Nazi plunder and thievery

Italien, Überführung von Kunstschätzen

Besides the murders and genocide committed by the Nazi’s ,they didn’t shy away from stealing and plundering either.

The plundering and stealing refers to art theft and other items stolen as a result of the organized looting of European countries during the time of the Third Reich by agents acting on behalf of the ruling Nazi Party of Germany. Plundering occurred from 1933 until the end of World War II, particularly by military units known as the Kunstschutz, although most plunder was acquired during the war. In addition to gold, silver and currency, cultural items of great significance were stolen, including paintings, ceramics, books, and religious treasures. Although most of these items were recovered by agents of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program(MFAA), affectionately referred to as the Monuments Men, on behalf of the Allies immediately following the war, many are still missing.

monuments-men-recovered-artworks

There is an international effort under way to identify Nazi plunder that still remains unaccounted for, with the aim of ultimately returning the items to the rightful owners, their families or their respective countries.

Below are just some items which were stolen.

Jean Metzinger, 1913, En Canot (Im Boot), oil on canvas, 146 x 114 cm (57.5 in × 44.9 in), exhibited at Moderni Umeni, S.V.U. Mánes, Prague, 1914, acquired in 1916 by Georg Muche at the Galerie Der Sturm, confiscated by the Nazis circa 1936, displayed at the Degenerate Art show in Munich, and missing ever since.

jean_metzinger_1913_en_canot_oil_on_canvas_146_x_114_cm_missing_or_destroyed

Degenerate art (German: Entartete Kunst) was a term adopted by the Nazi regime to describe Modern art. Such art was banned on the grounds that it was un-German, Jewish, or Communist in nature, and those identified as degenerate artists were subjected to sanctions. These included being dismissed from teaching positions, being forbidden to exhibit or to sell their art, and in some cases being forbidden to produce art.

Degenerate Art also was the title of an exhibition, held by the Nazis in Munich in 1937, consisting of modernist artworks chaotically hung and accompanied by text labels deriding the art. Designed to inflame public opinion against modernism, the exhibition subsequently traveled to several other cities in Germany and Austria.

Adolf Hitler and Adolf Ziegler visit the Degenerate Art Exhibition, 1937.

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Albert Gleizes, 1912, Landschaft bei Paris, Paysage près de Paris, Paysage de Courbevoie, missing from Hannover since 1937.

albert_gleizes_1912_landschaft_bei_paris_paysage_pres_de_paris_paysage_de_courbevoie_oil_on_canvas_72-8_x_87-1_cm_missing_from_hannover_since_1937

Aleksander Gierymski’s Jewess with Oranges discovered on 26 November 2010 in an art auction in Buxtehude, Germany

aleksander_gierymski_zydowka_z_pomaranczami

German loot stored at Schlosskirche Ellingen, Bavaria (April 1945)

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Hitler assesses looted art

hitler-with-looted-art

In 1943 and 1944 the shore of Lake Toplitz served as a Nazi naval testing station. Using copper diaphragms, scientists experimented with different explosives, detonating up to 4,000 kg charges at various depths. They also fired torpedoes from a launching pad in the lake into the Tote Mountains, making vast holes in the canyon walls. Over £100 million of counterfeit pound sterling notes were dumped in the lake after Operation Bernhard, which was never fully put into action. There is speculation that there might be other valuables to be recovered from the bottom of the Toplitzsee. There is a layer of sunken logs floating half way to the bottom of the lake, making diving beyond it hazardous or impossible. Gerhard Zauner, one of the divers on the 1959 expedition, reports that he saw a sunken aircraft below this layer.

toplitzsee

Nazi gold stored in Merkers Salt Mine.

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The Amber Room Removed from Catherine Palace, Saint Petersburg, by Germans during World War II and transported to Germany. Estimated (adjusted) value: $142 million.

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Nearly half of the gold looted by the Nazis from the Dutch central bank during the Second World War remains to this day in Switzerland, a reminder of the Alpine nation’s controversial role as a financial conduit for Hitler’s regime. About 61,000kg of Dutch war gold, currently value at about €2bn, is believed to be still in Swiss possession.

gold

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AUSCHWITZ

Auschwitz_I_Entrance (1)

Today marks the 76th anniversary of one of the most appalling days of modern history. 76 years ago the first prisoners arrive at a new concentration camp called Auschwitz.

