November 22, 2000
- No Looted Art in Hitler's Museum in Linz
- Looted artifacts lead to call for tougher laws (A Paiute leader says the sentence handed a pot hunter shows that stronger sanctions are needed)
- temporary bar on the export of a gem fragment showing the bust of Octavian as the god Mercury.
No Looted Art in Hitler's Museum in Linz By Hanns C. Löhr
LINZ. In the heart of Saxony there lives a lady of advanced age with some amazing stories to tell. This woman, who is still very alert mentally, is probably the last living person to have worked on the Special Assignment Linz (Sonderauftrag Linz), which set up an art collection at Adolf Hitler's behest for the Austrian city of the same name.
After the war, officers of the Allied occupying forces put the Special Assignment on a level with the Nazi art collecting organizations of the SS department Ancestral Heritage (SS-Ahnenerbe), created to provide scientific backing for Nazi race theory, and the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, a special task force under Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg which was responsible for the seizure of French art collections. However, the statements by this contemporary witness, which are supported by research findings, give cause to take a more discriminating view of the activities of the Linz Special Assignment within the tangled web of Nazi art theft.
In March 1943, Hermann Voss, an art historian from Wiesbaden who was an internationally reputed researcher of the Baroque period, took over as director of Dresden's picture gallery. At the same time, Hitler appointed him as supervisor of Special Assignment Linz. This office had already been held by Hans Posse, Voss' predecessor at the Dresden gallery. Since the summer of 1939, Posse had been building up a collection for Hitler, which was to be shown at a special museum in Linz. In contrast to his predecessor, Voss had never tried to conceal his critical attitude to the Nazi system prior to his selection for this combination of duties. U.S. art historian Lynn Nicholas calls him a well-known anti-Nazi, who was presumably only appointed as Posse's successor at the latter's request.
It says something for Hitler's obsession with art that he entrusted the establishment of the museum to such a critic of his regime, setting store only by his professional expertise. The Linz collection was almost exclusively financed by funds earned through sales of Hitler's book Mein Kampf and from special stamps showing his portrait. This made it more or less the private affair of the Führer. In Dresden, Voss joined a small group of employees working on the Linz project. They included Gottfried Reimer, another curator of the museum, and a few restoration specialists. Some weeks after assuming the position, Voss added a secretary to the team -- the woman who is now over 80, still lives in Saxony and has provided insight into the activities of the Special Assignment.
She says that, when making their acquisitions, Voss and Reimer made sure to purchase items only from legal sources. They tried to keep confiscated works of art, with which Hitler's henchmen Rosenberg and Heinrich Himmler sought to make themselves popular with their superior, out of the collection. To achieve this goal, Reimer often used scientific arguments to find fault with the quality of the confiscated art offered to him. These findings correlate with those of Austrian historian Ernst Kubin. Already in 1989, in a monograph on the Special Assignment, he drew attention to U.S. reports according to which Posse had refused to deal with stolen artworks during his tenure. Moreover, the historian was able to demonstrate that the 4,353 pictures collected for the museum in Linz included only 53 confiscated works. These had been procured in Paris by Hermann Göring, not on the orders of Reimer and Voss.
However, it is now known that the Linz collection did comprise paintings acquired in legal borderline cases. Thus, the Special Assignment bought parts of the Jewish Schloss collection in France which the Vichy government had previously seized by force. Nevertheless, the testimony of the former secretary and the established facts indicate that the staff of this Special Assignment did endeavor to observe the legal regulations of the art trade. The distance they maintained from the machinations of the Third Reich is also apparent in other ways. According to their secretary, Voss and Reimer made a point of choosing monasteries to store the collection. In doing so, they sought to protect their depots in Hohenfurth and Kremsmünster against manipulation. By placing them in the care the Church, they aimed to prevent subsequently looted artworks from being foisted onto the collection.
But this method was only temporarily successful. In February 1944, Voss and Reimer were obliged to store their paintings and sculptures in the salt mine of Altaussee, to protect them from increased bombing. However, the Special Assignment was only a subtenant in this remote location, which had been organized a year earlier as a place to evacuate works from Viennese museums. Since the depot was under the control of the local head of the administration, August Eigruber, Voss and his unit could not prevent Göring and other Third Reich potentates from having stolen art brought to the underground salt chambers.
