World War II and the Looting of Europe's Treasurehouses

By Peter Harclerode & Brendan Pittaway

Welcome Rain Publishers

Copyright © 1999 Peter Harclerode and Brendan Pittaway. All rights reserved.
ISBN: 1-56649-165-7

Chapter One


The cultural pillage of Europe by the Nazis has its foundations in theAustrian city of Linz and Adolf Hitler's frustrated ambitions tobecome an artist and architect of renown.

    It was in 1899 that the young Hitler's family moved to the villageof Leonding, just outside Linz, at that time a small market townwhich also served as the seat of government for the province ofUpper Austria. Adolf himself had been born in 1889 in Braunau amInn, on the border between Germany and Austria. Three years laterthe family moved across the frontier into Bavaria but did not remainthere long, returning to Austria and Leonding after two years.Hitler's education began at this point in a school at the Benedictineabbey at Lambach. Initially he proved to be an apt pupil, but failedto maintain the same degree of effort when he progressed to asecondary school in Linz in 1900, becoming lazy and regularlyfailing examinations. The only subject of interest to him was art, inwhich he showed some degree of ability. At the age of fifteen he wasmoved to another school at Steyr, but his academic performance didnot improve and he left after twelve months.

    Adolf's father, a retired customs official, died in 1903, a year afterthe family had moved to Linz. Lacking any paternal influence anddoted on by his mother, he was able to indulge himself and do muchas he pleased. He spent his days walking around Linz and along thebanks of the Danube, creating in his mind a city of great architecture,or drawing and reading at a favourite spot overlooking the town; inthe evening he would often go to the theatre, where he developed apassion for the music and operas of Wagner.

    In May 1906 Hitler visited Vienna, and his imagination was setalight. As he wandered through the city, then the thriving capital ofthe Austro-Hungarian empire, he was dazzled by the beauty of itsarchitecture and the brilliance of its society. On his return to Linz, hebegan redesigning the entire town in his mind; but he increasinglydetested its dull provincial atmosphere, and in early September thefollowing year, armed with a portfolio of his paintings anddetermined to establish himself as an artist, he returned to Viennawith the intention of entering the Academy of Fine Arts. To hisamazement and dismay, his application was turned down. Hisreaction was explosive, an outburst into one of the towering rageswhich would become all too familiar to those who served him in lateryears. Other applicants who initially failed the examination perseveredin their work and were eventually admitted; but Hitler, oncebaulked, made no further effort to enter the Academy and slippedback into a life of idleness and self-indulgence. He was advised toconsider taking up architecture, but this proved impossible as he wasentirely without educational qualifications. Shortly afterwards hereturned to Linz to attend the funeral of his mother, who had died ofcancer in December 1907; but, still fixated on an artistic career,returned to the capital immediately afterwards.

    Vienna was at that time a centre of artistic activity and this, havingattracted Hitler in the first place, now served only to aggravate hissense of grievance. Living in a series of rented apartments, he passedhis days wandering the city, daydreaming, sketching and painting,visiting the Hofburg Library and attending the opera, where he fedhis love of Wagner. He offered his watercolours for sale, but buyerswere few and far between; inevitably and inexorably his fundsdwindled until eventually, in 1910, he was forced to move into ahostel which provided accommodation for young men in penury.Morose, prone to depression and outbursts of violent temper, he wasnot popular among the other residents and before long he wasevicted, after which his only recourse was to seek shelter indosshouses or under archways. As his circumstances deterioratedfurther he developed a bitter hatred of Vienna, blaming it forcheating him of what he believed to be his just inheritance. In 1913he left the city in order to avoid conscription for military service.During the following years, which saw him rise from ignominiouspoverty to supreme power as Chancellor of the Third Reich, heretained a burning desire to exact revenge for what he saw as hishumiliation by the Austro-Hungarian capital.

    Twenty-five years later, on the evening of 12 March 1938, AdolfHitler returned to Linz. The streets of the town were packed withcheering crowds through which the Führer, standing in an open-toppedMercedes-Benz limousine, was driven slowly towards thetown hall. Looking down from its balcony at the rapturous tumultbelow him, Hitler was almost overwhelmed by the adulation he wasreceiving. A similar welcome awaited him in Vienna two days later,although the city's worthy burghers would have trembled if they hadknown the fate planned for them by the man who hated their city sodeeply. Hitler intended to establish Linz as the cultural centre of theThird Reich, transforming the dull provincial town into a metropolisboasting a massive art gallery, opera house, stadium, theatres,concert hall and cinema. His plans even included his own retirementhome, a large house located near the art gallery and stadiumoverlooking the town centre. Great museums and galleries, built tohis own designs and to be known collectively as the Führermuseum,were to be the new home of the greatest collection of works of artever assembled; and Vienna was to be stripped of its treasures to fillthem.

    As Hitler addressed the welcoming crowds from the balcony of theHotel Imperial, units of the Schutz Staffeln (SS) and detachments ofthe dreaded Geheimstaatspolizei, the secret state police better knownby its acronym of Gestapo, had already moved into Vienna.Spreading swiftly through the city, they arrested known anti-Nazisand broke into the homes of Jews, forcibly removing much of theircontents. Hours earlier, Austria had been annexed by Germany andnow formed part of the Third Reich. The Anschluss had taken place.

    Almost immediately the Nazis turned their attention to the largestand most valuable Jewish-owned art collections. The fabuloustreasures of Louis de Rothschild, comprising paintings, statues,books, furniture, coins and armour, were all seized and removedfrom his house in Vienna's Theresianumgasse, prior to the Gestapocommandeering the building as its headquarters in the city. Rothschildwas subsequently forced to sign a document giving hisagreement to their removal, plus the appropriation of all Rothschildassets in Austria, in return for his brother's release from theconcentration camp at Dachau and safe passage for them both out ofAustria. Elsewhere in Vienna other collections were removed andtaken to a collection point where they were examined. In all 163confiscations, with a total value of 93 billion reichsmarks (RM), tookplace. From this booty 269 paintings of high value were picked out,of which 122 were later selected to be considered by Hitler forinclusion in the Linz collection.

    Hitler decreed that all works confiscated in Austria should remainwithin the country, although items purchased could be exported.This measure was introduced as a result of the acquisition byReichsmarschall Hermann Göring of two paintings from the Lanckoronskicollection. Göring kept the pictures despite an order fromHitler to return them; nevertheless, the decree prevented the loss ofthe majority of Austria's works of art beyond its borders.

