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In 1990, when we first began to work with the Soviet writers Konstantin Akinsha and Grigorii Kozlov on the story of the Soviet Union’s secret depositories of looted art, we knew it would be one of the most important articles we would ever publish—if we could publish it. Officially, the art hoards were a state secret; there was no way to know how the Soviet government would react if they were exposed in the Western press.
The article revealed the fate of hundreds of thousands of artworks, including some of the world’s greatest treasures, that had disappeared after World War II. It was generally believed that they had been destroyed in the Allied bombardment of Berlin. Speculation that some of those works—including the Trojan Gold excavated by Heinrich Schliemann and masterpieces by Titian, Rembrandt, El Greco, Velizquez, Manet, van Gogh, Degas, Cézanne, and Renoir—might be in the Soviet Union had been met by a stone wall of official silence
When we finally published “Spoils of War: The Soviet Union’s Hidden Art Treasures” in April 1991, it caused a worldwide sensation. The story made headlines in newspapers from New York to Tokyo to Moscow. Yet Soviet officials either stated that they knew nothing about the secret depositories or flatly denied that they existed.
As the media coverage continued and the writers revealed more of what they knew, Soviet art historians urged their government to tell the truth about the hidden art. Finally, after almost 50 years, the official silence was broken. In October 1991 the Soviet Ministry of Culture admitted that museums all over the country had secret storerooms filled with art seized from Germany and other occupied countries after the war by Red Army trophy brigades. It had been one of the most prodigious transport operations in the history of art.
A mystery that had baffled art historians for half a century had been solved. As we documented in a series of follow-up articles, the revelation triggered the largest treasure hunt since World War II as art historians, museum officials, and journalists converged on Moscow to interview our authors, who were the only source of information on the subject.
The article brought ARTnews our second George Polk Award, one of the most respected and coveted prizes in American journalism. Akinsha and Kozlov were the only Soviet print journalists to win the award, in what the judges called a “remarkable East-West journalistic collaboration.”
In the years since then, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg have brought out the hidden artworks and exhibited them to the public. But almost nothing has been repatriated, and the Russian parliament has passed laws giving the state ownership of most of the objects. To many Russians, the artworks taken from Germany after the Allied victory are legitimate spoils of war, compensation for the huge cultural losses inflicted on the Soviet Union by the Nazis. But negotiations continue under the radar, and hope remains that at least some of the artworks may eventually be returned to their prewar owners.
April 1991Spoils of War: The Soviet Union’s Hidden Art Treasures
Artworks seized by Soviet troops from Nazi Germany have been in secret depositories for almost 50 years. Soviet officials are now debating the controversial question of their repatriation—as well as the fate of art plundered from the USSR
Thousands of artworks seized by Soviet troops from Nazi Germany after the end of World War II have been hidden in special museum depositories in the Soviet Union for almost 50 years. Confiscated from the Russian zone of occupation by organized brigades set up to collect trophy from the conquered enemy or looted by Soviet soldiers, the artworks were believed to have been destroyed in Allied bombardments. The existence and the extent of the depositories are known to very few.
Although millions of objects were returned to the former German Democratic Republic in the late 1940s and throughout the ’50s, thousands more remain, in depositories in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Zagorsk, and other cities, according to informed sources interviewed by ARTnews who asked not to be identified. These objects once belonged to museums in the former Federal Republic of Germany and to private collectors. Many had been plundered by the Germans from occupied countries. The decision to keep them in the Soviet Union was made by the Stalin government, and throughout the years of the cold war, their existence was routinely denied by Soviet officials
Now, however, for the first time since the end of World War II, high-ranking cultural officials are discussing the possibility of opening the secret depositories. A special commission has been established within the Ministry of Culture to report on the matter. At the same time, the Soviets hope that at least some of the millions of artworks looted from the USSR by the German armies may also be returned to their country.
The issue has provoked controversy among cultural officials. Not all of them believe that the depositories should be opened. But many Soviet art historians and museum professionals have urged the government to act. The end of the cold war and the climate of glasnost have led them to hope that the fate of these objects displaced from both countries may finally become known.
Two dramatic events last year spurred the government to take action. The most spectacular was the revelation that over 300 Old Master drawings belonging to the Bremen Kunsthalle, found by a former Soviet soldier in a cellar in 1945 and brought to Moscow, would be returned to Bremen. In another case, the Soviet government agreed to cooperate with the Dutch government in locating about 490 Old Master drawings from the famous Koenigs collection, formerly in the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam.
