneva109. The antiquities include Neolithic, Cycladic, Egyptian, EuropeanBronze Age, Italic, Etruscan, and Middle Eastern objects. The provenance of many of them is not specified in the museum’s online catalog, but some are identified as having been acquired by Mueller “before 1939”110, while the provenance for others is listed as “before 1942”111. Presumably, 1939 and 1942 are dates when inventories were taken of Mueller’s collection; thus we might infer that the “before 1942” objects were not in Mueller’s collection by the 1939 inventory but were acquired between 1939 and 1942. His son-in-law records that after Josef moved back to Switzerland in 1942, he made frequent trips to Paris in the 1942–1947 time period, where he bought ancient ceramics and marble and bronze sculpture from Koutoulakis, whose (mostly later) suspicious antiquities dealings are discussed above112. After Josef’s death, part of his collection was sold at Christie’s London in 1978, and three of his antiquities were acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum: a Roman marble head of a philosopher113; a Roman marble head of Apollo114; and a fragment of an Archaic period horse head, probably from an Attic context, given the reference to Hymettian marble, which was donated to the museum in 1980115.

The Netherlands

[37] The various archival holdings that reveal the history of systematic looting of Jewish property, art sales, and transfers in the Netherlands during the Nazi period have yet to be examined with a specific focus onantiquities116. The primary Nazi looting agencies in the Netherlands were the Dienststelle Mühlmann, under the direction of the Austrian Kajetan Mühlmann (1898–1958) (also active in the plunder of art from Poland and Austria), and the Möbel-Aktion, though after the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in the spring of 1940 there was a flood of art dealers, museum directors, and private collectors ready to pounce on Dutch art at low prices117. Walter Andreas Hofer (1893–1971), Göring’s art adviser and buyer, was one of these. He was, however, already well acquainted with the art scene in the Netherlands because he was the brother-in-law and former employee (1922–1928) of the Jewish art dealer Kurt Walter Bachstitz (1882–1949), who founded a thriving internationally known art dealership in The Hague (Kunsthandel K.W. Bachstitz) in 1920118. Bachstitz ran the gallery with his Protestant wife, Lili Hofer, after the Nazi occupation in order to avoid the Nazi restrictions on non-Aryan businesses; he was imprisoned nevertheless and was forced to divorce his wife (1943) and flee to Switzerland (1944). Bachstitz’s name appears in various places in this special issue. In 1921 he purchased one of the great pre-Nazi private collections of antiquities in Germany, that of Friedrich Ludwig von Gans, and in 1941 he sold several ancient objects from this collection to Hans Posse for the “Führermuseum” (Figs. 12a, 12b)119.

Fig. 12a. Tanagra terracotta figurine of a female with a fan, Hellenistic period. Formerly in the collection of Ludwig von Gans; bought by Kunsthandel K.W. Bachstitz, The Hague, 1921; sold to Hans Posse for the “Sonderauftrag Linz“, 1940; transferred to the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden in 1953 (acc. 1953/3.1) (photograph “Tanagra-figurine met meloenkapsel, himation en spiegel”, courtesy of Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, https://www.rmo.nl/en/collection/search-collection/collection-piece/?object=59953 [accessed 6 April 2022])

Fig. 12b. Tanagra figurine in Linz album XX, reprod. from: Birgit Schwarz, Hitlers Museum: Die Fotoalben Gemäldegalerie Linz: Dokumente zum "Führermuseum", Vienna 2004, 327, XX/4 (photograph © Birgit Schwarz, Vienna; photograph by Angelika Weidling, Berlin, with permission of Birgit Schwarz)


[38] Massive confiscations of property belonging to Viennese Jews occurred in Austria; however, there were very few ancient works of art in the larger collections, including in the Rothschild’s. We might surmise that antiquities were not particularly in vogue in these collecting circles. The Lanckoroński collection and that of the publisher Paul Zsolnay, inherited by him from his father, the collector Adolf (Wix) von Zsolnay (1866–1932), are notable exceptions. The Zsolnay collection included a Thasian votive relief (sixth century BC); a Thasian grave relief (third centuryBC) (purchased from the heirs by the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna in 2014) (Fig. 13)120; two terracotta sima architectural fragments; a collection of 65 items of Greek and Roman gold jewelry and gems; and ancient coins.