Presumably, the people working on the Special Assignment felt that they had not broken any laws. This explains why Voss immediately offered his assistance and professional knowledge to one of the Allies' central collection points for looted art in the summer of 1945, right after his return from Dresden. Shortly after Germany capitulated, the western Allies started bringing works of art recovered from various depots to such collection points and finding out who the legal owners were.
Much to Voss' surprise, the Americans did not accept his offer, but arrested him and took him directly to Altaussee for interrogation. Later he had to submit to house arrest by the Allies. His wish to have his personal belongings and professional records transported from Dresden to the West by U.S. army trucks, in return for information, was not fulfilled.
However, the fact that Voss and his colleagues had adhered strictly to the law saved them from being condemned as war criminals. Reimer, for example, lived as an administrator in the former East Germany without suffering any reprisals, albeit under the critical eye of the secret service Stasi, up to his death in the early 1990s. His former boss ended his career as a pensioner in Munich. His erstwhile colleague Robert Oertel, an eminent connoisseur of Italian painting, who kept the record of works purchased for the Linz collection until 1945, rose to become director of West Berlin's picture gallery in the 1970s.
Nov. 20 (c) Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 2000 http://www.faz.com/
Looted artifacts lead to call for tougher laws
(A Paiute leader says the sentence handed a pot hunter shows that stronger sanctions are needed)
Tuesday, November 21, 2000
By Steve Lundgren, Correspondent, The Oregonian
Minerva Soucie, elder of the Burns Paiute Tribe, was pleased with the conviction of a Burns man for looting archaeological sites on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but she says federal laws need to be strengthened to prevent future acts. "They get their hands slapped, and then they're out there collecting again," Soucie said. On Oct. 31, William Dean Jaques, 53, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Eugene to serve six months in a work-release program and five years of federal probation. In addition, Judge Michael Hogan ordered Jaques not to hunt artifacts on public or private land, or enter the Malheur refuge for five years. He also was ordered to pay $803.86 in restitution to the refuge. While that may not sound like a slap on the hand, Jaques' history of illegal artifact collecting goes back more than 20 years. In 1983, he was the first person in the country to be charged under the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, called ARPA. That law prohibits artifact collecting on public property. Federal law enforcement agents think Jaques has continued artifact collecting, although until this conviction they hadn't been able to prove it. "We believe he sells (artifacts), but I can't prove it in a court of law," said Pete Revak, a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Caught on videotape Federal agents arrested Jaques on May 10, 1999, after employees at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge observed and videotaped him digging for artifacts, Revak said. Prior to that, refuge employees had seen him on the refuge and suspected he was artifact hunting, said Jeff Kent, the U.S. attorney who prosecuted Jaques. Jaques, reached by telephone, denies doing anything wrong. "I wasn't doing nothing," Jaques said. "I was surface hunting arrowheads. I wasn't digging. That's all I've got to say. " Jaques then hung up. Jaques also was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in the 1999 arrest, but that charge was dropped during plea negotiations. The court, however, confiscated a .22-caliber target pistol Jaques had with him at the time of the arrest. Kent said the weapons charge was dropped in plea bargaining to ensure a conviction on the artifact collecting charge because of Jaques history. "He had been viewed for a long time as such a serious pot hunter in that area that we felt the consequences of (the ARPA) charge would be more serious than under the other charge," Kent said. Jaques pleaded guilty in June to a felony charge of removing or damaging archaeological resources without a permit. He will serve the six- month sentence at the Deschutes County Jail in Bend, where he will be in custody except during working hours, according to Lucinda Palmer, a federal probation officer. Charge reduced The 1983 charge was reduced to misdemeanor destruction of government property, and Jaques was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years probation. Jaques' recent conviction pleases law enforcement officials both because of his record and because such convictions are difficult to get. While artifact hunting is a big problem on the refuge, law enforcement officers almost have to catch a person in the act to get a felony conviction, Revak said. Kent said ARPA has exceptions that make it legal for people to hunt for archeological artifacts without a permit on private land. Soucie said cases such as the one involving Jaques argue for strengthening ARPA. The area where Jaques was caught digging has yielded artifacts as old as 9,000 years to as recent as 200 years, said Soucie, a tribal elder and education specialist for the Burns Paiute Reservation north of Burns. "That was one of our main camping areas in the winters," Soucie said. "We camped around the lakes." While illegal artifact hunting disrupts the context of archaeological sites for future study, Soucie said her tribe's concerns run much deeper. "What we want to stress is that Indian people are buried with things that may be treasures. They may be things that were close to them," Soucie said. "We believe that these things are to go with them into the afterlife, and when these things are disturbed . . . that interrupts the cycle into the afterlife. "
TEMPORARY BAR PLACED ON EXPORT OF THE IONIDES OCTAVIAN GEM
Arts Minister Alan Howarth has placed a temporary bar on the export of a gem fragment showing the bust of Octavian as the god Mercury. The brown agate intaglio is believed to have been engraved between 35-25 BC, and is attributed to the ancient Roman gem cutter, Solon. This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the gem in the United Kingdom.
