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More Records of Third Reich Loot Reach National Archives

Albums 7, left, and 15, right, are shown to patrons at SMU's Meadows Museum Tuesday.
Albums 7, left, and 15, right, are shown to patrons at SMU's Meadows Museum Tuesday.

Two more Nazi albums documenting art treasures looted during World War II have turned up. KERA’s BJ Austin says the find was announced by the Dallas-based Monuments Men Foundation.

The Nazis kept meticulous records of artwork stolen from homes across Europe. They were bound in leather and kept Adolf Hitler updated on the Third Reich’s systematic looting program. Robert Edsel, president of the Monuments Men Foundation, says each item was photographed, and cataloged – with storage location and a code denoting the original owner.

Edsel: You would see an item like the painting I mentioned, Lady with a Dove, that was a Rothschild painting: Rothschild inventory number R-38.  So you see R-38. That’s the 38th object stolen from the Rothschild family.  Those numbers for the Rothschild’s run into the 6,000’s.

Edsel says 39 albums were found in a castle in Germany in 1945. Two more were presented by the families of veterans in 2007.  These newest donated albums were taken from Hitler’s home in the Bavarian Alps by a couple of GI’s during the waning days of the war. Album 7 includes photos of 69 paintings. All but four have been recovered and returned.  Album 15 is filled with photos of antique furniture taken from Paris.

Edsel says there are probably more volumes out there in possession of veterans or their families. 

Edsel:  It’s a story that survives today. It’s an unfinished chapter in history.

The new volumes are now part of the National Archives, along with the others. The Monument Men Foundation carries on the work begun by General Dwight Eisenhower to recover and return stolen art.  

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.