Fig. 13. Marble grave relief, Thasos, third century BC. Ex. collection of Paul and Andy Zsolnay, now in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Antikensammlung I 1553 (photograph: courtesy of KHM-Museumsverband)

Bernhard Witke, the Gestapo treasurer of the Austrian agency for the disposal of the property of Jewish emigrants, was named trustee of the collection in 1938 after the Zsolnays fled to London; he gave Hans Posse 14 pieces of jewelry and/or coins for the Linz museum; ten of these were given to Hitler as a birthday gift in 1944121. Paul Zsolnay must have managed to export some other antiquities from his collection before or when he fled to London, for some sculptures were sold at a Sotheby’s London sale of 13 June 1944; two of these, both from Thasos, are now in the J. Paul Getty Museum122.

[39] Although Count Karol Lanckoroński (1848–1933) was an aristocrat of Polish descent and not Jewish, his collection was confiscated in 1939 from his Vienna palace, then owned by his son Antoni123. This collection comprised more than 350 antiquities, including Greek and Roman marble sculpture, Greek vases, bronzes, terracotta figurines, glass, mosaic and fresco fragments, some Etruscan objects, and a few Egyptian antiquities. In this publication, Victoria S. Reed examines several of the Lanckoroński antiquities now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston124.


[40] In Poland there was a great deal of looting of art collections, especially in the first weeks of the German occupation in September 1939, with Hans Frank, governor-general of occupied Poland, protecting collections for his own control125. Polish collections in Warsaw and Krakow were especially vulnerable. Among the works of art lost in Poland during this period and still not accounted for, according to the database of the Polish government, are 345 ancient objects: Greek, Etruscan, Roman, Byzantine, and Egyptian ceramic vases, sculpture, jewelry, bronzes, and bone/ivory items126. The majority of these are identified as having been in the National Museum in Warsaw, in the university collection in Warsaw, and in the Czartoryski collections in Gołuchów Castle near Poznań or in Krakow. The major private art collector in Poland was the Czartoryski family, whose collection was confiscated by the Nazis in 1940, with 85 important works of art selected for the Linz museum. The antiquities were mostly assembled by Princess Izabela Działyńska (neé Czartoryska) (1833–1899), owner of the Gołuchów Castle. Some of these, especially the Greek vases, were transferred to her as a debt payment from her husband, Count Jan Działyński, who had formed a collection while in Italy in 1865–1867 (including from excavations in Capua), and others were from the collection that she began in 1852127. In the 1880s, Izabela began collecting Egyptian and Cypriot antiquities, and some artifacts from the excavations of Alfred Louis Delattre at Carthage were acquired by 1895128. In this publication, Inga Głuszek and Michał Krueger reconstruct the complicated fate of this collection during World War II, with multiple bad actors removing parts of the collection. In 1945 part of the collection, including some objects already robbed by the Nazis, were plundered again—by the Soviet Trophy Brigades—from German repositories and shipped to the Soviet Union. They were mostly returned to Poland in 1956. However, the collections were not returned to their former owners or their heirs. The castle in Gołuchów, its surviving furnishings, and the artifacts were taken over by the Polish state, and Gołuchów castle eventually became a branch of the National Museum in Poznań. Now the objects from the important collection of Jan Działyński and Izabela Czartoryska are found in several museums in Poland. Other ancient artifacts from the collection are lost, possibly destroyed129.


[41] In Hungary antiquities were seized from at least four major collections in Budapest, lost first to Nazi robbing, then some to the Soviet Trophy Brigades and some to state museums in Hungary that kept the collections after the war. Baron Ferenc Hatvany’s collection comprised a range of antiquities—including an Egyptian Saite-period bronze statuette, a mummy case, Greek Tanagra figurines, a fourth-century BC bull’s head rhyton, Roman bronze statuettes of Venus and Eros, and a marble portrait of Alexander Severus130. Baron Adolf Kohner’s collection focused on carved gems (Roman cameos and intaglios) and jewelry131. Zoltan Mariassy’s missing collection included a probable Greek fourth-century BC male torso132.

