Art theft in the Second World War
During the Second World War, art was stolen on a massive scale. Much of it belonged to Jews. Thousands of objects were also sold under duress, often far below their market value. Since it was unclear how much of this art has found its way into Dutch museums, in 1998 the Museums Association decided to conduct an investigation into acquisitions by museums during and after the War (Museum Acquisitions in 1940-1948) with a view to discovering which of these objects had been stolen. Since then, this inquiry has developed significantly.
It became increasingly clear that the problem involves more than just art which had been acquired by Dutch museums and which had been stolen or sold under duress between 1940 and 1945. Jews had been subjected to persecution in Germany since 1933 and in Austria since 1938. It was possible that art which had been stolen from them had also found its way into Dutch museums by circuitous routes in the postwar period.
Further investigation was needed. That is why museum acquisitions in 1933-1940 and since 1948 are central to this project. Museums that had not taken part in the 1999 inquiry for the years 1940-1948, were asked to include that period in this second round. The result is the present survey of Museum Acquisitions from 1933 onwards. The Museums Association coordinated the project, the Committee for Museum Acquisitions from 1933 onwards supervised it and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) provided financial support.