The Rape of Europa
by FRANCIS HENRY TAYLOR
WHEN Hitler triumphantly entered Paris in 1940, he went immediately to the tomb of Napoleon at the Invalides. As he stood there in the great rotunda, what were the emotions of this neurotic Austrian paperhanger who had cast himself in the role of the Corsican corporal? Was Paris the ultimate of Hitler’s wish fulfillment? Was his reckless desire to sit upon the imperial throne of his great idol the madness which inhibited him from plucking the ripe fruits of Britain as they lay within his grasp beyond the sands of Dunkirk? Was it his hope that this later Pius would place the crown of Lombardy upon his brow in St. Peter’s and thus seal with a concordat of illegitimacy the fate of two thousand years of Christian civilization? In which case, would Paris have remained the cultural capital of Europe?
These were the questions which raced through the mind of the visitor to Paris immediately after the liberation. For Paris appeared virtually unscathed, more beautiful, more radiant than ever. From the long and wonderfully empty avenues leading into the heart of the city one felt the elation which comes only to those emerging after deep sleep from illness. The will to live had conquered. Paris as a supreme creation of the mind of man had paralyzed the hand that tried to seize her. And possibly it was the ghost of Napoleon himself that broke the mold into which this little Nazi upstart was so busily pouring his grotesque ambitions. Even the sniggering theft of two thousand Napoleonic items from the Musée de l’Armée upon Hitler’s personal order to the Kommandant of Paris could not delay the deflation of this completely unauthentic Caesar.
Paris was the symbol of the unattainable. To Hitler she was a spiritual vision. One can imagine the visionary of Berchtesgaden standing at the great plate-glass windows of his eyrie overlooking the hills and valleys of a Wagnerian dream world, and conjuring up not merely the glories of Africa and Italy but the rewards of the Tuileries and Fontainebleau. To the other Nazis with grosser appetites, Paris was to be overcome by force if necessary, but much rather to be seduced by the irresistible virility of a master race. London was to be destroyed as the symbol of a power which would be forever inimical to the greater destiny of Europe.
Rome, on the other hand, had always troubled the Nazi conscience. And, since the ecclesiastical sanctions of the Pope might still be useful in attaining at least the episcopal trappings of imperial authority, it might be better to leave well enough alone. The ancient city republics of Italy would have to pay the price instead. Destruction, vengeance, terrorism would be the foundations of a new aesthetic, and on the rubble of the towns of Northern Europe would arise a new culture of which Paris would remain the gay and prostituted capital.
The pattern of looting was long established. In November, 1942, Soviet armies captured a German officer, Obersturmführer Normann Foerster of the Fourth Company of the Special Service Battalion of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The Battalion,” he stated in his deposition, “had been formed on the initiative of von Ribbentrop, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and acted under his direction. The commander of this Battalion is Major von Kuensberg of the SS troops. The Special Ser vice Battalion is charged with the task of seizing, immediately after the fall of large cities, the cultural and historical treasures and the libraries of scientific institutions, to select valuable books, first editions, and films and to send all of this to Germany.”
This deposition, which was published in the Bulletin of the Embassy of the U.S.S.R., Washington (No. 138, November 19, 1942), continues: “The Special Service Battalion consists of four companies. The first company is attached to the German Expeditionary Corps in Africa, the Second to the Northern Army Group, the Third to the Central Army Group. The First Company is now in Naples, Italy, where it awaits a chance to be transferred to Africa. The Battalion Headquarters is located in Berlin at house No. 6, Hermann Göringstrasse. Confiscated material is stored on the premises of the shop of the Adler Trading Firm in Gardenbergstrasse.”
A year later General von Mannstein in an order taken from a German prisoner captured in Italy confirmed the policy of the High Command: —
Our pillage must be organized and methodical. We must take as many light-weight valuable objects as possible, such as jewels, precious metals and stones, works of art, religious treasures, books, linen, stamps, etc., so that they can be sold as easily as possible and transferred into cash deposits in safe and inviolable places. . . . This looting together with the destruction of factories and machinery and the terrors of deportation and scientific famine imposed on children and civilians should insure a speedy revenge.