[42] One of the largest private art collections (ca. 2,500 works) in Hungary, however, was owned by Baron Mór Lipót Herzog (1869–1934) and inherited by his wife (d. 1940) and then by their two sons and daughter. It comprised paintings by El Greco, Corot, Velázquez, Courbet, and Cranach the Elder, as well as some 330 ancient objects133. At least some of the antiquities, including five relief sculptures, may have been collected in Greece by Baron Herzog’s father, Peter Herzog (1838–1914), owner of a major tobacco company in Kavala in northern Greece134. The family’s villa and collection in Budapest were confiscated by the Nazis in 1944. Some items were handed over by the Nazis (or later returned by the Allies to Hungary) to the Hungarian National Gallery and Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest; the Museum of Applied Arts; and the Budapest Technological University, which have held on to some of these artworks to this day; much of the collection is still missing135, a fate not dissimilar to that of the Działyński-Czartoryska collection in Poland. Among the artworks sought by the Herzog family in legal actions against the Republic of Hungary are several antiquities, including an Attic marble relief, a so-called Totenmahl or funerary banquet relief, of the second half of the fourth century BC. Framed by pilasters and a roof with antefixes, it depicts a reclining, partly draped hero with a polos on his head, holding a rhyton aloft, with a female seated on the end of the couch (kline), a banquet table and amphora in front, four assembled family members, and a horse head as a heroic attribute in the upper left. It is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (Fig. 14a)136. The family also seeks 177 items of gold jewelry, coins, and other objects of daily life; four Egyptian items, statues, stelai, and a first-century AD female mummy mask (Fig. 14b)137; four silver coins; and 78 ancient cameos, intaglios, other carved stones138.

Fig. 14a. Marble relief with a Heroic Banquet Scene, Greek, second half of fourth century BC. Collection of Baron Mór Lipót Herzog, now held in Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (no. 50.960) (photograph from website Hungary on Trial, see “Art Gallery”, no. 4, http://hungarylootedart.com/?page_id=34, with permission of Agnes Peresztegi)

Fig. 14b. Egyptian mummy mask, first century AD. Collection of Baron Mór Lipót Herzog, now held in Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (no. 9818) (photograph from website Hungary on Trial, “Art Gallery”, no. 6, http://hungarylootedart.com/?page_id=34, with permission of Agnes Peresztegi)

[43] These cases represent just a fraction of the losses of ancient art in Hungary: those from well-documented collections. The inventories of the confiscated property of other Jewish families of Budapest also included antiquities, but these have not been comprehensively examined for this purpose139.

The Soviet Union: Losses and transfers from Germany

[44] The Soviet Union’s losses during World War II were immense and devastating. More than 427 museums were plundered by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) and other groups in the USSR, including 173 in Russia, in addition to the palaces of Leningrad and its suburbs140. It is difficult, however, to be very precise in assessing the Soviet losses of works of art at the hands of the Nazis, including the number and nature of the antiquities that might have been destroyed or stolen, because the prewar inventories of Russian museums were incomplete, removed by the ERR, or destroyed—and information about these losses was regarded as classified by the Soviets, only recently having been made more transparent141. Yet, a searchable online summary catalog of the lost valuables of the Russian Federation includes some antiquities142.

[45] As is well-known, German public museums also suffered major losses, including of antiquities, from bombing, fire, theft, and looting. Despite the return of more than 1.5 million items from the Soviet Union to East Germany (German Democratic Republic) between 1955 and 1958, including the Pergamon Altar, there are more than 2,000 ancient objects still in Russia. Most of these were formerly in the Berlin Antikensammlung and were taken by the Soviet Trophy Brigades in 1945–1946 from bunkers and other storage areas143. These include Priam’s Treasure, excavated by Heinrich Schliemann at Troy in 1873144. The majority of these ancient collections remaining in Russia are now curated in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the State Historical Museum in Moscow, though a few antiquities have found their way to the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. In the 2005 exhibition Archaeology of War: The Return from Oblivion, the Pushkin Museum displayed 552 ancient works of art, many shown for the first time since their disappearance from Berlin in 1945–1946145. One more recent rediscovery is the gilded bronze statue of “Victoria of Calvatone” that turned up in 2015 in the Hermitage, having been mistakenly cataloged and housed with the French decorative arts collections and not recognized as the second-century AD statue that disappeared from the collections of the Altes Museum in Berlin in 1946146. A gilded plaster cast of the statue is on display today in the Altes Museum, while the original remains in the Hermitage, exhibited for the first time there in December 2019 (Fig. 15). Analysis and conservation of the statue in the Hermitage have revealed that the wings were fashioned in 1844 after the statue had been purchased by the Prussian Royal Museum. That information, coupled with the bearskin worn by the female figure, suggests that the statue is not a Victoria but more likely a Diana.