Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Third Reich's Pillage of European Art and Treasures

Göering's Collections

Hermann Goering
Hermann Göering
Göering was from a wealthy family and was well accustomed to the fine housing, clothes, food and entertainment. He especially had a love for art and began collecting during the 1920s. During the beginning of World War II, he had access to unlimited works produced by some of Europes greatest artists.

Interior of Goering's house
Interior of Göering's house

Many of the objects he acquired were confiscated from museums, art dealers and private collections in the German occupied regions. Those considered degenerate were exchanged for more acceptable pieces or sold for great profit. Göering was also known to buy a substantial number of works from dealers in Europe and abroad. Most of his collection was kept in the south of Berlin, Germany at his estate Carinhall, named after his wife who died in 1931.

According to Harclerode and Pittaway, Göerings collecting covered a wide field, from Roman artifacts to nineteenth-century German paintings, as well as jewelry, objects dart, carpets and tapestries. Female nude paintings were a particular favorite of his, which he collected in abundance. He was also known to favor Gothic art, something Hitler disliked intensely because he believed it was too decadent.

Nicholas claimed that Göerings art operations were very well organized and that he appointed various agents to scout for and purchase works throughout Europe. One of his principal agents was art dealer Walter Andreas Hofer, whom Göering personally selected as the director of his collection at Carinhall. Hofers primary responsibility was to safeguard, record and store objects, yet he spent a great deal of time traveling Europe and purchasing pieces for the collection. Hofer often used threats to force reluctant owners into selling their works. Even though his methods were unorthodox, he was able to attain a large number of pieces for significantly reduced prices.     

Another of Göerings prized agents was the notorious Dr. Kajetan Mühlmann, the former Austrian art commissioner who was appointed to the Special Commission for the Protection of Works of Art in occupied Europe. Many of the works, which were protected, were mostly confiscated pieces that he bought and sold for great profit. The money was used to buy countless objects that conformed to the Nazi ideal. Hitler was also one of his biggest clients.

Göering was also interested in dealing art. He would receive or buy confiscated works, which he would turn around and sell for inflated prices. The profits he made from the sales were deposited into a fund that amounted to a couple million Reichsmarks. Most of the money from the fund was used to buy more art. 

Lucas Cranach's Venus and Cupid
Lucas Cranach's Venus and Cupid
 

Between 1939 and 1945, Göering collected approximately 2,000 works of art. His collection included such pieces as Lucas Cranachs Venus and Cupid and Rembrandts Two Philosophers, as well as several Vermeers, which were later discovered to be fakes. It was Göerings exploitative art operations that prompted a boom in Europes art market that would last several years.

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