The National Archives and Records Administration holds a substantial quantity of records relating to Holocaust-Era art provenance and claims research. Within these holdings there are records relating to the looting, identification, recovery, and disposition of cultural property during and after World War II. Many of these records are identified in Holocaust-Era Assets: A Finding Aid to Records at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland (1999) compiled by Dr. Greg Bradsher (A digital copy is also available at the HathiTrust Digital Library and may be viewed here). This finding aid is the most comprehensive guide to date and it is a critical starting point for researchers conducting art provenance and claims research using NARA’s records.
Some of the records listed and described in Dr. Bradsher’s finding aid were microfilmed by NARA in the early 2000s. Digital images of the microfilmed records can be viewed free of charge through the Holocaust-Era Assets Collection at fold3.com. NARA has been uploading the images produced by fold3.com into the National Archives Catalog. The following microfilm publications are fully available in the Catalog as of November 2020:
- M1782: OSS Art Looting Investigation Unit Reports, 1945-46
- M1942: Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points ("Ardelia Hall Collection"): Offenbach Archival Depot, 1946-1951
- M1934: OSS Washington Secret Intelligence/Special Funds Records, 1942-1946
- M1946: Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points ("Ardelia Hall Collection"): Munich Central Collecting Point, 1945-1951
- DN1924: Records of the Foreign Exchange Depository Group of the Office of the Finance Adviser, OMGUS, 1944-1950
- DN1929: Records of the Property Control Branch of the U.S. Allied Commission for Austria (USACA) Section, 1945-1951
- M1921: Records of the Cultural Affairs Branch Relating to Monuments, Museums, Libraries, Archives, and Fine Arts, OMGUS, 1946-1949
- M1923: OMGUS Finance Division Records Regarding Investigations and Interrogations, 1945-1949
- M1925: Records Regarding Intelligence and Financial Investigations of the Financial Intelligence Group, OMGUS, 1945-1949
- A3380: Reports from the Mediterranean and European Theaters of Operations Received from the Allied Military Government, 1943-1946
- A3389: Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points ("Ardelia Hall Collection"): Selected Microfilm Reproductions and Related Records, 1945-1949
The microfilm publications listed below are in the process of being uploaded to the Catalog and are currently partially available to view and download:
- M1947: Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points ("Ardelia Hall Collection"): Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, 1945-1952
- M1948:Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points ("Ardelia Hall Collection"): Marburg Central Collecting Point, 1945-1949
- M1949: Records of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section (MFAA) of the Reparations and Restitution Branch, OMGUS, 1945-1951
- M1943: Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) Card File and Related Photographs, 1940-1945
- M1944: Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historical Monuments in War Areas (The Roberts Commission), 1943-1946
We will post updated information on History Hub once these publications are completely available in the Catalog.
Over the past several years, Dr. Bradsher and I have been compiling a list of NARA records of importance to provenance research that are not available digitally on fold3.com with the objective to digitize them in-house and upload the digital images into the National Archives Catalog, as time and resources permit. So far, we have digitized relevant files from two series. The first series, titled Records of the German Military Commander in France Relating to the Seizure and Transportation of Cultural and Other Property, is part of the National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized (Record Group 242) and contains photostats of correspondence, lists, inventories, instructions, packing and shipping lists, and other records relating to the seizure, administration, and disposition of cultural and other property in France during the 1940-1944 period.
We also digitized five folders that contain documents crucial for provenance research, titled Art Treasures vol 1-5, from the series Reference Documents Received from American and Foreign Sources in the National Archives Collection of World War II War Crimes Records (Record Group 238).
The records described above are only a small portion of relevant provenance and claims research records. There are millions of pages of records that are described in the National Archives Catalog, but are not digitized and need to be viewed on-site in the Research Rooms at the National Archives at College Park, MD.
Further, we have created a website on Holocaust-Era Assets which features several webpages on specific subjects such as the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) Photographic Albums and provides useful resources for provenance researchers. We are in the process of updating the website by adding new information and making it as user friendly as possible. NARA staff have written blog posts about records and topics related to Holocaust-Era assets and looted cultural property on both the Text Message Blog that focuses on textual records and the Unwritten Record Blog, dedicated to special media holdings.
NARA is also a part of the International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property maintainted by the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI), which is a collaboration of national and other archival institutions with records that pertain to Nazi-Era cultural property. The Portal links researchers to archival materials across participating institutions consisting of descriptions of records and, in many cases, digital images of the records that relate to cultural property that was stolen, looted, seized, forcibly sold, or otherwise lost during the Nazi era. The records made available on the Portal from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration include over 2.3 million pages of documents created or received by the U.S. Government during and after World War II as part of its investigations into cultural assets that were looted or otherwise lost during the war.
While Holocaust-Era art and claims research can be challenging, the National Archives has been working to provide researchers with the tools listed above to help navigate through the millions of pages of relevant documents.