Obviously such a military program could not have been undertaken without many years of preparation. The looting of Poland was so thorough and complete that the official figures of the Polish government in London put the plunder and destruction of museums at 95 per cent; libraries, from 60 to 70 per cent; archives, 40 per cent; and churches, over 30 per cent. The cultural heritage of Poland has been destroyed, all private property confiscated. Moreover, when the Nazis plundered and stole, they took pains to burn all records, catalogues, and inventories which might later be used in evidence against them by courts of claims. The looting was systematically carried on under the direction of German art historians, notably Dagobert Frey of Breslau, Clasen of Konigsberg, and Pinder of Berlin, whose students for years had been making inventories of art treasures in Poland and Czechoslovakia under the guise of historical researches.
Russia, next to the countries of Central Europe, felt most severely the scourging hand upon the cities which fell to the enemy. The Palace of Catherine the Great at Tsarskoye Selo was stripped, Chinese silks and tapestries torn off the walls, antique furniture and paneling shipped to Berlin. Even the inlaid floors were packed and sent away. The celebrated library of French and Russian books and manuscripts was pillaged. Peterhof was looted before it was burned and the suburbs of Leningrad were sacked. Kiev, the religious and scientific center of old Russia, was emptied of its treasures, particularly the great collections and libraries of the university and the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. The churches, the pride of Russian Orthodoxy, and museums were likewise stripped before they were set on fire. What is true of Kiev is equally true of Kharkov and Krasnodar, of Lvov and Odessa, of Vinnitsa, Chernigov, and Poltava. In these latter cities the destruction and theft of scientific and especially medical equipment indirectly revealed the Germans’ intention of destroying the population.
IN AUGUST, 1943, when President Roosevelt appointed, under the chairmanship of Associate Justice Owen J. Roberts of the Supreme Court, the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, no one dared hope that the art of Europe would get off so easily as it has. The Nazis had repeatedly made clear their intentions, and we knew too well what they had done in Poland and in Russia. Italy was still an ally, feeble as she may have been, and France and the Low Countries were prizes too rich to destroy while they could still be exploited. Discretion and calculation, therefore, rather than humanitarian or intellectual considerations, stayed the hand of the plunderer.
The national collections in France had been put away to safety in 1939 in the cellars of châteaux in the south. Here the objects, of the museums were being properly cared for by competent experts acting under the direction of the Nazi military authorities. And as the Germans, flushed with conquest, could not bring themselves to believe in the possibility of a successful invasion, they thought it best to leave these depositories undisturbed.
Not all the state treasures of France, however, escaped from German hands. Looting was carried on in high places, as is evidenced by the birthday gift to Hermann Göring by Abel Bonnard, the Vichy Minister of Education, of the Ghent altarpiece by the brothers van Eyck which had been entrusted to the Louvre for safekeeping by the Belgian government. Bonnard signed an order for its removal from a depository at Aix-en-Provence over the head of Jacques Jaujard, Director of the Musées Nationaux de France, who did not discover the theft until a month later.
Jaujard’s violent protests to Vichy and the German authorities resulted in his dismissal from the Louvre. Thereupon the entire staffs of the museums of France resigned in a body. The scandal was more than even the Germans could explain. Since they sought to placate public opinion wherever possible, they insisted that Jaujard be immediately reinstated. Thus the prestige which he derived personally from this courageous act and the unity which it produced among his colleagues went far to protect the national collections from further pillaging during the occupation.
But the private collections of France no longer exist. The pattern of Poland and Russia was ruthlessly followed, although the Germans tried assiduously to cloak their thievery with some form of legal fiction. Rigged auction sales of private property were paid for with worthless occupation marks. Prices soared; even where sales were not forced, nearly everyone was obliged to turn in family heirlooms in order to buy food in the black market. The slightest infractions of the ceaseless police regulations which were making life miserable for every citizen were punished with fantastic fines for which the money had to be raised by selling personal property. Nazi officers and Vichy officials accepted gladly “gifts in kind” from persons whose passports and identity papers were otherwise held up. Many a splendid apartment remained intact, however, by a simple little arrangement with the lady of the house. In fact, Mrs. Warren’s professional solicitude for the arts has been one of the minor blessings for which we should be naïvely grateful.
