History

Shoot, Loot, and Scoot

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The Soviet system built its reputation on all for one and one for all. This seems to be a euphemism for what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine. Assured of their support, by December 1941 the Soviets realised that the near defeated Bolshevik State was certain to be rescued by the U.S and Britain. If a working alliance with Britain and the U.S could turn defeat into victory the pillaging of Democratic Germany could be assumed and planned for.

The allied plunder of the defeated Reich was breath-taking in its unprecedented enormity. Never in the history of conquest and pillage has there been anything to equal the spoils of defeated Germany’s assets.

The Soviet Trophy Commission of The State Defence Committee was established in 1941 by Decree № 3123cc. The department, specifically created to plunder defeated Germany’s human, natural and national assets was later known as the Trophy Committee. The looting of defeated Germany by the USSR was not limited to official Trophy Brigades. The brigandage included ordinary troops and functionaries given free licence to take whatever they could lay their hands on.

At least 2.5 million German artworks and 10 million books and manuscripts disappeared into the Soviet Union. Much of the artwork and treasures were of international importance, owned and displayed long before the NSDAP was elected on January 30, 1933. . Such artworks included the Gutenberg Bibles and many Impressionist paintings; a substantial number of these irreplaceable artworks had been privately owned.

Soviet Union’s Trophy Brigades, supported by the Bolsheviks sponsors in Washington, Wall Street and Westminster, were described by Magazine as ‘hit lists’. According to Reparations Commissioner, Edwin W. Pauley, by May 1945, the United States had earmarked 144 plants for removal not to the US but to Bolshevik Russia. Two hundred key German plants were placed under direct Soviet control. The enslaved German work force of 1,300,000 was forced to work on starvation wages, the profits going to the USSR.

By 1952 the Soviet Union’s haul of priceless artworks was established at 900,000 works of art, paintings, statues, figurines, artefacts and national treasures. Pillaged artworks include sculptures by Nicola Pisano, reliefs by Donatello, Gothic Madonna’s, paintings by Botticelli and van Dyck, and diverse Baroque works created from stone and wood.

Poland took possession of collections that the beleaguered Reich had earlier saved and evacuated to remote places. Unknown to the then struggling Germans the ‘safe territory’ had already been surrendered to Stalin’s Red Army by Roosevelt and Churchill at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. The illegal documents were signed by England’s wartime premier Winston Churchill and U.S President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Poles refer to this loot as Berlinka. The lost hoards had mainly been the property of Berlin museums and galleries.

Left: Sophia Schliemann (de) (née Engastromenos) wearing the “Jewels of Helen” excavated by her husband, Heinrich Schliemann, in Hisarlik (photograph taken ca. 1874). Other photos: details.

A notable collection in Polish possession is the private collection of 25 historic aircraft once owned by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. (Deutsche Luftfahrt Sammlung). Ironically, the collection includes two Polish aircraft surrendered to the Germans following the Reich’s pre-emptive invasion of Poland in September 1939. Entire libraries and archives with files from all over Europe were looted and their files taken to the USSR by the rampaging Soviet Trophy Brigades. The Russian State Military Archive (Rossiiskii Gosudarstvenni Voennyi Arkhiv-RGVA) still contains a large number of files of ‘foreign origin’.

Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie Gallery lost a great many major paintings. Among the plunder were seven Peter Paul Rubens artworks, three Caravaggio paintings and three paintings by Van Dyck. The whereabouts of the looted art is unknown. These are thought to be secreted away in depositories situated in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Cypresses in Starry Night (F 1540, JH 1732) by Vincent van Gogh (1889).[1] The only known pen and ink study of Starry Night and one of the most famous pieces in the “Baldin Collection”.

Unlike their Western allies neither the Soviets nor the Russians today are embarrassed by their pillage of the defeated Reich. The oft quoted Napoleonic penchant for art acquisition seems to justify Soviet example and avarice. Russian art experts shrug and point to the plundered treasures held in various Western museums and art galleries. This seems to be a case of blame Hitler’s Germany for the sins of Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, and the British Empire.

Germany was not the only defeated country to see its national artworks, gold bullion and national assets ‘re-located’ to Bolshevik Occupied Russia. American sanctioned victims of Soviet and allied rapacity included Bulgaria, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Finland. The illegal transfer of national treasures from defeated Europe to the USSR, Britain and the United States continued into the 1950s and 1960s.

The Russians concede they took possession of approximately 1.3 million German books, 250,000 museum objects and more than 266,000 archival files. In particular, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg now has about 800 paintings, 200 sculptures, and papyruses looted from the Austrian Library in Vienna. The Hermitage also has Japanese and Chinese works of art taken from the East Asian Museum in Berlin.

In 1995 The Hermitage exhibited the French art of the 19th century from the German collections of Friedrich Carl Siemens (1877–1952), Eduard von der Heydt, Alice Meyer (widow of Eduard Lorenz Lorenz-Meyer), Otto Gerstenberg, Otto Krebs, Bernhard Koehler and Monica Sachse (widow of Paul Sachse).

In 1996 the Pushkin Museum exhibited the Red Army stolen treasures of the Priamos. In 2007 were displayed German owned artefacts relating to the Merowinger (Merovingian dynasty). From the Museum für Vor-und Frühgeschichte, Berlin and Museum for Prehistory and Early History, were taken the 7th Century sword scabbard of Schwertscheide von Gutenstein.

Included in the Soviet plunder are extensive collections taken from the Kunsthalle in Bremen. The pillage includes the Baldin Collection). Also taken were the properties of the estates of Ferdinand Lassalle and Walther Rathenau, collections owned by the Bestände der Gothaer library; the renowned library in Wernigerode as well as the armoury at Rüstkammer der Wartburg.