So much has already been written about Auschwitz therefore rather then writing something which won’t add any value I will post some pictures for a picture paints a thousand words. The pictures will be from the 3 main camps.

Auschwitz 1

 

Victims and belongings

Auschwitz Birkenau

The horrors

Auschwitz 3 Monowitz

monowitz.

The victims

There are a great number of horrific pictures of the gas chambers and the victims but I think there are none as harrowing as the pictures below. Although they are not graphic, they do show how the victims suffered. They are pictures of scratch marks of inside the gas chambers.

scratches

 

scatches 2

No comment needed

Death

 

LET US NEVER FORGET WHAT HUMANS ARE CAPABLE OFF

Operation Bernhard

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This story had all the makings of a great spy movie and no wonder that in 2007 ,film director Stefan Ruzowitzky made the movie “The Counterfeiters” which won the Oscar for best movie in a foreign Language.

Operation Bernhard was the name of a secret German plan devised during World War II to destabilise the British economy by flooding the country with forged Bank of England £5, £10, £20, and £50 notes, which was named after the SS officer who ran it.

Only a fortnight after the start of World War II, at a meeting that has remained a secret for more than half a century, officials of German finance and Nazi espionage approved an audacious plot to bring down the world’s financial system. Hundreds of millions of forged British pounds were to become a weapon of war. Operation Bernhard not only became the greatest counterfeit scheme in history but the most wide-ranging and bizarre, with its own gallery of rogues.

It  was the code-name of a secret Nazi plan devised  by the RSHA (Reich Main Security Office)  and the SS to destabilize the British economy via economic warfare by flooding the global economy and the British Empire with forged Bank of England £5, £10, £20, and £50 notes.

It was the largest counterfeiting operation in the history of economic warfare, and the first that employed the full technical/scientific and management expertise of a sovereign state to produce and deploy bogus currency with the aim of destabilizing an enemy belligerent’s economic standing with its allies, as well as its acceptance by neutral powers.

Britain was especially vulnerable because its war effort was founded upon – and sustained by – its global and Imperial economy. That economy was built upon directly-ruled colonial possessions, self-governing Commonwealth Dominions and the Empire’s currency zone, the Sterling Preference Area. These worked in commerce with neutral powers to acquire the manpower and material necessary to fight a global war. Each of these trading partners accepted the British currency for the exchange of goods and services and maintained their own reserves of it for transactions with, and within the Empire. Confidence in the integrity of this (then global) currency, both in and outside of the Sterling Preference Area, was essential to sustaining the vitality of the Empire, and through it, the war effort.

Major Bernhard Krueger, a meticulously correct SS engineer, ran a production line of Jewish prisoners in Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. The millions of forged notes they printed were laundered through a Nazi confidence man with the help of Jewish agents who concealed their origins. Toward the end, one of Europe ‘s most accomplished professional forgers, the only career criminal in the operation, was brought in to counterfeit dollar bills.

In London, the arrogant grandees at the Bank of England could not believe their pound notes could be forged with such expertise and in such quantity. In one of the crowning ironies of many, after the war Golda Meir protected a millionaire Jewish money-launderer from British authorities in what was then known as Palestine.

meir

The plan was to destabilize the British economy during the war by dropping the notes from aircrafts, on the assumption that most Britons would collect the money and spend it, thus triggering inflation. This scheme was not put into effect: it was postulated that the Luftwaffe did not have enough aircraft to deliver the forgeries, and by that time the operation was in the hands of SS foreign intelligence. From late 1943, approximately one million notes per month were printed. Many were transferred from SS headquarters to a former hotel near Meran in South Tyrol, Northern Italy, from where they were laundered and used to pay for strategic imports and German secret agents operating in Allied countries. It has been rumoured that counterfeit currency was used to finance the rescue of Benito Mussolini in 1943.

The plot was hatched in Berlin on September 18, 1939, behind the imposing stone facade of what had once been Kaiser Wilhelm’s Finance Ministry. Walther Funk, a pudgy former financial journalist whose principal task was keeping German industry in Hitler’s camp, was the only one to register the least objection because he feared the counterfeit notes would upset his task of milking Hitler’s conquered territories. Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, was not present but feared the “grotesque plan” might be turned against Germany ‘s own fragile finances by the Allies. In fact, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt toyed with the idea of counterfeiting enemy currency but their advisers rejected it.