As the veneer of “correctness” wore thinner during the four years of occupation, the true nature of German culture became more and more apparent. Increased pressure was put upon museum officials to release important works of art for “cultural exchanges ” with Germany. The Bayeux Tapestry was among those items which a few weeks prior to the liberation had been requisitioned by the High Command. Removed from the deposit in the Château de Sourches near Rennes because of Patton’s break through the German lines, it was brought to the Louvre for transshipment to Germany. Less than ten days after its arrival Paris was freed and the Nazi plan was never carried out. Nothing can show more clearly how little thought the Germans had given to the possibility of evacuation.
By 1942 the gloves were off and outright confiscation was in progress. The Vichy laws depriving Jews of all civil rights and property were enforced and the great collections of the Rothschilds and others were sent to the small gallery of the Jeu de Paume in the Tuileries which became the collecting center for confiscated property as well as the headquarters for that benevolent organization known as the Administration des Biens Juifs. To this gallery came periodically the agents of the party leaders, art historians, museum directors, and archaeologists employed personally by Hitler, Göring, Himmler, and those of lesser rank. These experts divided the booty among themselves and superintended the expedition of shipments to Berlin, to Berchtesgaden, to Karinhalle (Göring’s palace in East Prussia), and to the museum at Linz which Hitler has built as a memorial to his mother. What was not wanted by these learned connoisseurs was sold preferentially to art dealers who had won special consideration by their collaboration.
SO MANY stories have been written by war correspondents concerning the destruction of European art and architecture by military action, in dispatches containing both sense and sentimental nonsense, that before adding up the dreadful account and discussing the philosophy and principles of restitution, it may be well to examine briefly the facts as they are revealed in the official reports. For while a great deal, to be sure, has been destroyed, it is nothing less than a miracle that with an entire continent in flames it has been possible to save so much.
It must be borne in mind, above all things, that this has been from the beginning a total war. It was the proudest boast of Germany that it should be so, and Hitler proclaimed it to the world in Mein Kampf. No thoughtful person expected anything other than the Götterdämmerung. But war is waged, not by a single force alone, but by two opposing armies. To preserve what lies in the pathway of battle becomes the joint responsibility of the generals on both sides. Unilateral action is at best an improvisation; and in view of Germany’s frank lust for destruction, the efforts of our armies were very often quixotic and in vain. But General Eisenhower was nonetheless insistent on what our policy should be. On December 29, 1943, he sent the following letter to all Allied commanders in Italy—a letter which was repeated again in almost identical terms for the northern theater shortly after D Day: —
Today we are fighting in a country which has contributed a great deal to our cultural inheritance, a country rich in monuments which by their creation helped and now in their old age illustrate the growth of the civilization which is ours. We are bound to respect those monuments so far as war allows.
If we have to choose between destroying a famous building and sacrificing our own men, then our men’s lives count infinitely more and the buildings must go. But the choice is not always so clear-cut as that. In many cases the monuments can be spared without any detriment to operational needs. Nothing can stand against the argument of military necessity. That is an accepted principle. But the phrase “military necessity” is sometimes used where it would be more truthful to speak of military convenience or even of personal convenience. I do not want it to cloak slackness or indifference.
It is a responsibility of higher Commanders to determine through A.M.G. Officers the locations of historical monuments whether they be immediately ahead of our front lines or in areas occupied by us. This information passed to lower echelons through normal channels places the responsibility on all Commanders of complying with the spirit of this letter.
Remarkable as this letter is, what is even more remarkable is the astonishing coöperation which the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Officers attached to the various armies have received from their field commanders. Old-line regulars who have devoted their lives to the study of firepower know the meaning and possibilities of destruction far better than men appointed from civil life, and it is possibly their inside knowledge of these things that makes them pay such particular attention to the protection of monuments. Whatever it is, posterity will be able to thank the Montgomerys and the Bradleys, the Alexanders and the Pattons, of this war for having preserved intact the vast majority of the artistic resources of France and Italy. And what is true of field commanders and artillery officers is even more true of the Bomber Commands and their gallant crews who take the most desperate risks in pinpoint bombing in order to spare a cathedral or famous palace.
Briefed in advance with maps supplied by cornmittees of scholars in America and Britain, the Civil Affairs Officers are further fortified with instructions regarding the emergency care of monuments which come under the jurisdiction of the armies to which they are attached. They are also given lists of local museum authorities, experts, and architects upon whom they can call for assistance. If damage through military action has endangered a famous historic shrine and, for example, has left it exposed to the elements, they may call upon the military government to shore up walls or close in roofs to prevent further deterioration. In Italy they have gone even further, and it is interesting to note that the porch and roof of San Lorenzo, the only historic building damaged by our Air Force in the raid on Rome, has now been restored under the joint supervision of the Allied Control Commission and the Vatican. Costs for such emergency operations will be charged to reparations accounts.
In the early days of the Italian campaign, and before the American Commission was established, there was relatively greater damage reported, particularly at Palermo and at Naples. But Sicily came through with all the great Norman monuments of Monreale, Cefalù, and the Capella Palatina unscathed. It was the later Baroque churches which fared the worst.
In Naples too the Baroque churches, because of the conspicuousness of their high domes, were badly used in the early days of the bombardment. Much damage is reported around the harbor. The great library of the University was burned by German soldiers who, on the order of the Kommandant, poured kerosene on the shelves and exploded hand grenades in the alcoves, but tho Museum, the greater part of whose contents had been moved first to Monte Cassino and then to the Vatican, was unhurt. The heavy sculpture had been sandbagged and protected and was undisturbed. Serious damage occurred in Pompeii in the New Excavations, although to the average tourist, this city of ancient ruins will not appear to have greatly changed. Only the archaeologist will be deeply concerned, and he may find his consolation in the fact that Herculaneum, Pozzuoli, Cumae, and Minturno escaped entirely. He can also look forward eagerly to a constant flow of doctoral dissertations on the new objects unearthed by bomb and shell in Magna Graecia,
ON THE path to Home many towns, particularly Benevento, suffered dreadful losses. The Abbey of Monte Cassino has already become the subject of historic controversy. The lives and heroism of thousands of brave men were sacrificed in vain to prevent this historic and religious shrine from becoming a major military target.
Rome, save for the accident at San Lorenzo, remains in all her pristine grandeur. That Rome would be spared was fully counted on by the Italian authorities, who poured into the safety of the Vatican countless treasures from the museums of Italy. Quite recently the subcommission on Fine Arts of the Allied Control Commission, with the aid of members of the Apostolic Household and of the Italian government, opened an exhibition of these pictures such as Rome has not seen since the Renaissance. Here are united for the first time in the Palazzo Venezia many of the greatest masterpieces not only of Home and Naples but also of the Brera in Milan, the Academy in Venice, and the gallery at Urbino.
Following the armies north to the Gothic Line, the story becomes more complicated and distressing until it reaches a climax in the senseless fury of German vandalism in Florence. Certain of the hill towns escaped miraculously; at Assisi no damage was done at all. In Perugia the Renaissance bridges were blown up by the Germans and many houses in the suburbs were destroyed, but the old town with all its monuments and treasures escaped any serious hurt. In Orvieto a single bomb fell and destroyed one house; everything else is intact. In Spoleto the damage was confined to broken windows, loosened roof tiles, and fallen ceilings. While Arezzo suffered some bomb damage, the famous frescoes of Piero della Francesca are reported safe. Siena lost only two churches of relatively little artistic merit, thanks to the promptness of her citizens, who found the plan for demolition and deactivated the mines with which the Germans had sown the city, and to the French general who spared it from artillery fire.
San Gimignano was wantonly shelled by the Germans after their withdrawal, but the early reports of devastation were exaggerated and forty-nine of her fifty-six famous towers are said to be standing. One of the frescoes by Barna in the Collegiata was hit. Viterbo was in great part destroyed, and other towns in the pathway of the fighting suffered to a greater or lesser degree. At Pienza, for example, there was much damage; but its great glories, the Renaissance piazzas of the Duomo and of Pius II, are intact. Fortunately, too, the large bulk of works of art from these cities which had been removed to country places was recovered, although one irreparable loss to the art world is the destruction of the Triumph of Death fresco in the Campo Santo at Pisa, a town whose cathedral and tiresome leaning tower escaped injury.
Florence, however, is another story. A third of the old city of Dante and Petrarch along the banks of the Arno has gone forever. In the words of Herbert Matthews’s dispatch to the New York Times, “ it is the culmination of German vandalism to date. . . . The Nazis blew up the bridges in the early morning hours of August 4 after a thorough preparation lasting several days. During that time they evacuated fifty thousand persons from a 200-meter zone on both sides of the Arno River. They then set explosive charges, tranquilly looted houses at their leisure, and finally set the fuses with very little more than verbal protests of the Florentines. They did not blow up the Ponte Vecchio, and that was their greatest crime because they destroyed many medieval palaces at both ends, changing the whole aspect of old Florence. What little credit they previously got for sparing the Ponte Vecchio with its old shops must now be withdrawn.”
Fortunately, the Duomo, the Baptistry, the Bargello and the Palazzo Vecchio, and most of the principal churches escaped with only minor injury. The patience and the solicitude of General Sir Harold Alexander, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces, in gradually forcing his way into the city and across the river with infantry rather than taking it by large-scale artillery action are responsible for saving for posterity the Medicean capital. The fact remains, however, — and may posterity eternally remember it, — that more American and British lives were lost than Italian in preserving for mankind this most perfect unit of European civilization.
The great collections of the Medici, accumulated from the museums and palaces, had been scattered in the Tuscan countryside by the Italian authorities in convents, castles, and wine cellars. One of the dramatic incidents of the artistic history of the war was the finding by Allied troops and correspondents of Botticelli’s Primavera and a host of other paintings from the Uffizi in the cellars and outbuildings of Sir Osbert Sitwell’s villa. By mid-August all the depositories had been recovered. Although much casual and haphazard looting has been reported, there is evidence to conclude that, because of the diligence of the Italian museum authorities, the greater part of the public collections were respected. But this, as in the case of France, is probably more by good luck and convenience to the Germans, who were otherwise busily engaged, than by good management or high morality. What the fate of Italian art beyond the Gothic Line will be, only the gods can tell.
THE war damage in France presents a picture which differs widely from that of Italy. A section of Normandy, the triangle from Calais to Cherbourg to Rouen, has been more or less obliterated because of the intensity of the fighting following the invasion. But even there precision bombing and accuracy of artillery direction contributed to the preservation of the greatest monuments. Bayeux Cathedral and much of the city are intact. At Caen, although the town was badly shattered, the two splendid abbeys of William the Conqueror and the Cathedral are standing, having suffered relatively minor injuries.
Mont-Saint-Michel, despite the heavy fighting at Saint-Malo, was untouched except for certain reconstructions and fortifications which the Germans built upon its ramparts. Chartres Cathedral, only a few hundred meters from one of the principal airfields of Franco, escaped four years of bombardment without a scratch. On the day of liberation three small-caliber German shells hit the south tower. But the damage was slight and can easily be repaired. At Coutances, while the lovely market place is gone, the Cathedral still stands above the town.
Lisieux, Saint,Lô, and many other charming Norman sites have passed into the limbo of history. Rouen will never again be the same, for it first felt the impact of a German tank division in 1940, and then suffered from German and Allied bombing, and finally from the decisive battle for the Seine in August, 1944. Five bays of the Cathedral are reported to have been demolished. Saint-Maclou was hit, the Palais de Justice destroyed by fire. SaintOuen and other monuments are badly damaged.
