Scholar's work on plundered art makes news in Germany


Germany’s biggest newspapers are following and reporting the recent work of Professor Jonathan Petropoulos, who has spent much of his academic career on the subject of  Nazi art looting.

“We are still discovering new information concerning both Nazi art plundering and Allied restitution efforts,” said Petropoulos, who is John V. Croul Professor of European History. “My recent lecture at a conference held at Columbia University, titled ‘Ghosts of the Past: Nazi-Looted Art and Its Legacies,’ reported on certain recent discoveries, including the American destruction of artworks made by Nazi leaders between 1949 and 1951 and the postwar relationships of American curators with former Nazi art plunderers."

Petropoulos added that his recent talks also looked at the status of "the so-called 'degenerate' art works that the Nazis purged from German state museums in the late-1930s (works that generally have not been subject to restitution)."

Currently, Petropoulos is working on a book about a Nazi art historian/dealer who plundered art during the war, and then rehabilitated his career after 1950.  His lecture at the Columbia conference in February also included a report on some of his findings so far.

Some of these findings prompted members of the German press attending the conference to report on Petropoulos' lecture in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Süddeutsche Zeitung, two of the country's largest national newspapers.

According to Petropoulos, the topic of Nazi art looting and postwar restitution continues to make news, particularly in Germany, where the disposition of the Gurlitt cache (some 1,400 works, a number of them suspect) has helped to reignite interest in the topic.

Yet there have been a series of other cases that have drawn the attention of experts and the public alike--including a lawsuit concerning the Guelph Treasures (valuable medieval artifacts) that was filed last week by descendants of a Jewish art dealer in the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC.