Hermann Goering’s rug is in Merkel’s office

Haaretz 28 January 2013
By Ofer Aderet

Thousands of Nazi-owned items, some of which were looted from Jews and other Holocaust victims, decorate government buildings or are housed in German museums, according to the German weekly Der Spiegel.

A rug from the collection of Hermann Goering, Adolf Hitler's second-in-command and an obsessive art collector, is decorating German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office, the German weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported Sunday.

The rug is one of thousands of artifacts, art and jewelry once owned by Nazis – some of which was looted from Jews and other Holocaust victims – that is either installed in government buildings or in the possession of museums throughout Germany, nearly 70 years after the end of World War II, according to the magazine.

Another Nazi-owned rug is located in a German government guesthouse near Bonn, and a table once owned by the special official who advised Hitler on art is located in the home of German President Joachim Gauck, according to the report. It said the items are among 660 that were passed on to 18 federal offices throughout the country after World War II.

Michael Naumann, the former German secretary of culture, is calling on the German government to force the return of stolen works of art and to fund continued research that would locate additional works.

Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis plundered thousands of works of art throughout Europe, including valuable paintings by artists like Monet and Chagall. Most have not been restored to their owners, or the owners' heirs, to this day. Some are on display in museums worldwide, including in Israel.

The magazine states that after the war, the state of Bavaria cheaply sold off dozens of villas that been owned by senior Nazi officials, thus depriving Holocaust survivors and their heirs of compensation payments they could have received if the properties had been sold for the market price. 

Despite the scope of the property theft, there are no clear laws governing the return of the items. However, in recent years a number of international commissions have been formed to regulate the matter and initiate legislation. 

Der Spiegel reveals that Bavaria, whose capital is Munich, is a veritable treasure trove for collectors of Nazi memorabilia, with numerous items that belonged to senior Nazi party members in the hands of various institutions. Many such items were loaned to museums after the war, the magazine said.

On the cover of the latest issue is a photograph of the valuable platinum watch Adolf Hitler gave his lover, Eva Braun, which is now in the storerooms of the Pinakothek der Moderne museum in Munich. The watch bears a personal inscription from Hitler and the date February 6, 1939 – Braun’s 27th birthday.

There are also many items in Munich that belonged to Goering, including gold cuff links, a ring with a gemstone, gilded champagne glasses, and a gilded cigarette box bearing a 1940 inscription from Goering's wife and daughter that reads: “Wishing the Reichsmarschall much luck and pride, with love Emmy and Edda.” A set of cutlery belonging to Hitler is also in Munich.

The Der Spiegel probe also revealed that a great deal of information is missing on the Nazi provenance of the art objects in the 6,300 museums throughout Germany. So far, 84 projects have been launched to locate the source of suspect items, but the resources allocated for the search are meager. For example, there is only one team responsible for locating the source of some 4,400 paintings and 770 statues from one of the collections in Munich.

In Jerusalem, the Israel Museum has had a permanent exhibition since 2008 entitled “Orphaned Art: Looted Art from the Holocaust in the Israel Museum,” which includes 50 items, out of the 1,200 in the museum’s possession, whose owners are unknown.
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