Abstract

As the war and Nazi occupation intensified, the registration of cultural losses became a considerable component of salvage efforts and laid the foundation for postwar restitution of Polish movable cultural property. Cultural losses registration was a coordinated effort by the Polish government-in-exile in London and the Polish underground government in Nazi-occupied Poland. It involved hundreds if not thousands of curators, art scholars, librarians, university professors and students, museum employees, and couriers. Nevertheless, one individual emerged as the leader of Poland’s efforts to publicize its cultural losses and lobby for the return of Polish cultural property looted by the Nazis. Passionate about Poland’s cultural assets, Karol Estreicher, an art historian and bibliographer from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, would not rest until Poland had recovered its most important treasures, including the Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz) altarpiece from St. Mary’s Church in Kraków. The article examines Polish cultural losses registration and plans for the restitution of cultural property and compensation for Poland’s cultural losses. Polish restitution efforts in the American occupation zone are discussed in the context of American cultural restitution and reparations policy as formulated by the Roberts Commission and the U.S. State Department. Finally, the question of using cultural assets as war reparations is examined with respect to Polish plans for reparation claims of German cultural property.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.