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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

GAWA Day #49A: Whatever Happened to All the Artworks and Treasures Plundered by the Nazis?

We are now on the Rhine and there are a lot of castles from Rudesheim to Cologne.  I'm tempted to end there, but tomorrow I'll delve into some of them and maybe even music boxes.  However, what intrigues me is the race to find $30 billion in fortune hidden by the Third Reich.  It is unclear if this is the 2015 value or not, and if not, the sum zooms up to $400 billion. Keep in mind, though, that the Manhattan Atomic Bomb Project cost $2 billion then, or $25 billion in 2015 dollars.

Some of you might have kept up with the Nazi Ghost Train packed with gold and gems supposedly found in Poland.  What about all those gold bars in the lake near Hitler's mountain hideaway or the Amber Room (below), said to be the Eighth Wonder of the World, stolen from Russia?  In addition to gold and jewels, the room contained 6 tons of amber.

Let me start with this room, for in 2003, donations from mostly corporate Germany helped reconstruct the entire room at the Catherine Palace near Saint Petersburg, formerly known as Petrograd and Leningrad.  The original goes back to 1701, which was deconstructed by Nazis in 1941 and brought to Koenigsberg, now called Kaliningrad.  Yes, that's Comrade Putin in the new version.

However, there is a claim that the last time anyone saw what might have been the Amber Room was in the port of Gdynia on board the Wilhelm Gustloff on 30 January 1945.  On the other hand, a 2004 investigation came to a conclusion that everything was destroyed when Koenigsberg Castle was bombed by the Royal Air Force in 1944, or maybe it was in 1945 during the Battle of Koenigsberg.


Ah, but in March of this year, Karl-Heinz Kleine, a retired German, and his bowling friends (No kidding, would I make this up?) said the $385 million priceless treasure is still in crates in bunkers under the city of Wuppertal, a city of nearly a third of a million near our next stop, Cologne, or Koln, if you live in Germany.  This geriatric team began some preliminary drilling, but the sympathetic company took back the equipment.  Hey, if you take life too seriously, you'll miss out on a few laughs.

Then, of course, you've been keeping up with the announcement of bounty hunters "confirming" that a trainload of gold worth $300 million was found in Walbryzch, Poland.  They only seek 10% the value of the haul.  Doubt remains, though.  First, digging won't start until next spring.  Why?  Even Mayor Zygmunt Nowaczyk has been quoted to say all he had really seen was an old map.  You lose some credibility, too, when stories have surfaced that one of the reasons the Nazis built this underground network was to hide any evidence of flying saucers.  Anyway, here to the left is Tadeusz Slowikowski, who has been searching for more than half a century, showing a photo of the tunnel entrance.


They cite this evidence:


More so, Polish authorities, seeing this proof, say they are 99% sure that a football length field long train is, indeed, located under the surmised hill below Kslaz Castle.


Edyta Nawrocka, who was born in Walbrzych, even has a gold train song.  What more do you want?  Well, actually, one rumor is that the Amber Room might well also be here.  The local economy, in particular, has been stimulated by this Loch Ness effect.

Okay, so when is this movie coming out?  You've seen at least two recent ones:  The Monuments Men (Rotten Tomato, 31%/44%) with George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, et al, and Helen Mirren's Woman in Gold (RT 52%/81%):


The world is only beginning to catch up with the 100,000 or so items still in various stages of provenance, review, obfuscation and pursuit.  You can read all about Nazi plunder and the current state of redemption, but an even larger question has to do with all the artifacts and "plunder" in our art galleries and museums from ancient Egypt, Cambodia, China, India...the world over.  Three-fourths of the Louvre came from Napoleon's pillaging.  Even George Clooney says, return the Mona Lisa to Italy.

Should the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum be returned to Egypt.  Doesn't the Winged Victory of Samothrace deserve to be repatriated to Greece?  International conventions have been held, countries have passed laws and good intent seems to be at the surface.  The reality is that, as in the return of Nazi loot, further analysis and legal tactics to delay are prevailing.  Russia for one lost 2.5 million works of art and ten million manuscripts, just from the second world war.  Their attitude is whatever they plundered is justified reparations.

I suspect more and more,  more and more will be returned to the country of origin.  But this could take another millennium.

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Cyclone Chapala is dissipating over Yemen, dropping at least a year of rain in a few hours.

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