The removal of hundreds of thousands of art objects from the Russian zone of occupation to the Soviet Union was one of the most prodigious transport operations in the history of art.
It began in July 1945, with the arrival of a military cargo plane from Berlin at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport. On board was an extraordinary cargo: seven large crates addressed to the Committee of Arts of the Council of Peoples Commissars of the USSR. In the crates were artworks: a Velí¡zquez portrait of a woman, from Hitler’s private collection; a garden scene by Claude Monet, Woman with Child by Daumier, a view of Mont-Sainte-Victoire by Cézanne, a sleeping nude by Courbet, A Walk by Degas, Woman on a Stairway by Renoir, and a Saint Bernard by El Greco, found by the Russians in a bomb shelter in an anti-aircraft tower in the Berlin Zoo.
In army depositories in Berlin, more crates awaited transportation to the capital of the victors. Among the artworks that eventually arrived in Moscow were paintings from many museums and important private collections. From the Siemens collection came a flower piece by Delacroix, a nude by Ferdinand Hodler, Manet’s Two Women in Black, and other works. Revolution and Laundresses by Daumier, a portrait of a woman (Lola Jiménez) by Goya, a landscape by Courbet, and a ballerina by Degas had been found in the bomb shelter. El Greco’s John the Baptist came from the Keller collection. Three crates were filled with archeological treasures from the Museum of Pre- and Early History in Berlin: The Trojan gold treasure excavated by Heinrich Schliemann, the sixth-century B.C. Eberswalde treasure, the fifth-century A.D. Kottbus treasure, and the 11th-century A.D. Holm treasure. One crate contained a collection of gems from the Altes Museum. Most of these objects are still in the Soviet Union.
The seizure of art treasures in Nazi Germany was justified in the minds of many Soviets by the systematic destruction and pillaging of the Soviet Union by the German armies. On July 22, 1941, the Wehrmacht crossed the Soviet frontier. The attack was as great a shock for the Soviet leader as for ordinary people. Stalin trusted his Berlin ally and took no heed of the numerous warnings of future aggression. In the first days of the war, the Soviet army was completely unprepared. At four o’clock in the morning on the first day of the war, the Luftwaffe bombed Kiev. Columns of Nazi tanks rapidly penetrated deeper and deeper into Soviet territory.
In these days of hysteria and confusion, the evacuation of museum collections was not a major concern. Sometimes it was carried out incompetently. When Nazi troops were on the threshold of Kiev, local officials ordered museum directors to give priority to evacuating objects made of nonferrous metals because of their value. As a result, 19th-century bronze candlesticks of little esthetic significance were saved while Renaissance paintings were left in the occupied city. In other cases, the evacuation of museum treasures was prevented by military and party officials who wanted to demonstrate to the public that the situation wasn’t so desperate as it seemed. When the collections of Peterhof, Peter the Great’s palace outside Leningrad, had been packed into crates and were ready for transportation, officers of the NKVD (predecessor of the KGB) stopped the evacuation by accusing museum workers of defeatism and asking them if they thought the courageous Red Army would surrender Peterhof to the enemy. Thus numerous museum collections were left in the territory occupied by the German army.
From the first day of the war, the Nazis prepared to strip Soviet museums. As early as the summer of 1941, Hans Posse, who was entrusted by Hitler with acquiring a collection for the grandiose museum the fí¼hrer planned to build in his native city of Linz, Austria, chose von Holst, an expert on the Leningrad collections, to select objects for the museum. In October Alfred Rosenberg, head of the Einsatzstab-Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), whose mission was to gather material and property that illustrated German superiority in creative expression, wrote to Hitler, asking him to place von Holst under the command of the ERR, because it was responsible for the transport of objects to the Reich. Another competitor after spoils was Goering, who sent a special group to Leningrad led by state secretary Kaj Mí¼hlmann, who had been the commissioner for confiscation of art treasures in Poland.
Leningrad was never captured by the Nazis, but the famous czarist palaces outside the city were occupied, pillaged, and destroyed. One of the participants in these events, SS í–bersturmfí¼hrer Norman Fí¶ster, who was captured by the Russians late in the war, later described in his testimony at the Nuremberg trials how the Second Company, a special art-looting unit subordinated to von Ribbentrop, had stripped the palaces of their riches: “In Tsarskoe Selo, the company seized and removed the collection of the Palace of Catherine the Great…. Chinese silk panels and gilded carved wood decorations were stripped from the walls. Marquetry floors with elaborate patterns were dismantled. The antique furniture and a library with about seven to eight thousand volumes in French and more than five thousand volumes and manuscripts in Russian were taken from the palace of Alexander the First.”
