Ukraine unveils Nazi records on looting, could help trace stolen works back to rightful owners

Canadian Press 30 September 2010
By Anna Melnichuk

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine on Wednesday made public records chronicling Nazi looting from Holocaust victims across Europe, in an online release that a prominent reparations group says could help trace stolen works of art to their rightful owners.

Ukraine's State Archives posted some 140,000 pages of documents from the Kyiv headquarters of Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi minister in charge of occupied Soviet territories. The records cover Nazi looting from 1940 to 1944 in Belgium, northern France, the Netherlands, Italy, Yugoslavia, and the occupied Soviet territories, and relate to plunder from Jewish communal and private collections, Soviet museums, libraries and other sources.

"Sixty-five years after the end of the war, our knowledge of the extent of Nazi plunder is still incomplete," Julius Berman, chairman of the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, said in a statement.

"With the publication of these records, we can help facilitate rightful restitution of looted objects and fill in the gaps in this important piece of history," he said.

The documents are currently available only through a Russian-language search engine. There are plans to translate the website into Ukrainian, German, and English, Wesley A. Fisher, the director of resesarch with the Claims Conference, said.

The Ukrainian collection is the largest stockpile of Rosenberg's records, which were scattered after the war, and are also stored in 29 locations in nine countries, including the Federal Archives of Germany and the U.S. National Archives. By providing online access to the Nazi files, Ukraine's State Archives has joined an international project to post records related to the looted cultural property that already includes state archives in the United States, Germany, Britain and France.

Earlier this month, representatives of the Claims Conference, Germany's Federal State Archives and Ukraine's State Archives took part in a formal signing ceremony on the release.
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