Nevertheless, the second-rate minds of Nazi espionage believed they could weaken the pound as the trading standard and store of value underpinning the British Empire. Bullies and incompetents were at first put in charge of the operation. After several false starts, Krueger, a textile engineer, figured out how to match the paper, printing, and design of the impressive British notes. He found his forgers in Jewish death camps on the orders of SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler.

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-S72707,_Heinrich_Himmler

Krüger set up a team of 142 counterfeiters from among inmates at Sachsenhausen concentration camp at first, and then from others, especially Auschwitz. Beginning in 1942, the work of engraving the complex printing plates, developing the appropriate rag-based paper with the correct watermarks, and breaking the code to generate valid serial numbers was extremely difficult, but by the time Sachsenhausen was evacuated in April 1945, the printing press there had produced 8,965,080 banknotes with a total value of £134,610,810. The notes are considered among the most perfect counterfeits ever produced, being extremely difficult although not impossible to distinguish from the real thing Some were plucked from Auschwitz by Krueger himself, who courteously addressed them with the formal German Sie.

The SS planned to keep the operation secret by killing them when the job was done. The prisoners worked with the knowledge that they were marked for death when they had finished their jobs. ” From the start, they wondered whether they should stretch out their work and risk execution for sabotage, or perform efficiently and thus hasten their own deaths. No one ever knew for sure where Krueger stood, but by keeping the operation going, he kept himself from being sent to the Russian front. What all these men said and thought as they lived under this sword of Damocles makes chilling, personal drama.

The pound counterfeiting operation ended in 1944. Not wanting to go to the Eastern Front, and mindful of the fate of the concentration camp prisoners in his employ if his factory were closed, Krüger succeeded in establishing a new operation to forge American dollar notes. Instructing his workers to work as slowly as possible, he managed to stall the operation until the war ended, permitting the prisoners to be liberated after they were transferred to camps in Austria in May 1945.

One of the forgers, Adolf Burger survived the war and stated that “Major Krüger was in no way like Oskar Schindler. He was a murderer just like everyone else, six weeks before the war ended he had six people shot just because they were sick. He couldn’t send them to hospital in case they said something about the operation, so he killed them.”

After the war, Major Krüger was detained by the British for two years, then turned over to the French for a year.

BernhardCaptivity

He said they asked him to forge documents but that he refused. He was released in 1948 without any charges being pressed, and returned to Germany. In the 1950s, he went before a denazification court, where inmates under his charge at Sachsenhausen provided statements that resulted in his acquittal. He eventually worked for the company that had produced the special paper for the Operation Bernhard forgeries. He died in 1989.

Following the evacuation of Sachsenhausen, the counterfeiting team was transferred to Redl-Zipf in Austria, a subsidiary camp of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. At the beginning of May 1945, the team was ordered to transfer again, this time to the Ebensee subsidiary camp where they were to be killed together. Their SS guards, however, had only one truck for their prisoners, so the transfer required three round trips. The truck broke down during the third trip, and the last batch of prisoners had to be marched to Ebensee where they arrived on May 4. The guards of the first two batches of prisoners fled when the prisoners at the Ebensee camp revolted and refused to be moved into tunnels where they would have probably been blown up. The counterfeiters then dispersed among the prisoners at Ebensee. The delayed arrival of the third batch therefore saved the lives of all. As a result of the order that all the counterfeiters be exterminated together, none were actually killed.

The Ebensee camp was liberated by US forces on May 6, 1945. One of the prisoners, the Jewish Slovak printer-turned-counterfeiter Adolf Burger, later contributed to the awareness of Operation Bernhard with several versions of his memoirs published in the languages of Central Europe and in Persian.

Adolf-Burger-Faussaires-2

It is believed that most of the notes produced ended up at the bottom of Lake Toplitz near Ebensee from where they were recovered by divers in 1959, but examples continued to turn up in circulation in Britain for many years, which caused the Bank of England to withdraw all notes larger than £5 from circulation, and not reintroduce the denominations until the early 1960s (£10), 1970 (£20), and 1980 (£50).

Toplitzsee

It is also rumoured there is quite a substantial amount of Nazi gold in the depth of Lake Toplitz. A few years ago an Austrian farmer and one of his family members played a prank on a local town councilor. He claimed that he had found a box full of gold bars which he and his friend had found whilst diving in the lake. He had actually just painted a few bricks gold and had forged a Nazi stamp.

The area still sees a lot of tourists and divers who hope that one day they will find the real’mythical gold’ which was dumped in the lake.