The destruction was wanton and senseless. Horses were stabled in the Pavlovsk palace. The chapel at Tsarskoe Selo was laid waste and used as a motorcycle garage. Parts of the palaces were burned or exploded, and delayed-action bombs were placed under the grand gallery of Tsarskoe Selo. The famous Amber Room, whose walls were covered with panels, carvings, and mosaics of amber, was stolen. From Peterhof alone, the Nazis removed 34,000 art objects. When the Soviet army arrived in 1944, the great palaces were in ruins.
Minsk, the capital of Belorussia, fell to the Nazis on the 18th day of the war. Most of its art objects were confiscated by Posse for the Linz museum. But Mí¼hlmann, Himmler, and other interested parties had time to capture some of the spoils. After their invasion, Minsk was so totally denuded of its treasures that Kube, Commissioner General for Belorussia, wrote to Rosenberg, Reichsminister of Occupied Eastern Territories: “Minsk possessed rich and valuable collections of paintings and art objects, which were almost completely removed from the city. According to the orders of… Himmler, the SS sent numerous pictures to Germany…. These were treasures worth millions, which the general region of Belorussia lost. The pictures should have been sent to Linz and Kínigsberg (East Prussia).”
In Kiev the special troops confiscated and sent to Germany thousands of paintings, icons, and objects of applied art from the city’s museums and destroyed or plundered millions of books from its libraries. Of 41,000 objects in the Museum of Ukrainian Art, only 1,400 were left. Hundreds of pictures were stolen from the Kharkov and the Smolensk museums.
Since most of these collections were incompletely catalogued, and lists of stolen objects were not compiled at the time, it is difficult at this point to know precisely what was taken, but the objects included icons, European paintings and drawings, 19th-century Russian and 20th-century Soviet art, and objects of applied art. The Kiev museums alone lost thousands of European paintings. Over a thousand icons disappeared from Smolensk.
Before the war was over, the Council of Peoples Commissars established an Extraordinary Commission to investigate the crimes of the Nazis in the Soviet Union. According to the report of this commission, during four years of war the Nazis had removed, destroyed, or damaged 564,723 museum objects with a value of 5,002,570,000 gold rubles (about $1.25 billion).
The fate of most of these objects is unknown. Very few were found in the Russian-occupied zone of Germany. The search for them after the war was not very energetic, perhaps because the Russians believed that they had compensated themselves with the objects they had taken from Germany.
The first plan of compensation for Soviet losses was developed by the Extraordinary Commission. According to memoirs of the period, Igor Grabar, a prominent painter, art historian, and restorer who took an active part on the commission, proposed a plan of “equal compensation” whereby objects that had disappeared or been destroyed would be replaced by equivalent ones. If, for example, the Germans had stolen a painting by Hans Baldung Grien, they would have to return one by, say, Lucas Cranach the Younger. But Soviet officials chose another plan. They would simply take everything.
In 1945 the Red Army stormed Berlin. In the territory occupied by Soviet troops they found the rich museum collections of Dresden, Leipzig, Dessau, Schwerin, Gotha, Weimar, and Wartburg. In special shelters, where they had been placed for protection from British and American bombardment, there were objects removed by the Nazis from the occupied countries: objects from the museum collections of Hamburg, Linz, and other cities now occupied by the western powers; objects from the personal collections of high-ranking Nazis, including Hitler, Schacht, and Koch; and objects from private collections and from the well-known antique shops of Lempke, Reins, and Bergressen.
The Trophy Commission, set up by the Soviet government to collect reparations in Germany, began its work in the occupied territory as soon as the war ended. Its most important job was the removal of industrial installations and strategic materials to the Soviet Union, but art treasures also fell within the sphere of its a
ctivities. The Committee of Arts of the Council of Peoples Commissars assigned special brigades that included art historians, artists, restorers, and other experts. In addition to these brigades, the Special Commission of the Ukrainian Government came to Berlin in November 1945. It sent cultural trophies directly to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Ukraine and the Council of Peoples Commissars of the Ukraine.