    Germany itself was not spared from the Nazi cultural onslaughtwhich commenced even before Hitler became Chancellor in 1933and proceeded to `cleanse' German museums and galleries of worksof modern art which he deemed `degenerate'. In 1930 Dr WilhelmFrick, Thuringia's Minister of Interior and Education and a leadingNazi, turned his attention to the collection at the Weimar CastleMuseum: frescoes by Oskar Schlemmer were obliterated withwhitewash and modern paintings by artists such as Dix, Nolde, Klee,Kokoschka and Kandinsky were removed. Thereafter, a similar fatewas visited on other museums which suffered the removal of theircollections of non-Nazi modern works of art. This process continuedthroughout the 1930s, with over 1,100 modern paintings removedfrom galleries in Berlin and 900 from the Hamburg Kunsthalle alone,culminating in 1937 with the enforced closure of the Berlin NationalGallery's exhibition of modern art. The gallery lost 164 paintings aswell as 326 watercolours and drawings. Curators in some museumsand galleries made efforts to save what they could of theircollections: at the Berlin National Gallery, the curator of the modernart department removed his most important works from thoseselected for confiscation and substituted less valuable pieces.

    This persecution extended to the artists, who found themselvesshunned unless they joined a union founded by Dr Josef Goebbels,the head of the Ministry for Enlightenment and Propaganda. Some,such as the Swiss Paul Klee and the American Lyonel Kleininger,returned to their native countries. Ernst Kirchner committed suicideafter having his entire life's work confiscated. Emil Nolde had twoyears' work removed, despite the fact that he was a member of theNazi party and that some of his watercolours were hanging inGoebbels' sitting room. Others, such as Carl Hofer and Erich Heckel,were forced to go underground, the latter having had over 700paintings confiscated.

    In 1938 the Nazis assembled an exhibition of `degenerate' artwhich went on tour throughout Germany and Austria. The picturesshown were removed from their frames and hung in a haphazardfashion so as to give an impression of chaos. The intention was toshow how Jewish and Bolshevik artists were responsible for adeterioration in art since the beginning of the twentieth century. Thefact that some of the artists included were neither Jewish norBolshevik appeared to be of little or no consequence to theorganizers. In early 1939 the exhibition completed its tour and thepictures were put into storage in a disused granary in Berlin whileconsideration was given to their disposal. It was suggested toGoebbels that any works of value could be sold abroad while theremainder were destroyed. Accordingly, an auction took place inJune 1939 at the Grand Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland, conducted byTheodor Fischer, a leading Swiss dealer who possessed close linkswith the Nazis. A total of 126 paintings were auctioned, althoughprices paid were not as high as expected. Among the worksauctioned were Gauguin's Landscape of Tahiti with Three FemaleTigers from the Frankfurt Museum, Picasso's The Harlequins fromthe Eberfeld Museum, Franz Marc's Three Red Horses from theEssen Museum and a self-portrait by van Gogh from the MunichState Art Gallery. Also up for sale were four more by Marc, fifteenby Lovis Corinth, nine by Oskar Kokoschka, nine by Carl Hofer, fiveby Ernst Barlach, a self-portrait by Paul Modersohn, three works byMax Beckmann, two by Paul Klee, seven by Emil Nolde, and threeeach by Erich Heckel, Ernst Kirchner, Max Pechstein and KarlSchmidt-Rottluff.

    Hitler's grandiose plans for transforming Linz into a world artcentre were given renewed impetus by his visit to Italy in 1938 afterthe Anschluss. Touring the magnificent collections in Rome andFlorence, he realized that if the Führermuseum was truly to outclassall other European art collections, he had to acquire the best worksnot only from Germany and Austria, but from throughout Europe — whetherby purchase or plunder. Determined that his ideas should berealized, he set up a special commission to manage the entire projectin secret. He named it Sonderauftrag Linz — `Special OperationLinz'.

    Principal among those who advised Hitler on artistic matters atthat time was his personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, whoshared his patron's taste for nineteenth-century German paintingsbut was otherwise largely ignorant about art. Nevertheless, such washis favoured position that his assistance was often sought in bringingto Hitler's attention paintings for the Führer's consideration. Otherswho advised and influenced Hitler during this period included an artdealer named Karl Haberstock, who had joined the Nazi party in1933 and, because he too subscribed to the preference for nineteenth-centuryGerman paintings that was in accord with party dogma,soon came to the attention of Hitler and found favour. In 1936 hesold Hitler Venus and Amor by Paris Bordone: it was to be the firstof many contributions to the Führer's collections.

    Haberstock used his position within Nazi circles to his ownadvantage. He put pressure on the directors of German museums toaccept from him nineteenth-century works by artists such as CarlSchuch and Wilhelm Trübner in exchange for paintings of greatervalue which he would claim had no place in German museums andwhich he would then sell abroad at a large profit. This tactic did notalways work, however: the Karlsrühe Museum refused to give upsome works by Chardin and the Schloss Museum at Darmstadtresolutely held on to its Mayer Madonna by Holbein.

    Another major supplier of paintings to Hitler, and subsequently tothe Linz collection, was a dealer named Maria Almas-Dietrich, whoowned the Almas Gallery in Munich's Ottostrasse. An energeticbuyer, Frau Dietrich was well known among German auction housesand in particular at Lange's in Berlin, where she was notorious as ahigh and formidably competitive bidder. She also employed a largenumber of agents in other countries, notably France. She madefrequent use of Hoffmann, with whom she had a close businessrelationship, to offer the Nazi leader pictures; she had a keenunderstanding of Hitler's tastes, and sold him many items, thoughnone of them was of major importance, her emphasis apparentlybeing on quantity rather than quality. Moreover, her limitedknowledge and expertise sometimes betrayed her: she was laterrebuked when a number of paintings supplied by her to Hitler werediscovered to be fakes.

    On his return from Italy in 1938, Hitler asked Haberstock whetherit would be possible for Germany to possess museums and collectionssuch as those which he had seen in Italy. Haberstock pointed out thatthe Dresden Art Gallery was already in the same category, althoughits director, Dr Hans Posse, had recently been dismissed by a localNazi party official, Mutschmann, for supposedly anti-Nazi sentiments.In Haberstock's opinion, Posse was the only man capable ofmasterminding the Linz project. Hitler's response was to go straightto Dresden where a surprised gauleiter was strongly rebuked and anequally astonished Dr Posse reinstated. On 26 June 1939 Possejoined Sonderauftrag Linz with the title of Sonderbeauftrager(Special Envoy), bringing with him his assistant at the Dresden ArtGallery, Dr Rudolf Oertel. Posse was charged by Hitler withresponsibility for the acquisition of paintings, tapestries, statuary,coins and armour. He was assisted by Dr Fritz Dworschak, an expertin coins who had previously been Curator of Coins and subsequentlyDirector of Collections at the Kunsthistorisches Institut of Vienna.The assembly of a library for the Führermuseum at Linz was the taskof Dr Friedrich Wolffhardt, a hauptsturmführer in the SS and adedicated Nazi.