Alan Howarth's ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art that the export decision be deferred. The decision reflects the gem's long association with private collections in the United Kingdom, its exceptional quality and workmanship, and its importance for the study of the development of Roman portraiture and gem- cutting.
The deferral will enable purchase offers to be made, at or above the following recommended price:
- A brown agate plaque fragment, engraved with the bust of Octavian as Mercury and attributed to Solon, deferred until after 20 March 2001 at the recommended price of #240,914.09 (plus VAT where applicable). If, by the end of that period, there is a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase, the deferral period could be extended until after 20 July 2001.
Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the intaglio should contact the owner's agent through:
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
2-4 Cockspur Street
London SW1Y 5DH
Notes to Editors
An agate intaglio fragment engraved with the bust of Octavian as Mercury
The intaglio is of brown agate and measures 4.5 cms wide by 2.9 cms preserved height (original height about 6 cms). It was made around 35-25BC.
The quality of this piece is extraordinary and the rendering of the powerful head and delicate locks of hair in such a thin plaque of agate is remarkable. The gem has been convincingly attributed by Marie-Louise Vollenweider to the gem-cutter Solon, who left a number of signed works. Solon was one of the Greek gem-cutters who was employed by Octavian from the 40s BC onwards and who perhaps best reflects the transition from Greek Hellenistic to Roman Imperial art.
The gem is said to have belonged to the great German art historian Winkelmann and was purchased by the fourth Duke of Marlborough in about 1781 from the artist, engraver and dealer, Nathaniel Marchant, who lived in Rome. The Marlborough collection was the finest private collection of ancient gems ever formed in Britain. The gem later passed into the collection of the Ionides family, who were benefactors of the arts in London, including a very important bequest to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The gem is of particular importance to this country's national collection because it has a mate in style, scale, finish and material, showing Livia (Octavian's wife) as Diana, which is in the British Museum and which was also in the Marlborough collection. Before this, the Livia gem had probably formed part of the collection of Daniel Nys, a Flemish merchant resident in Venice, later entering the collection of the second Earl of Arundel (1586- 1646), one of the very first British collectors of ancient gems. Since the two pieces were clearly cut as a pair and were surely set into some precious object such as a casket or altar, facing each other, it would seem most reasonable to assume that they were found together and went back to a common early 17th-century source, either in Rome or Venice.
The pair of oval agate plaques must have been a special commission and their iconography, combined with their quality, make them unique in the field of gem-cutting. It is likely that they were made as part of a gift to a member of Octavian's immediate entourage, either shortly before the battle of Actium (31 BC) or soon after. A series of silver denarii minted in Rome at this time juxtapose Octavian and a number of deities as his supporters: they include Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercurius (Diana appears on a contemporary aureus). Such coins were intended for public consumption, whereas the more overt representation of Octavian actually as Mercury belongs in the private world of the rich and highly influential.
The long history of the gem in this country means that it stands at the heart of early British connoisseurship in this field. It is a work of exceptional quality and workmanship and is highly important, both to the understanding of the development of portraiture in the Roman world (and of Octavian's image from the time he took power), and to the further study of Roman gem-cutting.