The unresolved legacy of Nazi art loot

Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis engaged in one of the biggest art thefts in history, systematically stealing millions of works from every territory they occupied. Treasures were pillaged from museums, libraries, churches, synagogues, and private collections, particularly those of Jewish artists and collectors.

Though caches of stolen artworks were recovered after the war and efforts were made to return works to their rightful owners, nonetheless huge numbers of pieces were destroyed, sold or absorbed into other collections, or are still missing.

The movie The Monuments Men, directed by and starring George Clooney, was released early this year, drawing attention to the men-and women-in what officially was called the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, an American attempt to locate and rescue Nazi-looted art.

The film hit US screens just weeks after a major discovery of art amassed during the Nazi era was made public. This 1,200-piece trove, valued at more than $1.35 billion, includes works by Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, and Pablo Picasso. It is one of the biggest discoveries of Nazi-looted art to date and the announcement about it by German officials set off a powerful range of reactions in the art world and in Jewish communities worldwide.

In an effort to examine the complex issues surrounding Nazi-looted art, Spertus Institute welcomes veteran art journalist David D'Arcy for a lecture and discussion titled Art Loot: An Unresolved Legacy. D'Arcy has been investigating and writing about art theft for more than 20 years. The program, timed to mark Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), takes place on Monday, April 28 at 7 pm.

Mr. D'Arcy will explain the history of Nazi art theft and its subsequent impact on Western and Jewish culture. n      

For more information, visit or call (312) 322-1773.

Spertus Institute is a partner in serving the community, supported by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

This program is part of the Solomon Goldman Lecture Series, generously endowed by Rose and the late Sidney Shure. It is made possible, in part, with support from the Bernard and Rochelle Zell Center for Holocaust Studies at Spertus Institute. 

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