Most of these art experts were civilians who had never taken part in military operations, but they were disguised as officers of the Red Army. This dressing up in uniform caused some misunderstandings. Natalia Sokolova, an expert who took part in the removal of objects belonging to the Dresden museums, wrote in her memoirs about her journey to Berlin: “April 24, 1945, dressed in the uniform of a major, with the proper official travel orders, I went to Kiev. In my papers, stamped by the ‘Deputy Chief of the Home Front of the Red Army,’ it was stated that ‘the bearer, Major N. Sokolova, was a representative of the Committee of Arts of the C.P.C. [Council of Peoples Commissars] of the USSR and that she was on an official journey to the First Ukrainian Front with a special mission….’ I was walking down Kreschatik Street, shocked by its ruins, when I was suddenly stopped by the commandant’s patrol.
“‘Your papers, please, comrade major.’
“I took out my papers with a casual gesture. The lieutenant clicked his heels, saluted, and put my documents in his bag. ‘You can pick them up in the commandant’s office in two hours, comrade major.’…
“‘What’s the matter?’
“‘You’re out of uniform, comrade major.’
“I was filled with indignation and nervous. As a newly fledged major, I followed all the rules with the scrupulousness of a neophyte.
“‘Your shoes, your shoes, comrade major! The lieutenant repeated with a cheerful smile. And in fact, after walking once in Moscow in soldier’s boots that were two sizes too big for me, I had thrown them out and went about in plain low-heeled… shoes, which had arrested the patrol’s attention.”
Andrei Chegodaev, a prominent Russian art historian who was sent to Germany as an expert in November 1945, said in an interview that he wore a major’s uniform. Only one art expert escaped this disguise: Viktor Lazarev, the most prominent scholar of Byzantine an Italian Renaissance art in postrevolutionary Russia, “refused to wear a military uniform,” according to Chegodaev, “and generals stood at attention before him because he came in civilian clothes.” They thought he was particularly important.
The brigades didn’t limit their activities to masterpieces. They removed all kinds of things to the Soviet Union: archives, libraries, pictures, sculptures, applied art. Sokolova remembered the routine work of the brigade in Silesia: “In Gleivitz, I met my brigade in the officers’ hotel…. Every day we went to the depository, where they collected objects to be sent to Moscow, addressed to the Committee of Arts. With the help of German women and boys, who had been commandeered to work, they packed carpets, chandeliers, filling crates with various objects assembled from neighboring castles.” Many of these objects were of little esthetic value, and most of them, especially those made of bronze and copper, were later melted down in Moscow.
But the brigades didn’t confine themselves to 19th-century bric-a-brac. Almost all the museums in the Russian zone of occupation lost large parts of their contents. From Dresden alone, the brigades removed most of the collections of the Dresden Picture Gallery, the collections of the Grí¼nes Gewí¶lbe, the antique sculptures of the Skulpturen Sammlung, the collections of the Staatliches Kupferstich-Kabinett, the most important part of the Historical Museum, and parts of the Kunstgewerbe Museum. Seventy pictures were taken from the Wiesbaden Museum. Part of the graphic collection assembled for the Linz museum, including the collection of Franz Koenig and the collection of 19th-century Russian drawings belonging to Prince Johann Georg von Sachsen and 40 Rembrandt etchings from the Robert Gutmann collection, were also packed up and sent to the USSR.
The Soviet brigade in Berlin was equally active. In an unpublished memoir found in the ARTnews archive, an American named Dick Howard who served in the American Army in Berlin in 1945 remembered: “Lieutenant Colonel Sidoroff of the Red Army was their highest ranking representative in his field. He was accompanied by Professor Blavatsky, who greeted his old colleagues with warmth. He had once studied art history in Berlin. Of Polish extraction, he had become a thorough going Communist, and was the ‘expert’ of the Soviet forces. Another of these experts, and one who apparently knew exactly what he wanted, was a Professor Lazarev, and a fourth gentleman was Major Drushinin of the Red Army.”
Their most spectacular prize was the Pergamon Altar, which was set up in a replica of its original structure and surrounded by other masterpieces of the period. “Major Drushinin nodded taciturnly and forty soldier workmen joyfully attacked the sculptures with pickax and crowbar. The friezes were ripped anew from their walls, loaded upon flatcars, and were never seen again. About a hundred other first class Greek Sculptures and architectural pieces… went with them. In gutteral accented German, Lazareff [sic] directed that more be taken. Seven thousand Greek vases, eighteen hundred statues, nine thousand antique gems, sixty five hundred terra cottas and Tanagra figurines, and thousands of lesser objects were removed from the Department of Greek Antiquities alone.”
