The Nazi war on European culture produced the greatest dislocation of art, archives, and libraries in the history of the world. In the ruins of the Reich, Allied occupiers found millions of paintings, books, manuscripts, and pieces of sculpture, from the mediocre to the priceless, hidden in thousands of secret hideaways. This 2006 book tells the story of how the American military government in Germany, spearheaded by a few dozen dedicated Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives officers and enlisted men, coped with restoring Europe's cultural heritage. Caught up in often bitter diplomatic wrangling during and after the war, the American restitution effort struggled to uncover what the Nazis had hidden and to equitably return all that was found. Based on the pioneering study of cultural restitution first published in 1985, America and the Return of Nazi Contraband presents insights into how the American government and Jewish organizations managed the painfully difficult problem of heirless Jewish cultural property.
Michael J. Kurtz currently serves as the Assistant Archivist for Records Services in Washington, DC, with responsibility for all records management, archival, and public outreach program functions performed by the National Archives and Records Administration in the nation's capital. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland's College of Information Studies, teaching a course on the management of cultural institutions. Dr Kurtz has published extensively in the areas of archival management and American history including: Managing Archival and Manuscript Repositories (2004) and Nazi Contraband: American Policy on the Return of European Cultural Treasures, 1945-1955 (1985). He served as chair of the Archives Management Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists, from 1987-2001.
Part I. Crisis and Response: 1. Looting and restitution; 2. Nazi looting: the war against European culture, 1933-45; 3. Preservers and restorers; 4. Wartime frustrations: great power diplomacy; Part II. First Efforts: 5. Restitution imbroglio: the American dilemma in the first six months of occupation; 6. The allies agree on restitution; Part III. America Leads: 7. Cultural restitution in the American zone, 1946-9; 8. A special concern: the Jewish inheritance; Part IV. Cold War and Beyond: 9. Conflict and cooperation: the politics of restitution in the Cold War; 10. Restitution at home: the American scene; 11. Renewed ferment: restitution in the post Cold War era; 12. Past, present, and future: an evaluation.