In 2008 it was announced that 87 paintings ransacked from the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museums of Aachen, were exhibited in the museum of city Simferopol in Crimea. Until 2005 these artworks had simply been listed as missing. Interestingly, Aachen had been occupied not by the Red Army but by the American armed forces.

A brief change of heart occurred when, at a 1998 conference, Russian President Boris Yeltsin promised the return of art ransacked from defeated Germany. His worthy gesture horrified the State Duma of the Russian Federation (parliament). On April 15, 1998, a decree was passed that declared that ‘the cultural valuables trans-located to the USSR after World War II were to be declared national patrimony of the Russian Federation.’ It seemed to be a case of finders keepers, losers weepers.

Irina Aleksandrovna Antonova (20 March 1922 – 30 November 2020) who was a Russian art historian who served as a Director of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow for 52 years, from 1961 to 2013, and then President of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts oversaw art collections which were taken by Soviet Union from Germany after World War II. She first denied that such collections exist, and when it was undeniable that they do exist she publicly claimed that the collections were taken to the Soviet Union legally and should be exempt from restitution. Antonova witnessed the entire collection of the Dresden Gallery arriving at the museum from Germany in 1945 and its removal ten years later. She opposed the return of the collection to Germany, claiming it was a just compensation for the damage inflicted on Russia’s cultural heritage by the German invaders. The museum still holds Priam’s Treasure, taken as a trophy by the Red Army after the Battle of Berlin.

Here are a few phrases from an interview with Irina Antonova:

Antonova: It’s a myth that I claimed that we didn’t have the Schliemann Gold ( Priam’s Treasure). First, until 1991-1992, when the Soviets withdrew their troops from Germany, no one asked me about it at all. They started asking afterwards. And I used to say one and the same thing: It’s not my problem, go to the Ministry of Culture. It was a routine phrase for me and all the staff who were aware of it. That was the first thing. I didn’t tell the truth, but I never lied.

Q. Is the problem of restitution a problem of political conjuncture?

Antonova: Unfortunately, yes. And this is the second question. When it became possible to talk about this subject, I said one thing: the law must decide everything. Whether it’s bad or good, but it’s the law. This law allows giving away things related to the holocaust when they were confiscated from Jewish families. Another thing is that there were collections sold to Hitler for decent money. This includes the Koenigs collection, which is actually Hitler’s collection, and we had the right to take it out.

Q: But it has still been 60 years since the war?

Antonova: Of course, we are friends with German museums and colleagues. Today’s Germans have nothing to do with Hitler’s deeds. But in my opinion, this problem should not be solved on an emotional level. What we in Russia have left over cannot be compared in importance with what was handed back to the GDR in 1955-1956: a million and a half pieces, including the Dresden collection.

In another interview, Antonova states: Those treasures left with us in Russia are the price Germany, as the attacker, must pay. ( from 3.00 to 4.40 minutes)

Information about Trofies and Dresden Gallery from 10.39

In the video below (from 3.00 to 4.40 minutes) Irina Antonova says: The Sistine Madonna is an image of the enormous innumerable sacrifice that our people made for the liberation of the Motherland. Yes, some of the German exhibits remained in our country, but this act itself seems to me to be fair. This is a fact that should not be erased from memory. A country that causes damage, it must pay with something – something of its own.

Antonova did not even look in the direction of her German colleagues and did not accept a friendly box of chocolates from them.

From 3.00 to 4.40 minutes

Related books: THE ALL LIES INVASION, WITNESS TO HISTORYTESTIGO DE LA HISTORIA: HISTORIA SIN CENSURA (SPANISH EDITION),  FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAKMEGACAUST, THE RED BRIGANDSRANSACKING THE REICH, and DEATH OF A CITY

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MICHAEL WALSH is a journalist, broadcaster and the author of RISE OF THE SUN WHEELEUROPE ARISE TROTSKY’S WHITE NEGROESMEGACAUST,  DEATH OF A CITYWITNESS TO HISTORY, THE BUSINESS BOOSTERTHE FIFTH COLUMN VOLUME I and IIFOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAKIMMORTAL BELOVEDTHE ALL LIES INVASIONINSPIRE A NATION Volume IINSPIRE A NATION Volume II , SLAUGHTER OF A DYNASTY , REICH AND WRONG,  THE RED BRIGANDSRANSACKING THE REICH ,    SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD RIECH: ARNO BREKER AND REICH SCULPTORS  SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD RIECH:  JOSEF THORAK AND REICH SCULPTORS ,   The Exiled Duke Romanov Who Turned Desert Into Paradise , THE DOVETAILS , SEX FEST AT TIFFANY’S  and other book titles. These illustrated best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.

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MICHAEL WALSH is an Irish British-born journalist. His 64 books include best-selling historical books  THE ALL LIES INVASION, WITNESS TO HISTORYTESTIGO DE LA HISTORIA: HISTORIA SIN CENSURA (SPANISH EDITION),  REICH AND WRONG,  HEROES HANG WHEN TRAITORS TRIUMPH , HEROES OF THE REICH,  THE FUHRER’S PROCLAMATION TO THE GERMAN PEOPLE ,  FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAKMEGACAUST, THE RED BRIGANDSRANSACKING THE REICH,  and  DEATH OF A CITY

MICHAEL WALSH is a journalist, author, and broadcaster. His 64 books include best-selling RHODESIA’S DEATH EUROPE’S FUNERAL, AFRICA’S KILLING FIELDS,  THE LAST GLADIATORS, A Leopard in Liverpool, RISE OF THE SUN WHEELEUROPE ARISE, FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK, THE ALL LIES INVASIONINSPIRE A NATION Volume IINSPIRE A NATION Volume II, and many other book titles. These illustrated best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.

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