    Although Hitler exercised overall authority over SonderauftragLinz, effective power in the operation rested with the less publicfigure of Martin Bormann, the Führer's private secretary, over whosedesk all correspondence concerning the project passed, and whoseown secretary, Dr Hanssen, dealt with all its financial aspects. Sincethe very early days of Hitler's rise to power Bormann had exercised aformidable degree of control over the Nazi leader. It has beenclaimed that this influence dated back to a night in September 1931which saw Hitler's involvement in a crime of passion, namely themurder of his 24-year-old niece who was also his mistress. In hisbook The Bormann Brotherhood William Stevenson gives anaccount, apparently based on information from a Nazi intelligencesource, of how the girl had taunted her uncle over his sexualimpotence, accused him of having Jewish blood and informed himthat she was pregnant by a Jew, upon which he shot her in a fit ofrage. Panic-stricken, Hitler called for Bormann — already his right-handman — who disposed of any incriminating evidence and, withthe help of Oberkriminalinspektor Heinrich Müller (later head of theGestapo), ensured that the subsequent investigations concluded thatthe girl had committed suicide. Thereafter, Bormann's hold overHitler was apparently unshakeable.

    Once appointed to his new role, Posse, to whom Hitler confidedhis dreams for the Führermuseum in Linz, was quick to seize theopportunity thus presented to him. Determined to ensure that theLinz collection would be outstanding and that its museum andgalleries would become an important centre of European culture, hedecided to improve the quality of Hitler's acquisitions, which haduntil then been heavily influenced by the ill-informed taste ofHeinrich Hoffmann. Hitler insisted that the emphasis should be onnineteenth- and twentieth-century German painters such as Waldmüller,Lenbach, Makart and Spitzweg, and Posse thus commencedhis search in this area. In early 1939 Gauleiter Josef Bürckel, head ofthe German administration in Vienna, had written to Hitler'sheadquarters asking for a decision on the disposal of material fromthe confiscated Jewish collections, which had remained in storage inthe Hofburg since being seized. Now, shortly after taking up hisappointment, Posse travelled to the Austrian capital to see for himselfwhat the piles of booty contained.

    Posse's inspection of the looted collections took several weeks,during which he selected those items which he deemed suitable forthe Führermuseum. On 20 October 1939 he submitted a list ofpaintings to Martin Bormann for Hitler's approval. Of the 269 itemsselected from the confiscated Jewish collections as being of particularnote, 122 were selected for Linz while forty-four were earmarked forthe Kunsthistorisches Institut in Vienna and a further forty-three forother museums in Vienna, Graz and Innsbruck. The remaining sixtypaintings would be held in reserve for Linz, pending a decision fromHitler. A further 324 paintings were also selected from the OskarBondy collection, which totalled some 1,500 works.

    Posse's recommendations, however, did not meet with unqualifiedapproval from Hitler, who was determined that all the best workswould go to the Führermuseum: annoyed at seeing that fifty-seven ofthe Rothschild paintings were set to remain in Vienna, he reallocatedto Linz twenty of those marked down by Posse for two of thecapital's museums.

    During a second visit to Vienna in December 1939, Posse extendedhis selections for Linz to the very fabric of the buildings in which theconfiscated collections had been housed. In one of his reports toMartin Bormann, he recommended that two rooms in the Palais deRothschild be stripped of their valuable antique wainscoting, leatherwallpaper, gothic and Renaissance period chimneys, portals anddoors. The ever-increasing numbers of looted art treasures were sentto the headquarters of Sonderauftrag Linz in Munich; here they werestored in a special underground repository known as the Führerbauin the charge of a minor Nazi party official, Dr Hans Reger. Allmajor items were catalogued and photographed, the prints beingbound in leather volumes over which Hitler would pore for hours inhis retreat at Berchtesgaden.

    On a number of occasions Posse found himself competing withother German museums or collections for the same works of art, andmore than once was forced to enlist Bormann's aid in acquiring itemsfor the Linz collection. One such contested work was the famouspainting The Hay Harvest, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, whichformed part of the Lobkowitz collection located in Radnitz Castle inCzechoslovakia. Having decided that the painting should be acquiredfor the Führermuseum, Posse was anxious lest it be lost to the KaiserFriedrich Museum in Berlin. He wrote to Bormann, suggesting thatthe Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, Constantin Freiherrvon Neurath, be advised that all the contents of Radnitz Castle wereto be inspected so that German museums and collections couldsubsequently make bids for them. The Führermuseum shouldnaturally have first choice of everything. Bormann obliged and in duecourse Posse was successful in acquiring The Hay Harvest.

    Competition was not the only hindrance encountered by Posse inhis quest for treasures for the Linz collection. He also found himselfencumbered by the red tape that wound throughout the highlybureaucratic Nazi machine, and confronted on a number ofoccasions with opposition from senior Nazis seeking to makeacquisitions of their own. Chief among these was ReichsmarschallHermann Göring, whose activities are dealt with in detail in chapter3. As was frequently the case among the higher levels of the Naziparty, intrigue and deceit figured largely in the machinations of thosewho decided to cash in on the rich haul of works of art from theoccupied countries of Europe.

    Where there were no grounds for confiscation or forced sale, Hitlerresorted to straightforward coercion in order to acquire those itemshe desired most. The most prominent of the paintings commandeeredin this manner was the Portrait of an Artist in his Studio by theDutch master Jan Vermeer, which was in the possession of a Germanfamily living in Vienna. The head of the family, Count Czernin, hadpreviously refused many offers for the painting from wealthycollectors throughout the world, among them reputedly one of $6million from the American connoisseur Andrew Mellon. Hitlercoveted this painting above all others and was determined to have it.All pretexts for confiscation were considered, including tax arrears;however, an investigation by the Reich finance ministry in Berlinproduced only a letter of 21 September 1941 to Martin Bormanninforming him that the Czernin family's tax affairs were in order andthat there were no grounds for sequestration of the painting. So allpretence at subtlety was abandoned. Posse's assistant Fritz Dworschakplayed a major role in the negotiations in this particularlydisgraceful affair: with the assistance of Baldur von Schirach, by thenGauleiter of Vienna, he personally applied pressure to the Czerninfamily, who were only too well aware of the fate of certain of theirfriends at the hands of the Gestapo. By the end of September 1941Count Czernin had capitulated and agreed to sell the Vermeer for thepaltry sum of RM1.4 million, a mere fraction of its real value. Onreceiving this news Posse travelled to Vienna to take delivery of thepainting, which eventually arrived at the Führerbau in Munich on 12October. There it remained until its later removal to Austria andsafety in the depths of a salt mine, where it joined the rest of the Linzcollection.