But on the whole, aside from this section of Normandy, it must be admitted that the art of France has paid a relatively small price for liberation. The late Henri Focillon cried from his deathbed, “Périssent les pierres pour que vivo la Iiberté.” If certain of these stones have perished, the greatness of French art has nonetheless preserved its integrity for future generations. Thanks to the rapidity of the advance of Patton and Bradley, and of the British armies towards Calais, famous towns were liberated before they could become military objectives. Like cavalry battles of the ancients, tank engagements brought decisions at their outskirts before the towns themselves had to be invested.
Normandy, to be sure, has borne the brunt, but the rest of France has come through practically unchanged. The capital is untouched, as are Burgundy, the valley of the Rhone, and the Île de France. The great monuments and churches in the west and southwest have hardly felt the breath of war. The Midi, except for some minor damage at the Mediterranean landings of the French divisions that marched north so rapidly, has only the starvation and indignities of Nazi rule to wipe from its memory. The soul of France, and what she has meant intellectually and artistically to the world, are happily hers as well as ours as long as peace can be maintained.
Would that it were possible to say as much for the Low Countries at this time. What trials lie ahead for Bruges and Ghent in the next weeks no one can predict. In Holland the added threat of inundation from the blowing up of the dykes gives little hope for Amsterdam, The Hague, and Delft. Consolation can be found in the fact that the greater part of the national collections of Holland were found unharmed in an air-conditioned cave near Maastricht. In Brussels, too, the state collections appear to be for the most part intact, as well as the city itself. Only the Palais de Justice was burned by the retreating Germans, an artistic blessing which unfortunately they did not visit on the Victor Emmanuel Monument in Rome.
IN REVIEWING the fate of Europe’s art, the great surprise is the extent of British casualties from enemy action. Partly because of the Briton’s phlegmatic reticence and partly because of security reasons, the American reader has been totally unaware that in the aggregate Britain has sustained greater artistic losses than either Italy or France. While the Vatican authorities were quick to tell us about the slightest loss to ecclesiastical property as the Germans were hurled back to the Gothic Line, the English with characteristic stoicism have remained silent concerning the four thousand churches, most of them Protestant, which have been damaged in the British Isles — some 2800 hurt beyond repair.
It is well to remember also that the heaviest destruction by German bombers was made in the fall of 1940 and the following spring when the air raids on Germany by the RAF had hardly got under way. The severity of these attacks and of the devastation they produced was not confined to London, where the greatest losses were received, but were widespread in England and even Scotland. The ports were ravaged: Bristol, Plymouth, Southampton, Liverpool were natural and obvious military targets. Along with their harbor installations, their palaces, museums, libraries, university buildings, and public monuments were wiped out. In contrast to these, however, were the famous “Baedeker raids” which took their toll in the cathedrals of Canterbury, Exeter, and Wells. These raids were nothing but spite, and what was not then imperiled or demolished was left to the mercy of the flying bombs in 1944.
London, with the possible exception of Berlin and Warsaw, has withstood more constant battering than any other European capital. Rome and Paris, as we have seen, are practically untouched. Brussels, The Hague, and Athens appear to be safe. Vienna has been affected, if at all, only in the industrial suburbs. But London has had the core of its historic life pocked and pitted and dismembered for more than four years. Behind St. Paul’s Cathedral more than a thousand acres of the City are laid waste. The churches of Sir Christopher Wren, rebuilt by him after the Great Fire of 1666, are gone and will in all probability never be replaced. In the attacks of November and December, 1940, on the City, not only were the churches and business districts the chief victims, but many historic shrines as well.
