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'The Loss of French Musical Property During World War II: Post-War Repatriations, Restitutions, and 21st Century Ramifications'

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The Loss of French Musical Property During World War II: Post-War Repatriations, Restitutions, and 21st Century Ramifications


Carla Shapreau


January 2014


Published on 8 January 2014 by the Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley, the essay evaluates the nature and scope of French music-related losses during the Nazi era, the status of post-war recoveries, and what remains missing today.

The first phase of this research project involved archival research, analysis, and documentation of selected evidence in the U.S. and France pertaining to musical manuscripts, printed music, musical instruments, books, and other musical materials. In France, document review and analysis were conducted in the Archives nationales, the MuseĢe de la musique, the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine, and Direction des Archives, Ministère des Affaires étrangères et européennes (“MAEE”). Selected records in the Archives des Musées nationaux were also evaluated. In addition, research was conducted in the United States National Archive. The categories of materials reviewed include, but are not limited to, captured records of the Nazi Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (“ERR”), French post-war claim files containing witness statements, inventories, and property dispositions  associated with the Répertoire des biens spoliés en France durant la guerre 1939-1945 (“Répertoire”). Selected records of Allied discoveries of plundered French musical property in Germany and Austria were also investigated, as were repatriation, shipment, and restitution records.

The author concludes that 'Although post-war returns to France of confiscated and otherwise misappropriated musical objects were notable, many of the musical materials plundered from French soil during World War II have not yet been found. Greater emphasis on provenance research and disclosure by those involved in the transfer, collection, and study of culturally significant musical objects is warranted. Access to archival documentation, including historical dealer records, associated with transfers during the Nazi era is also warranted. Only through mining the archives for detailed evidence of unresolved music-related losses and dissemination of this research will historical reconstruction be made readily accessible to the public.To read the essay, click here.

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