    In early 1939 Czechoslovakia suffered similar treatment to thatmeted out to Austria a year earlier: on 15 March the country wasinvaded and occupied by German troops. Such was the low esteem inwhich Czechs were held by the Nazis, who regarded them assubhuman Slavs, that Aryan and Jewish property alike was confiscated.The university in Prague lost its entire library; the CzechNational Museum was stripped, as was the palace of ArchdukeFranz Ferdinand. The Lobkowitz collection of paintings wasremoved, along with unique collections of armour and coins, to arepository in Munich to await their ultimate transfer to Linz.

    Poland was the next country to fall victim to the Nazi juggernautin the invasion of 3 September. Here too, the policy on works of artwas quite clear: everything was to be confiscated and the Polesallowed to keep nothing. Under the overall direction of Dr KajetanMühlmann, an Austrian and an obersturmbannführer in the SS, arepository was established in Warsaw under Josef Mühlmann, hishalf-brother, and two officials of the much-feared Sicherheitsdienst,the SS security service. Another was located at Krakow under DrGustav Bartel and Dr Kuttlich, the directors respectively of theBreslau and Tropau Museums.

    The stripping of Poland had been meticulously planned. Before thewar, members of the East Europe Institute, a German culturalresearch centre, had paid many visits to the country during whichthey had established friendly relationships with the directors andstaffs of its museums and art collections. Now the Polish curatorssuffered a rude awakening with the arrival in Warsaw and Krakowof their erstwhile German friends, dressed in the black uniform of theSS and accompanied by members of the Gestapo. It transpired thatthe work of the institute had merely been a cover for the compiling ofinventories of Polish art treasures, the listing of their locations andaccumulation of information concerning measures taken by the Polesto safeguard them.

    Among those who followed the Wehrmacht's panzer divisions intoPoland was a special unit of an organization with the cumbersometitle of SS Scientific and Research Community for Heritage of theAncestors — more usually known as the Ahnenerbe. Like allGerman units formed on an ad hoc basis it bore the name of itscommander, in this case that of Peter Paulsen, the Professor ofPrehistory at the University of Berlin. Kommando Paulsen wasoriginally tasked with carrying out archaeological work for thepurpose of determining whether German tribes had once inhabitedlands within Poland's frontiers. Operating under the direct commandof the SS Reichsicherheithauptamt (RSHA: Reich Central SecurityOffice), however, its remit was widened to include looting ofhistorically significant works of art and important Polish librarycollections.

    The most valuable piece lost to Poland in this process was the VeitStoss altarpiece from the Church of Our Lady in Krakow, carvedduring the period 1477-87 by the German artist Veit Stoss as acommission for the King of Poland. The centre panel depicts theVirgin Mary asleep surrounded by angels, the side panels showscenes portraying Christ and the Virgin, and the base or predellagives the genealogy of Christ himself. This altarpiece, nine paintingsby Hans von Kulmbach and a number of gothic and baroque chalicesall fell prey to the Kommando Paulsen.

    Monasteries and churches throughout Poland were systematicallydenuded by the Germans of all their treasures, as was the NationalMuseum at Krakow, which lost two major works: Venetian Palaceand Christ Carrying the Cross by Guardi and Rubens respectively.At Warsaw's royal castle twenty-five paintings by Canaletto weretaken, along with floors and wall panellings ripped out forsubsequent installation in the Zwinger Palace in Dresden, considerabledamage being done to them in the process by the brute force andignorance of the removers. The Czartoryski collection, concealed invaults at Sienewa, soon fell prey to the marauding Germans. Worksby Dürer and Van Leyden were among the many items carried off, aswere three paintings: Raphael's Portrait of a Young Man, Leonardoda Vinci's Lady with Ermine and Rembrandt's Landscape with theGood Samaritan. (The fate of this collection is covered in detail inchapter II.) Other works confiscated or stolen in Poland includedThe Pretty Polish Girl by Watteau, taken by Mühlmann and sent asa gift to Göring, and Rembrandt's Portrait of a Young Man, takenfrom the Lazienski collection by the Gestapo and presented toPoland's new ruler, Reichskommissar Hans Frank, who was only toohappy to adorn his new official residences, the castles at Krakow andKressendorf, with such treasures.

    The scale of the German looting in Poland was immense. InWarsaw alone, a total of 13,512 paintings and 1,379 sculptures wereconfiscated. In addition to these, collections of antique furniture,books, coins, armour, tapestries and porcelain were also carried offby squads of Nazi officials and troops. Worse still were the results ofwanton vandalism displayed by some of the invaders: items ofvaluable porcelain were used for eating from and then smashed;Gobelin tapestries were torn up and used for bedding; sculptureswere used for target practice. The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht(OKW: Armed Forces High Command), unaware of Hitler's SonderauftragLinz and extremely unhappy about the plundering of Polanddecided to take measures to prevent such a disgraceful episodehappening again. It formed a special department, named theKunstschutz, to provide protection for all cultural material, includingworks of art, throughout France, the Low Countries and Italy.

    In fact, though the invasion and occupation of the Low Countriesand France in May and June 1940 offered Hitler access to some ofthe greatest treasurehouses of Europe and the opportunity to acquireyet more priceless art works, whether through purchase, forced sale,confiscation or coercion, the orgy of looting and destruction sufferedby Poland was not repeated. On the contrary, orders were given byHitler that a more subtle approach was to be used: here, thecooperation of the populations was to be won through consideratetreatment by the German occupying forces, who were to ensure thatnormal life was maintained as far as possible. Yet despite suchoutward signs of apparent benevolence, Hitler never wavered in hisplan for the wholesale looting of Europe. On 16 May, the day afterthe Netherlands surrendered, Mühlmann arrived fresh from hisactivities in Poland. Without delay his organization, the DienststelleMühlmann, was established in The Hague; here it came under thedirect authority of Dr Arthur Seyss-Inquart, who had become theNazi governor of Austria after the Anschluss before being appointedDeputy Reichskommissar of Poland and subsequently Reichskommissarof the Netherlands. Mühlmann and his staff set to work withenthusiasm to gather works of art for the Linz collection. During thenext twelve months, the Dienststelle Mühlmann acquired a largenumber of paintings for Hitler's Führermuseum, among them worksby Canaletto, Rubens, Rembrandt and several other seventeenth-centuryDutch artists.

