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U.S. museums, working openly to resolve the status of objects in their custody.


About the Portal

The Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal provides a searchable registry of objects in U.S. museum collections that changed hands in Continental Europe during the Nazi era (1933-1945).


People Researching Lost Objects
By providing a single point of contact to hundreds of U.S. museum collections, the Portal helps people seeking lost objects to refine their searches.

U.S. Museums
By providing a searchable online registry of objects, the Portal helps U.S. museums fulfill their responsibility to make information about objects in their collections centrally accessible.


From the time it came into power in Germany in 1933 through the end of World War II in 1945, the Nazi regime orchestrated a program of theft, confiscation, coercive transfer, looting, pillage, and destruction of objects of art and other cultural property in Europe on a massive and unprecedented scale. Some confiscated objects were sold to fund Nazi activities, while others were retained for the private collections of high-ranking party officials.

U.S. museums were closely involved in the recovery and restitution of looted art after the war. During the post-war occupation of Germany, art historians and museum curators serving with the U.S. Army's Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Commission operated collecting points where discovered loot was inventoried, catalogued, and returned to countries of origin. Through these efforts, many thousands of works were repatriated to their countries of origin and often were returned to their rightful owners.

Over the past decade, U.S. museums have become aware that their responsibilities in relation to Nazi looting did not end in the immediate postwar period. Increasingly, museums have come to recognize that objects unlawfully appropriated during the Nazi era without subsequent restitution—that is, with neither return of the object nor payment of compensation to the object’s original owner or legal successor—may have made their way into U.S. museum collections in the decades since the war.


As publicly accountable institutions, U.S. museums are working openly to resolve the status of objects in their custody. Through its professional associations, the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the U.S. museum community has adopted a set of Recommended Procedures for investigating Nazi-era cultural assets. These procedures call for research into the provenance, or ownership history, of all art objects in U.S. museum collections that changed hands in Continental Europe from 1933 to 1945. They also call on museums to make the resulting information available to the public.

Stakeholders involved this issue quickly identified the need for a searchable central registry of Nazi-era cultural property held by U.S. museums, beginning with European paintings and Judaica. The Alliance accepted the responsibility of developing this Internet-accessible, searchable registry. The result is the Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal.

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American Alliance of Museums
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