The Soviet experts naturally saw things differently. Writing about the removal of the Dresden collections, some of which were in underground shelters, Sokolova wrote: “The Germans probably thought that the pictures would be here for a long time because there was electricity, heating, and ventilation in the tunnel. But on the day we came, none of these was working. It was +8ÂºC., dark and damp, but there were the masterpieces that for centuries had been kept in museum conditions, in fixed temperatures, in the stately silence of cathedrals and museum halls. The Germans lost the moral right to them. Now they belonged to the Red Army, the only army in the world that carried on its banners revenge to bandits and peace to freedom-loving people.”
The successes of the brigades aroused the curiosity of the military commanders. Sokolova remembered that even Marshal Konev, commander-in-chief of the Central Group of forces, visited the castle of Pillnitz, where the Dresden treasures had been assembled. “The Marshal was sitting in front of the [Sistine] Madonna, looking at her with pleasure and demanding the information he needed from Rototaev and Grigorov [members of the brigade]. The Marshal wasn’t satisfied with their comments, because he was accustomed to judgments that had military precision…. Following the Marshal’s orders, or his example, generals and officers of the First Ukrainian Front began to visit Pillnitz, where some hundreds of pictures were already collected, almost every day….
“Once, when I led such an excursion, the generals asked me a question: ‘Well, comrade major, do we have such masters?’
“I answered evasively that we had many gifted artists.
“‘Who, for example?’
“I began to name well-known painters, from ‘people’s artists’ to ‘honorary artists.’ [These were official designations.]
“The general who had asked me shook his head disapprovingly when he heard each name I mentioned. ‘Not him, not him.’
“‘That’s the way to paint!’ said the generals, indicating the ‘Saint Agnes’ [of Zurbarí¡n], the ‘Sleeping Venus’ [of Giorgione], or Dutch still-lifes, which were very popular with them.”
The generals’ interest in the fine arts went beyond theory. According to Sokolova, she had orders “to select art objects that were not of museum quality for the generals.” But these didn’t satisfy their desire for spoils. Although stealing objects was officially prohibited, it was usually overlooked, and the military commanders, whose power was unlimited, hunted for their own private cultural trophies. The art historian Boris Brodsky, a specialist in Soviet private collections, later wrote: “At the end of the war, high-ranking generals removed from Germany in sealed cars, trucks, and even military planes almost the entire contents of rich houses and even castles…. The authorities [in Moscow] tried not to notice the luxurious furniture and carpets until the picture collection of Abakumov, the former minister of state security, arrested in 1953 with Lavrenty Beria, was confiscated. [Beria, head of the NKVD, was arrested and executed shortly after Stalin’s death.] I don’t know if it was interesting or not—the minister certainly didn’t collect it himself—but the luster of the gilded frames created a dilemma for high officials. The violation of unwritten rules [about the puritanical way communists should live] appeared to them a serious offense.” Suddenly pictures and rich furnishings became dangerous possessions, and their owners hastened to get rid of them. “Those who had believed themselves masters of life only yesterday were seized by panic. The evidence in gilded frames filled antiquarian shops with staggering speed,” wrote Brodsky.
But the temptation to expropriate something for oneself as well as for the state was so strong that even some members of the Trophy Commission couldn’t resist it. At the end of 1945, the Communist Party Central Committee sent a special commission to investigate the situation. Chegodaev, who went to Germany for the second time as a member of this group, remembered: “We were sent to research the work of our Trophy Commission in Germany because there were various unpleasant rumors about their activities. And in fact every chief was ardently stealing something there in Germany. And when I came back to the [Pushkin] museum, an entire train load of various property arrived, which Konstantinov, the deputy of Hrapchenko [head of the Committee of Arts], had collected for himself. Luxurious furniture, pictures, dining services were unloaded in the Italian Yard. He and his wife looked with grief at this mound. It was the end of his career. There were other people of this kind.”
The activity of the Trophy Commission was at its height in 1945 and 1946. The brigades of the Committee of Arts included restorers, who helped pack the pictures, sculptures, and objects of applied arts. Stepan Churakov, a prominent restorer, remembered in his memoirs his role in removing the Dresden Gallery pictures that had been found in the castle of Meissen: “Twenty-three large pictures were found in the castle. We had to pull them from their stretchers and roll them up. There were also magnificent masterpieces painted on large panels: Coreggio’s pictures ‘Holy Night,’ ‘The Madonna with Saint Sebastian,’ ‘The Madonna with Saint George,’ and others.” It was hard to detach the pictures from their stretchers because the fragile old canvases had been attached to new ones and both canvases were nailed to the stretchers with tacks that had become rusty with time and dampness. Then the long, unwieldy rolls and the huge panels had to be carried down the narrow stairways of the castle.