    Two months after the invasion of the Netherlands Hans Possearrived in The Hague, where he set up an office under the somewhatnebulous title of Referent für Sonderfragen (Adviser on SpecialQuestions) and set about making acquisitions for the Führermuseum,rapidly establishing a network of informers and agents as he did ineach of the Nazi-occupied countries. The majority of Hitler's artacquisitions in the Netherlands were made by purchase rather thanconfiscation or forced sale, and although the prices paid were inmany cases far below the true value of the works in question, moneywas no object when it came to acquisitions for the Linz collection.Inevitably, it was not long before the Dutch art market became sooverpriced that it was out of reach to all but the most affluent buyers.German works in particular fetched fantastic prices, such was thedemand for them by the Nazis, who readily paid whatever wasasked. A veritable army of dealers, agents and informants emerged,seeking to take advantage of the large commissions to be made fromcatering for the tastes of the Nazi hierarchy.

    One particular collection, however, continued to elude its pursuersuntil after the death of its owner, a committed enemy of Hitlernamed Fritz Mannheimer. The priceless Mannheimer collection,comprising a large number of paintings, tapestries, crystal, silver andgold, belonged to a 50-year-old German Jew who lived in Amsterdamand was the senior controlling partner in the long-establishedDutch private bank of Mendelssohn & Co. Born in Stuttgart,Mannheimer had worked as a banker in Germany, but faced with therise to power of the Nazis and the consequent spread of anti-Semitismthroughout Germany he had moved to the Netherlands andjoined Mendelssohn & Co., one of the most powerful bankinghouses in Europe. Thereafter he had prospered greatly, and he hadused a part of the huge personal fortune he amassed to assemble hisfabulous art collection, which came to include paintings by Vermeer,Rembrandt, Fragonard, Watteau, Crivelli, Canaletto, Chardin andGuardi. Some of these treasures were housed in his substantialresidence in Amsterdam's Hobbemastraat, the rest in France at hisother home, the Château Monte Cristo at Vaucresson, not far fromParis.

    Mannheimer, a fervent anti-Nazi, actively used his financialexpertise as a banker to frustrate the ambitions of Hitler and hishenchmen. Believing that only France possessed sufficient militarymight to withstand Germany's increasing belligerence and expansionistambitions, he channelled his efforts and financial acumen intosupporting the neighbouring country. Some of this support took theform of donations from his own resources, amounting to severalmillion francs. This generosity inevitably attracted a venomousresponse, not only from Germany but also from the Nazi party in theNetherlands. Other measures taken by Mannheimer in the attempt tosupport France and stem the spread of Nazism included theformation of a syndicate of Dutch and Swiss banks which handledshort-term French government bond issues. With the Germanoccupation of the Rhineland, and subsequently of Austria andCzechoslovakia, conditions became more difficult for Mendelssohn& Co. as the Nazis began to coerce banks in the occupied territoriesinto refusing to conduct financial transactions with Mannheimer'sbank. Nevertheless, Mendelssohn & Co. continued to supportFrance in this manner and by June 1939 was heavily involved indoing so. Although the bank continued to find buyers for the Frenchissues in Switzerland, the market in the Netherlands had fallen offdramatically under Nazi influence. Faced with a temporary shortagein liquidity the bank turned to others for short-term support in thenormal way: however, no such assistance was forthcoming, as bythen the Nazis had frightened most of Europe's bankers intosubmission.

    The end came on the morning of 9 August 1939 when Mannheimerreceived a telephone call at his office. He left Amsterdamimmediately afterwards, without disclosing the caller's identity or thesubstance of the call, and travelled to the Château Monte Cristowhere his wife of two months was staying. On the same day, FritzMannheimer died. The official explanation was that he had suffereda heart attack, and this could well have been the case, as he weighedover eighteen stone and suffered from a weak heart. However, therewere strong suspicions — never investigated — of suicide.

    The immediate consequence of Mannheimer's death was thatMendelssohn & Co. was forced to cease trading. It was subsequentlydeclared insolvent with a deficit of over Fl 5 million. Mannheimer'sassets in the Netherlands were frozen and the bank's creditors seizedthe Dutch part of his collection. In February 1941, eighteen monthsafter Mannheimer's death, they came under considerable pressure tosell. Responsibility for negotiations with the new owners on behalf ofHitler was given to Seyss-Inquart and Mühlmann. Faced withcompetition from other German organizations which also wished toacquire parts of the collection, Mühlmann appealed for support fromHitler; this soon arrived in the form of a letter from Martin Bormannto Generalkommissar Schmidt in The Hague, instructing him toblock any bids other than those made on the Führer's behalf.Mühlmann's offer of Fl 5.5 million for the Dutch part of thecollection, which included Rembrandt's Jewish Doctor, was initiallyturned down as it was considerably less than the collection's truevalue, estimated to be at least Fl 7.5 million. Threats ofconfiscation followed, and eventually Mendelssohn & Co.'s creditors,in the absence — unsurprisingly — of interest from otherquarters, resigned themselves to the inevitable and accepted Mühlmann'soffer. Shortly afterwards the collection was transported tothe Führerbau in Munich, where it was catalogued and where itremained until 1944 when, because of the increasing threat fromAllied air raids, it was moved to safety in an Austrian salt mine. Therest of the collection, meanwhile, had been moved by Mannheimer'swidow from the Château Monte Cristo to a temporary refuge in theunoccupied zone of Vichy just before the German invasion of Francein June 1940. Here it stayed undisturbed for three years until Hitleronce again turned his attention to acquiring it.

