In their prime (which is to say the 1940s), the Nazis seized roughly 100,000 works of art – worth maybe $10 billion – from German families who happened to be Jewish.
This is the story of 400 of those artworks and one of those families.
From Saturday’s New York Times:
Lt. Alexandre Rosenberg of the Free French forces pounded on the boxcars. Hold your fire, he told his men. There might be prisoners inside the train they had stopped outside Paris in August 1944. Slowly, a few of the heavy doors slid open, and a handful of worn German soldiers straggled out.
Inside, the French found the cargo the Germans had been guarding, crates jammed with artwork: sculptures, drawings and framed paintings, some stacked against one another like bread slices, their signatures visible.
Picasso. Renoir. Braque. Cézanne.
The lieutenant did not need to read the names. He had seen many of the works before, hanging in the Paris home of his father, Paul Rosenberg, then one of the world’s leading dealers in Modern art.
Since then, the Times reports, “three generations of Rosenbergs have been engaged in a painstaking search for hundreds of artworks that were looted from their family by the Nazis.”
So far, they have recovered a remarkable 340 of them. And there’s another one in sight:
This month their hunt led to Norway, where the family is negotiating for the return of a Matisse that has hung for 45 years in the Henie Onstad Arts Center, a museum founded by the skater Sonja Henie and her husband.
“We are not willing to forget, or let it go,” said Marianne Rosenberg, Alexandre Rosenberg’s daughter, a New York lawyer. “I think of it as a crusade.”
The original Crusades were about conquest and plundering.
This crusade is about unplundering.
Good for the Rosenbergs. And a good read in the Times.