“But it seems that this test wasn’t enough for us,” Churakov continued. “The route of the cargo trucks led along the Elbe embankment, where the arch of a bridge above the road was blocked by a wedge that had partially fallen as the result of an explosion. The loaded trucks couldn’t drive under it, and we had to take down the pictures from the trucks, carry them in our arms under the bridge, and then load them onto the trucks again.”
At Pillnitz castle, “whole mountains” of boxes were packed with the Dresden Gallery pictures. “The canvases were wrapped in thick, soft, white woolen cloth and then framed again” before being secured firmly in the boxes.
For two weeks, Churakov remembered, the team worked in Weesenstein. “We had a deficit of labor for carrying, and we used the local population. Women, girls, and some boys worked for us. For a day’s work, we gave them a loaf of bread and a bottle of Burgundy for two people. All of them worked obediently except the daughter of the burgomaster of Weesenstein, whose behavior displayed real hostility. Often the youngsters danced happily with our soldiers during lunch breaks, and once, when Professor Foss noticed this, he said sarcastically, ‘This is a real folk festival.’”
The museum treasures from Weesentstein were removed to Pillnitz, where they were packed in trains bound for Moscow. Churakov remembered that “all paintings were placed in covered cars, though we had to cover the roofs of many cars with tar paper because they had been pierced by shell splinters and bullets. Big boxes with pictures like the ‘Sistine Madonna’ by Raphael and numerous paintings by Correggio couldn’t go in the cars. We had to load them on a flatcar and secured them on it, and something like a hut, made from boards, was built above the boxes to protect the pictures from bad weather; its roof was covered with tar paper. The heated goods van for our group was in the middle of the train, with another for the trains’ guards, a platoon of soldiers from the Trophies Battalion of the First Ukrainian Front and military frontier guards. The latter had guarded us at Pillnitz, and escorting this train was their last military duty before being demobilized. Guards were posted at the front, the middle, and the end of the train. Submachine gunners were on duty 24 hours a day. The train passed through Germany without problems, but in Poland troubles awaited us: in the flatcar, where the masterpieces of Raphael and Correggio had been loaded, the axle broke. We had to unhook the car. It was very hard to repair the axle. We stood there the whole day. Finally they let us go, but when we were not far from the station the train stumbled on the wheels of a hand car which seemed to have been deliberately put in our way.
“But all ended happily…. On August 10, 1945, we arrived in Moscow. The first stage of the gigantic work was finished.”
There may have been other troubles in Poland. Dick Howard wrote that he had heard a story, “completely unconfirmed and probably confused with several incidents, that one of these trains was held up by Polish guerrillas, smashed and burned with all that was in it, including many famous works of art. There is no real evidence that this ever happened, but it could have.”
The trains filled with German industrial equipment and museum treasures began to arrive in Moscow. The Committee of Arts placed thousands of boxes of pictures and sculptures in Soviet museums. The famous Pergamon Altar was reassembled and set up under the portico of the Pushkin Museum, between its massive columns, in the open air. It was impossible to take the huge frieze inside; the museum’s doors were too small and its galleries too crowded.
In Dresden, denuded of its greatest treasures, the gallery organized an exhibition of the remains of its collection. Old Masters were displayed in the Wasserpalais. “In its anteroom,” wrote Hans Rí¶thel, curator of the Bayerische Staatsgemalde Sammlung, who visited the city in June 1946, “a sort of monument has been erected with the following inscription:
ART IS AN EXPRESSION OF WORLD HISTORY.
LIKE EVERY SPHERE OF HUMAN CULTURE, ART GROWS OUT OF THE CONDITIONS OF ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL-SOCIAL REALITY.
ART, WHICH FINDS EXPRESSION IN THE WORKS OF INSPIRED PERSONALITIES, IS REFLECTION, INTERPRETER, AND GUIDE.
IS THUS A FUNCTION OF SOCIETY, WHICH IS BROUGHT TO FRUITION IN CONTINUAL INTERACTION WITH SOCIAL EVENTS AND IS CONTINUALLY DEVELOPED BY THIS.
“The vague idealism of Hitler (‘Art is a mission demanding fanaticism’) has thus been replaced by the dogmata of the historic materialism; but the st
le has remained,” Ríthe