    Belgium also fell prey to Hitler's insatiable lust for art treasures,losing its most precious artwork of all: the fabulous twelve-panelaltarpiece called The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb in the cathedralof Ghent, painted in 1432 by the van Eyck brothers, Jan andHubert. In 1939, after the outbreak of war, the altarpiece was movedfor safe keeping by the French to a repository in the town of Pau, inthe Pyrenees. This was not the first time that the altarpiece had beenremoved from its home city. During the sixteenth century, which wasa period of Protestant rule in Ghent, it had been hidden for safekeeping until such time as Catholicism should be restored. Subsequently,after the invasion of Belgium by France under NapoleonBonaparte, the four central panels were taken to Paris and placed inthe Louvre. After Napoleon's defeat by the British at Waterloo in1815 and his subsequent exile, the French king Louis XVIII, restoredto his throne, returned them to Ghent. Six of the twelve panels werelater sold by the Vicar General of Ghent, in the bishop's absence;these were eventually purchased by King Frederick William III ofPrussia, who presented them to the Kaiser Friedrich Museum inBerlin where they were kept until 1920. The remaining panelswere left in the cathedral at Ghent until the outbreak of the FirstWorld War, when they were removed and hidden in a house in thecity. The invading Germans, demanding to know the whereabouts ofthe altarpiece, were told that it had been evacuated to Britain. In theaftermath of the war the altarpiece was reassembled, with the returnby Germany of the six panels from the Kaiser Friedrich Museum andof the remainder from their hiding place in Ghent. In 1930, however,one of the panels was stolen; and despite the success of the Belgianpolice in tracing the thief, who died in custody from a heart attackwhile being questioned, it was never recovered and was replaced by acopy.

    Two years after the next invasion of Belgium, and of France, Hitlerset about attempting to obtain the altarpiece. Pau lay within theterritory under the control of the Vichy regime, but the Germanswere well aware where the paintings were being kept. The Frenchobtained written agreement that they could not be moved withoutthe express agreement of the Mayor of Ghent, the French authoritiesand the Kunstschutz, and initially the Vichy regime of MarshalPhilippe Pétain resisted pressure to relinquish them. The collaborationistPrime Minister Pierre Laval, however, proved more amenableto the German demands and on 3 August 1942, under conditions ofgreat secrecy, the altarpiece was taken from the repository at Pau andtransported under armed escort to Germany.

    Nor did the Germans waste much time in laying their hands onFrance's own art treasures. On 30 June 1940 GeneralfeldmarschallWilhelm Keitel, Chief of Staff of the OKW, ordered that all publiclyand privately owned collections and works of art were to be`safeguarded against possible loss'. On 17 September he issued adirective that any disposals of French-owned property which hadtaken place since 1 September 1939 were null and void and that theGerman military authorities in France were empowered to confiscateJewish-owned works of art for transportation to Germany. Threemonths later Hitler proclaimed his right of disposition over allconfiscated works of art, decreeing that German commandersthroughout occupied France were to keep Hans Posse fully informedof their efforts to acquire such booty.

    In addition to appropriating entire collections, Hitler's representativeswere active in the French art market. In March 1941 Posse wasallocated an account at the Reichskreditbank in Paris containingRM500,000 with which to purchase works of art for the Führermuseumat Linz. As will be described in further detail in chapter 3, someFrench dealers joined those from Germany and elsewhere flocking toParis to take advantage of the Nazis' willingness to spend large sumsof money in the effort to satisfy the Führer's dreams. As in theNetherlands, prices rocketed and dealers unencumbered by consciencemade large profits. Where neither confiscation nor straightforwardpurchase would serve, because the owners were non-Jewishand refused to sell, Hitler and his representatives resorted to forcedsale. A notable example of this method of acquisition was the case ofthe Schloss collection of 333 paintings, including a number of Dutchmasters signed and dated by the artists. A detailed account of theforced sale of this collection and its ultimate fate is given in chapter12.

    In 1943 Hitler renewed his efforts to secure the French part of theMannheimer collection, which was still in the possession of Mannheimer'swidow. The paintings included Chardin's Soap Bubblesand Mary Magdalene by Crivelli, as well as works by Guardi,Watteau, van Ruisdael, Molenaer, Ingres and Canaletto. Onceagain, Kajetan Mühlmann was tasked with handling the negotiations.Instead of making a direct approach to Mme Mannheimer,who was by this time in Argentina, he employed the services ofFerdinand Niedermeyer, who had been appointed Administrator ofProperty Seized by the Reich in France. In May 1944 negotiationswere successfully concluded and the paintings sold for a price ofFFr 15 million, paid to Mannheimer's creditors. Shortly afterwardsthey were shipped from Paris to Austria, where they joined the rest ofthe collection.

    Hitler's plundering of collections in France was confined for themost part to those owned by Jews and private individuals and didnot extend — openly, at least — to those belonging to museums. Theonly exceptions to this rule related to certain works of art of Germanorigin, which he ruled were to be returned to Germany forthwith — notably2,000 items acquired by the French during the Napoleonic,Franco-Prussian and First World Wars which were removed from theMusée de l'Armée and sent to Germany. The reasoning behind thisrelative restraint lay not in any affection on Hitler's part for theFrench but in his ultimate plan that all France's most valuabletreasures would form part of the compensation to be paid toGermany as one of the conditions to be laid down in any peacenegotiations. Until then, he knew he could rest assured that suchtreasures, whether remaining in the museums or hidden away, wouldbe well looked after by their French custodians.

    Such was Hitler's determination that the Linz collection shouldpossess the finest of the world's art treasures that the tentacles ofSonderauftrag Linz even found their way into the territory of Italy,Germany's principal ally. Hans Posse was represented in Rome byPrince Philipp von Hessen, a descendant of Britain's Queen Victoriaand Emperor Frederick III of Prussia. An architect by profession, vonHessen had settled in Italy and married Princess Malfada, one of thedaughters of King Victor Emmanuel. Having joined the Fascists, hemaintained strong links with the Nazi party in Germany, and hisextensive network of contacts among Italian dealers and collectorsmade him extremely useful to Posse. The latter paid his first visit toItaly in March 1941 and stayed for two weeks, during which hetravelled to Rome, Florence, Naples, Genoa and Turin, acquiring atotal of twenty-five paintings for the Linz collection and paying forthem from a special fund of RM500,000 which had been establishedfor him at the German embassy. Only a few days after returning toGermany in late March, Posse was back in Italy at the request of vonHessen, who had located some works of art which he knew would beof great interest to Hitler. Having exhausted his special fund at theembassy on his first visit, Posse had to request additional finance; thiswas arranged by Reichsminister Dr Hans Lammers, the Head of theReichskanzlei (State Chancellery), who supplied a furtherRM500,000. June of the same year saw Posse returning for a thirdvisit. Once again he exhausted his initial allocation and had to callfor supplementary funds; once again these were forthcoming, whenat the end of June Bormann sanctioned the despatch of a furtherRM1.65 million to the German embassy in Rome. All of Posse'spurchases in Italy were legitimate, effected on the open art market.On instructions from Hitler, he and his representatives were carefulto avoid any contact with those acting on behalf of Göring, who wasalso busy making a large number of acquisitions in Italy (described indetail in chapter 3).

