by Marc Masurovsky
[Continuation of “The Destruction of works of art in wartime Paris-Part One”]
Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) staff members at the Jeu de Paume/Louvre complex inventoried from July 1942 to March 1943 625 paintings, 48 works on paper, 2 sculptures and one object of unknown media which they deemed objectionable, in that they did not comply with the new standards of Nazi cultural policy, esthetically and thematically, defined by the unholy ideological trinity of the Third Reich—Adolf Hitler, Alfred Rosenberg and Joseph Goebbels.
Two ERR staff members were in charge of this reclassification process: Ms. Helga Eggemann and Dr. Tomforde. It is not clear whether they also were charged with attributing the “vernichtet” [to be destroyed] label to these works or if that decision was made at a higher echelon of the ERR administration. Still, the two never saw eye to eye and were bitter rivals. The former was closely aligned with Bruno Lohse, deputy commander of the ERR at the Jeu de Paume/Louvre complex, while Dr. Tomforde had thrown her lot with her married lover, Dr. von Ingram, chief of operations at the Jeu de Paume who eventually left his first wife to marry Ms. Tomforde, which earned him a quick transfer to the Bavarian ERR depot of Füssen.
As a general reminder, 21 (8.17%) out of 257 Jewish collections officially “processed” by the ERR at the Jeu de Paume/Louvre complex contained one or more objects deemed objectionable by ERR staff. Those collections most severely affected by Nazi cultural prohibitions were those of four Jewish artists:
This particular phase of execution of Nazi cultural standards at the Jeu de Paume/Louvre complex affected as a whole the works of 74 artists distributed among four distinct groups (Gruppe(n)). Since there are no policy documents produced by the ERR staff to explain this desire to reclassify the works of “objectionable” artists, I will do my best to present it to you.
Gruppe II was sub-divided into four sub-groups: IIa, IIb, IIc, IId.
470 objects were classified as “Gruppe IIa”. 20 were condemned which came out of the following collections: ESM [Esmond], MA-B, KAP (Kapferer), Loewell (Pierre Loewell), KA (Alphonse Kann), Unb (Unbekannt-Unknown owners) Ros Bern (Rosenberg-Bernstein-Bordeaux), R (Rothschild family). Artists in Gruppe IIa whose works were condemned included: R Dufy, De la Fresnaye, Foujita, Laprade, Larimov/Larionov, Marie Laurencin, Pablo Picasso, Suzanne Valadon, van Dongen.
510 objects were classified as “Gruppe IIb.” 306 (60%) were condemned which came out of the following collections: MGM (Michel Georges-Michel), PE (Hugo Perls), Reichenbach (Bernard and François Reichenbach), ESM (Esmond), Rosenberg Paris (Paul Rosenberg-Paris), Loewell (Pierre Loewell), Spiro (Eugen Spiro), DW (David David-Weill). Artists in Gruppe IIb whose works were condemned included: Charbonnier, Sandi da Salo, Michel Georges-Michel, Girieud, Hummel, Levy, Loewell, Jacqueline Marval, Massis?, HM [maybe Henri Matisse], Mizerour/Mzerow, Hélène Perdriat, Francis Picabia, Retat.
70 objects were classified as “Gruppe IIc.” Three were condemned which came out of the following collections: MA-B, Watson (Peter Watson), KAP (Kapferer). Artists in Gruppe IIc whose works were condemned included: André Masson, Philippe Pereire, Pablo Picasso.
70 objects were classified as “Gruppe IId.” 48 were condemned which came out of the following collections: KA (Alphonse Kann), Rosenberg Paris (Paul Rosenberg-Paris), R (Rothschild family), HS (Hugo Simon), Unb (Unbekannt-Unknown owners), Watson (Peter Watson). Artists in Gruppe IId was heavily slanted towards abstractionists and surrealists; it included: Hans Arp, Beaudin, Borès, Charlot, Dali, Derain, Emil?, Max Ernst, Brion Gysin, Paul Klee, Fernand Léger, André Masson, Juan Miro, Papazov, Pablo Picasso, E. Ronny, Yves Tanguy.
36 objects were classified as “Gruppe III.” 18 were condemned which came out of the following collections: KA (Alphonse Kann), MA-B, HS (Hugo Simon), R (Rothschild family), Watson (Peter Watson). Artists in Gruppe III whose works were condemned belonged almost exclusively to a German expressionist club and included: Ernst Barlach, Willy Jaeckel, Erich Heckel, Paul Klee, Larimov/Larionov, Ludwig Meidner, Max Pechstein, Oscar Peters, Christian Rohlfs
29 objects were classified as “Gruppe IV.” All 29 were condemned which came out of the following collections: Loewell (Pierre Loewell), Lowenstein (Fedor Lowenstein), KA (Alphonse Kann), R (Rothschild family), Unb (Unbekannt-Unknown owners). Artists in Gruppe IV whose works were condemned consisted of Surrealists, Cubists, Symbolists and Jewish artists: Salvador Dali, J.M.Fenier, Gassier, Lehmann, Loewell, Fedor Lowenstein, Pruna, Prunière, Odilon Redon, Sem.
Several artists like Salvador Dali, André Masson, Pablo Picasso and others ended up in several groups, which might indicate that the ERR staff responsible for this classification system relied more on the content and esthetic mechanics of the works themselves than on the identity and label of the artist whose works were impugned. Put another way, Jewish identity was not enough to have your work “condemned.” Other factors were considered when deciding what to “destroy” and what to spare.
In Part three, I will address specific collections and try to grasp the logic behind the “purge.”
Sources: Bundesarchiv, B323 series at Koblenz; ERR Jeu de Paume database