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They're learning how to spot art stolen by the Nazis

June 15, 2012|By Jamie Wetherbe
  • Attendees look at a display of looted art on a video screen at the Provenance Research Training Program in Magdeburg, Germany.
Attendees look at a display of looted art on a video screen at the Provenance… (Jens Meyer / Associated…)

Art experts this week are being trained as treasure hunters so they can discover works that once had been stolen by the Nazis.

In an international effort to reclaim millions of pieces lost or looted by Nazis or others during World War II, 35 officials from museums, auction houses and government agencies from a dozen countries are learning to look out for plundered pieces at the six-day Provenance Research Training Program in Germany that ends Friday.

"This is an attempt to deal worldwide with the fact that there is no training in this," said Wesley Fisherr, director of research for the Conference on Jewish Claims Against Germany. “There are people who have some expertise ... but they have not been formally trained.”

During and after World War II, items were lifted by Nazis as well as Soviets and Allied troops, scattering relics and cultural treasures across the world. Some 60 years later, pieces are resurfacing on the auction block as family estates change hands.

The Shoah Legacy Institute, which organized the conference, will hold similar meetings in other countries -- and the focus isn't just on high-price items. “Entire libraries were taken -- you're talking about millions of books," Fisherr said.

Last year, an online database of Nazi-looted art was launched last year with the help of the National Archives, allowing users to search through official records from 1939 to 1961.

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