The Full Wiki

More info on Kunstschutz

Kunstschutz: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


Kunstschutz (art protection) is the German term for the principal of preserving cultural heritage and artworks during armed conflict, especially during the First World War and Second World War, with the aim of protecting the enemy's art. It is associated with the image of the "art officer" (Kunstoffizier) or "art expert" (Kunstsachverständiger). Its probity was not questioned in Germany until the end of the 1980s, but was seen as looting or spoliation by countries such as Russia, Belgium, France and Italy whose artworks were 'saved'.



World War One

The Germans' lack of respect for the international Hague Conventions on land warfare created in 1899 and 1907, which had included the protection of cultural property, led to international shock at the burning of Leuven library in Belgium and the bombardment of Reims Cathedral in France, both in 1914 (Louvain library would be re-formed and rebuilt in the 1920s but destroyed again in the 1940 Battle of France[1]). To counter these protests, counterbalance the destruction, redeem itself in the eyes of international agencies and regain its image as the land of culture par excellence, German propaganda created the principle of Kunstschutz[2]. This principle allowed Germany to experiment with new formulas for saving and developing cultural heritage and originated many, often fertile initiatives. Clemen, professor of art history at the University of Bonn and inspector of monuments in the Rhineland, was one of the principle's first instigators. A German soldier 'saved' cultural objects in Saint-Quentin, Aisne, though these were only returned in 1998, whilst a painting similarly removed from Douai museum only returned in 2000 after being discovered at a sale in Switzerland. The museum at Metz has put on an exhibition on the activities of its former German curator, the archaeologist Johann Baptist Keune, in protecting the artistic heritage of the Moselle during the conflict.


World War Two

Kunstschutz's altruistic image in World War One was profitable for its reinstatement in World War Two. On the initiative of marhsal Hermann Goering, a specialist military corps known as the Kunstschutz was reactivated following the Armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces of September 1943 to requisition Italian artworks and transport them to Germany, under the pretext of saving them from Allied bombing. In Florence 58 crates of marble and bronze statues (by Donatello and Michelangelo among others), 26 ancient Greek statues, 291 large paintings (including works by Titian, Botticelli and Raphael) and 25 crates of smaller paintings set out for Germany and Austria in convoys which many Italian intelligence officers secretly followed and reported back on to their government and thus to the Allies. One of those officers was the anti-Fascist Rodolfo Siviero, who transmitted his reports to the Allies via his partisan contacts and continued to hunt down and return looted and illegally acquired Italian artworks from Germany after 1945. One of those he returned was the Spiridon Leda (1505-1515) from the Leonardo da Vinci school, acquired by Goering before the war. In Naples the national museums were looted, with paintings taken including the Danaë by Titian, The Blind Leading the Blind by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the Portrait of a young woman, known as Antea by Parmigianino and the Apollo Citharoedus from Pompeii.

Goebbels had also edited a 1000-page inventory of French artworks in the occupied zone of France. Count Franz Wolff-Metternich was responsible for the Kunstschutz in France from 1940 to 1942 and most works in French museums were taken[3] Collections belonging to Jews such as the Rothschild and the David-Weills were evacuated using the funds of the French national museums and gathered together in the Musée du Jeu de Paume, where Goering took his pick before putting them all in special trains bound for Berlin. Rose Valland, one of the French curators, took secret notes on the contents of each train out. Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister, tried to get hold of Diana Bathing by François Boucher, whilst Hitler himself took part of Alfred Schloss's collection of 300 Dutch paintings for his personal museum at Linz.

German art looting also occurred in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and elsewhere.


  1. ^ Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Die Bibliothek von Löwen. Eine Episode aus der Zeit der Weltkriege
  2. ^ "Trésors artistiques sauvegardés au musée de Valenciennes", Propyläen Weltgeschichte by Walter Goetz (ed.), vol 10
  3. ^ (French) Michel Rayssac and Christophe Pincemaille, L'exode des musées, histoire des œuvres d'art sous l'occupation


  • War Land in the Eastern Front. Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • Marvin C. Ross, "The Kunstschutz in Occupied France", College Art Journal, Vol. 5, No. 4 (May, 1946), pp. 336-352
  • (French) Maria Starvrinaki, Rapports entre Révolution sociale et révolutions artistiques chez les architectes et peintres allemands sous la République de Weimar.
  • (French) Correspondance collective de la Gläserne Kette, groupe de treize artistes et architectes (Taut, Scharoun, les Luckhardt, Walter Gropius, ...), démontrant la réaction communautariste au lendemain de la Grande Guerre.
  • (German) Ernst Kubin, Raub oder Schutz? Der deutsche militärische Kunstschutz in Italien, Stocker 2001, ISBN 370200694X
  • (French) Thèse et livre de Christina Kott en 2002 (en cotutelle avec la FU Berlin) : Protéger, confisquer, déplacer : le service allemand de préservation des œuvres d’art (Kunstschutz) en Belgique et en France occupées pendant la Première Guerre mondiale 1914-1924. [1], Peter Lang 2006 ISBN 90-5201-332-2
  • (French) Antoine Fleury, Le rôle des guerres dans la mémoire des Européens : leur effet sur la conscience d’être européen, Berne, Peter Lang, 1997.
  • (German) Paul Clemen, Kunstschutz im Kriege (Die Kriegsschauplätze in Italien, im Osten und Südosten).
  • (German) Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Kriegsland im Osten. Eroberung, Kolonisierung und Militärherrschaft im Ersten Weltkrieg, Hambourg, Hamburg Édition, 2002.

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address