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Museum finds missing list of art Nazis called “degenerate″

March 27, 1997

LONDON (AP) _ A lost inventory that Nazis used to document 16,500 pieces of artwork they deemed ``degenerate″ has been discovered in a collection donated to a London museum.

Works by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, George Grosz and Oskar Kokoschka are among the pieces the Nazis listed as detrimental to German taste and morals in the inventory, which was given to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The museum said Thursday that the two-volume set, donated by the widow of a London art dealer, details the works of art that the Nazis destroyed or sold.

Three copies of the 232-page first volume exist, but the second volume, which runs 248 pages, had been missing.

``This gives a much better picture of what was degenerate and what was confiscated,″ Andreas Huneke, a German art detective who authenticated the books, was quoted as saying Thursday in The Times of London. ``The whole view of the period will be much clearer with this.″

In the 1930s, Adolf Hitler sequestered artwork, including paintings, sculptures, graphics and watercolors, from museums and public collections. The Ministry of Propaganda exhibited some of the ``degenerate″ artwork in 1937, but the show closed early because it was too popular.

``The importance of this list is it says who actually purchased the degenerate paintings, and this leads us on to tracking where they were sold,″ said Philip Saunders of Trace, a magazine about stolen art, who is writing a book on missing Nazi art.

``This proves that the work that went missing in Germany before and after the war is only the tip of the iceberg,″ he said. ``We are only finding out now how many went astray. This is the importance of the lists.″

The two-volume inventory lists German museums alphabetically. Under each museum entry, the names of artists appear in alphabetical order followed by titles and descriptions of indivdual works. An ``X″ next to a work means the Nazis destroyed it.

``Probably about half of them were marked as to be destroyed,″ Saunders said, ``but some of the people tasked with destroying them could easily have kept and sold them. We know of cases where this has happened.″

The inventory reveals that many pieces were sold to Swiss art dealers.

Some were sold to Hitler’s lieutenant and head of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Goering. According to the list, Goering bought three Van Gogh paintings including ``Dr. Gachet,″ one in a series by the artist with the same title.

Other paintings such as Lovis Corinth’s ``Still Life with Flowers,″ Edvard Munch’s ``Bergierde″ and Grosz’s ``Kurfurstendamm″ were listed as sold. But, several pictures by Man Ray, a 20th-century photographer, were documented as being destroyed.

The inventory is part of a collection of 69 books and journals left to the museum’s Art Library by the widow of Harry Fischer, an Austrian-born London art dealer who died in 1996.

The volumes will be put on microfilm and made accessible to scholars.

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