    A point of dispute between the Germans and their Italian allieswas the status of the South Tyrol, which the former claimed asbelonging to Germany, the latter to Italy. An agreement had beendrawn up and signed in October 1939 in which the Italians hadconsented to the return to Germany of monuments, archives andworks of art of German origin in the disputed region. During thefollowing year a special commission was established by the Ahnenerbeof the SS to protect German interests in the South Tyrol, andPosse was appointed as its art adviser.

    Posse's tireless quest for additions to the Linz collections came toan end in mid-December 1942, when he died of cancer of the mouth.His health had been poor for some time but he had refused to lightenhis workload. He had been the driving force behind SonderauftragLinz and his death left a gap that would be hard to fill. Indeed, suchwas the esteem in which he was held by Hitler that the Führerordered a state funeral for him, which was attended by everymuseum director in Germany; the eulogy was read by Goebbels. Therivalry among those who sought to replace Posse was fierce, and theselection of his successor took some weeks. On 22 March it wasannounced that Dr Hermann Voss, the Director of the DresdenGallery, had been chosen for the post. This appointment sent shockwaves through the German museum and art establishment: Voss wasnot a member of the Nazi parry and indeed was well known for hisantipathy towards senior Nazis.

    Changes were made in the management structure of SonderauftragLinz. Voss was placed in sole charge of the Führermuseum, but withreduced responsibilities and powers, confined principally to paintings.The collections of armour and coins became the responsibilitiesof two experts in the respective fields, Drs Leopold Ruprecht andFritz Dworschak, while overall day-to-day control of the project wasvested in Dr Helmut von Hummel, who had been appointed personalsecretary to Martin Bormann in October 1942 and reported to theReichsleiter on all matters concerning the Linz project.

    After the Allied invasion of Sicily on 10 July 1943, and of theItalian mainland two months later, the Germans abandoned anypretence at consideration for the feelings and property of theirerstwhile allies. As Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, thecommander of German forces in Italy, was forced to withdraw hisforces northwards under relentless pressure from the advancingAllies, SS units indulged in a wanton orgy of destruction and lootingof works of art — despite the presence of Kunstchutz personnel whohad been tasked with protection of monuments and art works. In atleast one instance they were reported to have killed Italian guardsattempting to prevent the terrible and senseless devastation. TheRoyal Society Library in Naples was set ablaze, as was the VillaMontezone at Livardi which housed the Naples State Archives,earlier evacuated there for safety. Archives of immense historicalvalue were lost, including those of several of Europe's monarchies.Among scores of works of art destroyed were seventy paintingsincluding Luini's Madonna and Child. The Ahnenerbe played itsown part in the looting, albeit acquisitive rather than merelydestructive, and established large repositories in the South Tyrol, atthe Castle of San Leonardo and at Campo Tures. The latter was usedto store paintings taken from the Uffizi, the Pitti Palace and othermuseums and galleries in Florence.

    The Italian authorities were not entirely unprepared for thisonslaught, having taken some measures to protect the country's arttreasures when it was realized that the collapse of the Fascist regimemeant an increased threat of looting and destruction from Germanforces, principally those of the SS. A former official of the UffiziPalace Gallery, Rodolfo Siviero, had formed an undergroundorganization, its members recruited from among art experts, artistsand museum officials, which had contacts within the Italian army'sintelligence arm, the SIM (Servizio Informazioni Militari), elementsof which had been incorporated into the SS Sicherheitsdienst in Italy.SIM officers provided Siviero's group with information aboutGerman plans and warned of impending confiscations of collectionsor major works of art. On one occasion, a former SIM officerprovided the leader of the underground group in Florence withcopies of German documents which contained details of a meeting tobe held between the German consul and two members of theSicherheitsdienst to discuss plans for the removal of the city's arttreasures. Siviero himself discovered that the Sicherheitsdienst wasequipped with lists of the works of art stored in repositories atMontegufoni and Montagnana.

    The underground activists succeeded in removing a large numberof individual works of art before the Germans could lay their handson them; on many occasions this work was carried out at great riskto the lives of those involved. One such item under threat ofconfiscation was Fra Angelico's Annunciation which, until spiritedaway by two monks working for Siviero's organization, was in amonastery near Giovanni Valdarno. Göring coveted the painting andthe Kunstchutz had been instructed to obtain it for him. Ondemanding to know the reasons for its removal, Kunstschutz officialswere told that it had been carried out on the orders of the Vatican.

    When it came to looting or confiscation on a large scale, however,there was little the Italians could do to stop the Germans. In June1944 orders were issued by Standartenführer Dr Alexander Langsdorffof the Kunstschutz for the contents of the Montagnanarepository to be evacuated by troops of the 362nd Infantry Division,commanded by Generalmajor Greiner. The operation began in thefollowing month and convoys of trucks transported the art treasuresnorthwards to the repositories in the South Tyrol, from where theywould eventually be sent to Germany. Complete collections, includingthose of Finaly Landau and the Duke of Parma, were seized anddespatched to the South Tyrol under orders from the Kunstschutz.

    The movement of these convoys and their precious cargoes, byboth road and rail, was closely monitored by Siviero's organizationand its allies in the Italian partisan movement, difficult as this was attimes because of tight security maintained by the Germans. Throughtheir contacts within the SIM, the underground activists were able topinpoint the location of works of art belonging to Florence which, asnoted above, had been taken to the repositories at San Leonardo andCampo Tures; among them were Botticelli's Judith with the Head ofHolofernes, Cranach's Adam and Eve, Rubens' Return of thePeasants, Donatello's St George and Michelangelo's Bacchus, as wellas works by Brueghel, Tintoretto and other great masters.

    The tentacles of Hitler's mass looting stretched ever furthereastwards as the war unfolded. Before the German invasion of Russiain June 1941, responsibility for stripping Russia of its art treasureswas given to a special organization formed for the task, theEinsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), which will be discussed indetail in chapter 2. However, the task proved beyond the capabilityof the ERR and three months later was taken over by the foreignminister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, who formed a special unit tocarry out looting in countries invaded by Germany. Commanded bySturmbannführer Eberhard Freiherr von Künsberg, the SonderkommandoKünsberg comprised four companies, each of which wasassigned to a different area of operations. The unit first saw service in1939 when elements took part in the invasion of Poland, duringwhich they captured and looted embassies and other buildingsbelonging to enemy or neutral nations. Thereafter detachments weredeployed in Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Greece andthe Balkans. The role of the unit was to seize items on behalf ofother German organizations, including the OKW, the Sicherheitsdienstand the foreign ministry. On occasions, Ribbentrop issuedorders to the unit on his own account: in France it seized works of arton his personal instructions.