Repeatedly during the last three years the hallowed spots of London which were always haunted by American tourists have been picked off one by one. The Debating Chamber of the House of Commons, the Henry VII Chapel of Westminster Abbey, the Temple, Dr. Johnson’s House in Gough Square, the Guildhall, Greenwich Observatory, Hampton Court, and the Dulwich Gallery—all these buildings have been seriously hurt along with hundreds more of equal importance and associations. Every museum building in London has undergone some change by bomb or fire or by concussion from blast in the immediate vicinity. The flying bombs, moreover, continued the devastation of London’s lovely squares of the eighteenth century in Chelsea, Mayfair, and Regent’s Park, and here the loss has been not so much in buildings fallen to the ground as of houses stripped of their former graciousness through scorched woodwork and frittered plaster.
That any part of the historic London that we know and admire is standing is due to guts alone. The fire wardens and the watchers, the men and women who loved their city as apparently the Florentines did not love theirs, by acts of heroism unparalleled in history, saved for the Empire and, lest we forget, for America too, the heart of the Englishspeaking world. Curiously enough, despite the scars and wounds, the City’s face remains unchanged: it is a determined and resolute face quite ready to meet the future on its own terms and without flinching.
AS WE approach the final settlement with the filthy beasts who have done their utmost to destroy the European civilization which we cherish, there must necessarily be a period of soul-searching and calm reflection before justice can be dispensed and retribution made. Two wrongs cannot make a right ; and, while justice demands that the Nazis be forced to give back what they have stolen and make restitution in kind for what they have destroyed by deliberate acts of vandalism, it must be remembered that the cultural heritage of the German people has been subjected to equal catastrophe. Even in the siege of Aachen, efforts were made to spare the Cathedral. Nevertheless the gross tonnage of bombs dropped on German cities has meted out a punishment which, however richly deserved, has left little upon which future generations may build.
If one recognizes that the Teutonic disease may lie dormant for half a century and suddenly break out with virulence because of social, economic, and political circumstances, one sees immediately the danger of reducing Germany to the same kind of cultural desert that she has made of Poland. For in the arid soil of such a desert the germs of future wars may breed. With this in mind the committees which have been meeting in London, composed of representatives of the United Nations governments, many of whom have had a tragic personal stake in the discussions, have tried to arrive at an intelligent and just program for settling the artistic problems of the peace, rather than a vindictive one.
General Eisenhower has already made public the policy of military government in Germany and has issued orders and directives to his officers in regard to property control in general. All forms of property, including cultural material, works of art, books, scientific specimens, will be subject to the same general seizure and “freezing” restrictions. Stolen or looted objects recovered will be held for disposition by the proper international bodies appointed under the terms of the peace settlement. It is interesting to note that the Dumbarton Oaks agreement provides for the establishment of economic and social agencies to deal with such matters.
The very vastness of the task facing the peace negotiators is terrifying to the lay mind. The British Board of Economic Warfare has announced that the Nazis have looted Europe to the tune of some thirty-six billion dollars. On top of this add the twenty-six billions which they have extorted as occupation costs from the countries which they overran. They stole, as they said they would, every imaginable category of property — bullion, jewels, works of art , securities and equities in corporations, rolling stock, inland water transport and ships, factory equipment and machinery, books and periodicals and archives. It is difficult to think of any normal economic activity of man in which the Nazi hand had not been rifling. Various competent estimators have placed the value of works of art stolen or destroyed at some two and a half billion dollars in this larger total.
The problem of identification of stolen works of art alone will require a mobilization of all the available experts in practically every field. This cannot be done except by the most carefully integrated international cooperation. The implications of these operations will spread throughout the world and into countries that escaped the war but have given refuge to property concealed by Nazis or their agents. These who have illicitly profited by the distress of Germany’s victims will have no title to their stolen goods, for the Declaration of Saint James’s signed by the United Nations in London on January 6, 1943, invalidates all transactions made under duress in occupied territory. And more recently at Bretton Woods further steps were taken to this end.
War crimes must be punished and those who have been pillaged compensated, for Germany must learn that the rape of Europe, however scientifically and ruthlessly carried out, did not pay. German scholarship and Germany’s claims to intellectual equality can never again be entertained by civilized men until the slate is clean.