by Marc Masurovsky
[updated on November 1, 2017]
The MA-B section of the ERR database consists of 1403 datasets (as of November 1, 2017) describing paintings and works on paper stolen by the staff of the ERR from Jewish families during the so-called Mobel-Aktion that raged throughout German-occupied France, Belgium, and Holland from mid-1942 to the spring and summer of 1944.
Tens of thousands of apartments and residences were forced open, their contents ransacked, taken to triage centers, before being crated and shipped to the Reich.
When it came time to sort the works of art, the M-Aktion teams (personnel assigned to Mobel-Aktion) functioned as relays between the ERR and the local art market. Hence, if any object seized during M-Aktion and taken to the Jeu de Paume for processing did not ‘make the cut,’ it was relegated to M-Aktion. In other words, it could be made available to art dealers and collectors far and wide as long as they were willing to come to Paris and ‘do business.’
My concern today was to enter descriptions of items that had been omitted during the initial round of data entry. The reason for this is simple enough to me but not very obvious to anyone else, most probably. The ERR staff produced close to 20,000 cards for all sorts of cultural items that they had confiscated and prepared for shipment to the Reich. A large number of items were not carded. Hence, when the ERR database was being produced, its contents were derived exclusively from these cards which were part of a microfilm collection designated as M1943 at the National Archives in College Park, MD. Information on the missing MA-B items (the B stands for Bilder or pictures) could only be found on inventories that the ERR staff had drawn up month by month as their internal audit to document the inflow and outflow of confiscated objects. These inventories contained a more complete listing of objects falling, in this instance, under the MA-B category.
Therefore, I had to go through all of the inventories for MA-B objects and identify those that had not been carded, and, therefore, were not in the database. The most glaring gaps for objects included between MA-B 600 and 1000.
New photographs have also been added to MA-B datasets, some of which are wonderful representations of the artists’ work, especially Marc Chagall, Louis Cabie, Jules Pascin, and many others.
Feel free to consult the database at www.errproject.org/jeudepaume.