    During Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union,Ribbentrop ordered von Künsberg to deploy his unit to Russia toundertake the confiscation of works of art there. This move wasopposed by the High Command of the Army and several otherbodies, including elements in Ribbentrop's own foreign ministry,which attempted to limit the unit's role to confiscations of recordsand documents from embassies and diplomatic missions. Despitesuch disapproval and von Künsberg's own reluctance, the 2nd, 3rdand 4th Companies were subsequently despatched, each beingattached to one of the three Army Groups operating in the SovietUnion; logistical support was provided by units of the Waffen-SS.The 1st Company was meanwhile sent to North Africa, where itjoined Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps.

    Assisted by Waffen-SS troops, the 2nd Company laid waste to thepalaces and museums of Leningrad, emptying Pavlosk, Peterhof andTsarskoe Selo of paintings, tapestries, sculptures, porcelain, antiquefurniture and other treasures, as well as complete libraries of pricelessbooks and manuscripts. Meanwhile the 4th Company accordedsimilar treatment to the city of Kiev, ransacking the Museum ofUkrainian, Russian and Western Art and the Schevtchenko Museum.The Medical and Research Institute and the Ukrainian Academy ofScience also fell victim to the marauders, losing valuable equipment,books and documents. So vast were the quantities of looted itemsthat large freight trains were employed to transport them back toGermany and Hitler's repositories. Nor did the Germans restrictthemselves to looting alone: they also waged a campaign ofdeliberate destruction which resulted in 427 museums in Stalingrad,Leningrad, Smolensk, Poltava and Novgorod being razed to theground.

    One of the most priceless of Russian treasures to fall into Germanhands was the panelling of the Amber Room in the palace ofCatherine the Great at Tsarskoe Selo. The room was so calledbecause its panelling was formed from sheets of amber, and it wasfurnished with tables, chairs, chests and ornaments also fashionedfrom solid amber. Whereas the Russians had been able to evacuatethe furniture before the arrival of the Germans, the panelling had hadto be left behind. The 2nd Company had been given the AmberRoom as one of its primary objectives on reaching the palace andhad thus come fully equipped for the task of dismantling and packingit for shipment. Within a relatively short space of time, the panellinghad been removed and packed into twenty-nine crates which werethen despatched to the museum at Königsberg, where the amber wassubsequently installed.

    In March 1942 the Sonderkommando Künsberg held an exhibitionin Berlin, displaying a selection of the items confiscated — museumexhibits, archives, books and valuables — during thecampaigns in which it had been deployed. By the end of 1942 theunit had confiscated 304,694 works of art which had beendistributed to other organizations, principally the Reich Ministry forthe Occupied Eastern Regions, which also received four librarycollections totalling 97,500 books looted from the Soviet Union. Atthe beginning of August, the unit was absorbed into the Waffen-SSand given the designation of `Waffen-SS Special Disposal Battalion'.By then, however, von Künsberg had fallen from grace: vonRibbentrop considered that he had taken too many decisions on hisown authority, and shortly afterwards removed him from his post ascommanding officer. In 1943 the Waffen-SS Special DisposalBattalion was itself disbanded and its personnel dispersed amongother SS units.

    Meanwhile, such was the volume of art — looted, confiscated orpurchased, forcibly or otherwise — which continued to pour into theFührerbau in Munich that it was not long before other securelocations had to be found for storage. Three main ones wereestablished, at the Schloss Neuschwanstein near Füssen in Bavaria,the Schloss Thürntal near Kremsmünster and a monastery atHohenfurth in Czechoslovakia, close to the border with Austria. Thefirst of these to be used as a repository was the Schloss Thürntal.Between August 1941 and November 1943 a total of 1,732 paintingsand other works of art were transferred there in convoys undermilitary escort. They included most of the collection of Baron Cassel,taken from the south of France; valued at at least RM1.5 million, itsmost important element was a group of late nineteenth-centuryFrench paintings. When the Thürntal repository was full, subsequentconsignments were transported to the monastery at Hohenfurth.Among the treasures stored there were a large number of items fromthe Rothschild collection, over 1,000 pieces of silver from that of theDavid Weill family, and furniture and objets d'art from theMannheimer collection. The largest of the three repositories, however,was that at the Schloss Neuschwanstein, which ultimately wasfilled almost to overflowing with art treasures. By 1944 its contentsnumbered 21,903 works of art (including some 6,000 paintings)from 203 collections — almost all of them Jewish.

    Lesser repositories containing works destined for the Linz collectionincluded the Schloss Kogl at St Georgen in Attergau, the SchlossSteiersberg near Wiener-Neustadt, which housed the Lanckoronskicollection from Poland, and the Schloss Weesenstein near Dresden,which contained not only art treasures but also the card index listingthe items intended for Linz; other works of art were concealed in anold monastery at Buxheim which housed among other things 200paintings looted from Russia.

    As the threat from Allied bombers increased in the spring of 1944,Hitler gave orders that all art treasures were to be evacuated to placesof greater safety. Collections in German museums were movedunderground, to the salt mines: those from Karlsruhe and Mannheimand part of the collection at Stuttgart to Heilbronn, the remainder ofStuttgart's along with those of Cologne and Heidelberg to Kochendorf,and Vienna's collection, including 1,408 paintings by Brueghel,Rembrandt, Dürer and Titian, near Bad Ischl.

    By far the largest repository was in a huge salt mine north of theAustrian spa town of Bad Aussee, in the mountains fifty-sixkilometres east of Salzburg, just outside the summer resort of AltAussee. Here, from early 1944, large convoys of trucks arrivedbearing the contents of the Führerbau in Munich in an evacuationoverseen by Hans Reger, the officer in charge of the Führerbau sincethe beginnings of Sonderauftrag Linz. During the months of May toOctober, most of the contents of the Führerbau, numbering some1,788 paintings and other works of art, were transferred to AltAussee. At the same time, works of art were still arriving in largequantities at the Führerbau from other smaller repositories whichwere being closed. Inevitably this resulted in a huge workload forthose responsible for recording and cataloguing, and eventually, atboth the Führerbau and Alt Aussee, the system broke down.