Chapter 6: Deciding claims for restitution of Nazi spoliated art on their merit: Towards value rationality
The ‘Final Solution’ demanded the deliberate extermination of the culture of European Jews who were in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. The theft of paintings was ‘relatively low on the totem pole of Nazi atrocities’, but the plundering of cultural property in possession of European Jews between 1933 and 1945 was a national policy that was given high priority. Art was programmatically and methodically looted from German, French, Dutch, Austrian and Belgian Jews, and from Poles and Russians of any faith. This plunder occurred at the behest of Adolf Hitler, Reichsmarshall Hermann Göring and the Minister of Art and Culture, Alfred Rosenberg. The Nazis considered the ideologically motivated looting a ‘safeguarding’ of art treasures. Their main project was the pursuit of art which they considered valuable in a classical sense. ‘Shopping catalogues’ were put together so that Hitler could choose which artwork and furniture he desired from across Europefor a Führer Museum in Linz, his hometown in Austria. Linz was set to become the cultural centre of Europe. Various other museum collections were to be expanded, and the personal collections of the Nazi elite soon became impressive. Modern and abstract works of art were collected for a different purpose. Hitler and his regime believed these works to corrupt the German people and insult German sentiment. ‘Degenerate art’ by Jews, non-Jews, German and non-German modern artists in public ownership in Germany was destroyed in order to eradicate their wider impact and democratic message.
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