Inanimate Victims: Stolen Artwork from WWII as Displaced Victims of the Holocaust

Open Access
Kovacs, Melanie Elana
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in History and Jewish Studies
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Eliyana Rebecca Adler, Thesis Supervisor
  • Cathleen Denise Cahill, Honors Advisor
  • Janina M Safran, Honors Advisor
  • art
  • art restitution
  • Nazi looting
  • World War II
  • WWII
  • art looting
  • looted art
  • Europe
  • Jewish art collectors
In the period surrounding World War II, the Nazi Party staged a discriminatory attack not only on human beings, but also on the cultural realm of Germany and its conquered territories. Just as the Nazis divided the human sphere, they designated different styles of art as “Aryan” or “degenerate,” and dealt with them accordingly. The Third Reich revered Aryan styles and expelled or destroyed degenerate works. While many pieces of art came from museum collections within Germany or were looted from churches, in regards to paintings stolen, especially in Western Europe, the Nazis looted most of the works from the collections of Jewish dealers. In the period following the war, many works were restituted to their rightful owners through the efforts of different governments including the United States and its allies as well as individual survivor efforts. This process, however, was not an easy one and continues today, almost 75 years after the end of World War II. Hundreds of works still exist in a category of unknown or disputed ownership, and legal cases remain open. The works that remain in limbo, much like the persons who remained stateless after the end of the war, are displaced and will remain displaced until they are situated with a rightful owner.