Discriminating Thieves: Nazi-looted Art and Restitution, A Summary - Graduate School

Discriminating Thieves: Nazi-looted Art and Restitution, A Summary


Masks by Emil Nolde, 1911, oil on canvas. Considered “degenerate” by the Nazis. You can see it at the Nelson- Atkins.


During the Nazi’s rise to power and World War II, Adolph Hitler’s minions stole tens of thousands of works of art from private families, churches, and museums. Artists they considered to be “degenerate” were persecuted and their works were destroyed. Wealthy Jewish families either had their collections stolen or were forced to sell their treasures for pennies on the dollar just to escape the tightening tentacles of the Nazi regime.

By the end of the War, art specialists in the Allied Forces – the Monuments Men – searched for, documented and recovered as much of the stolen art as possible so that it could be returned to its rightful owners. The looting was so extensive that even today, new cases come to light across Europe and in the United States.

Discriminating Thieves: Nazi-looted Art and Restitution (January 26, 2019 – January 26, 2020) at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City delves into the aftermath of Nazi looted art. When artworks were restored to the rightful owners, what happened?

Discriminating Thieves presents examples of stolen and so-called degenerate art that was legally sold by the families after the War. Selling the art must have been a difficult decision. The money won’t right all the wrongs suffered by the afflicted families, but it helped the survivors re-start their lives.