Soviet-American Cooperation Regarding Hitler’s Führer Museum Documentation, 1945-1946

Today’s post is by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

Adolf Hitler desired to create a museum in Linz, Austria, to house art objects he had acquired before and during World War II. The German art authorities created a large quantity of documentation relating to the acquisition of those objects. Much of this documentation, as well as the art works, were captured by U.S. Army forces in Bavaria and Alt Aussee, Austria, during April and May of 1945. It was anticipated that this captured documentation would be used to facilitate the restitution of art works and as evidence in war crimes trials. During the summer of 1945, the American forces learned that some of the relevant documentation was in the Soviet Zone of Occupation. Because this documentation was essential to assisting the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) personnel in carrying out their restitution activities, an effort needed to be made to secure Soviet cooperation in providing access to the documentation.

Map of Austria divided into zones.
NAID 159082277, Local ID 11085-2, Record Group 263 (Austria, 1950).

1st Lt. Walter Horn[1], formerly Chief, Intelligence Unit, MFA&A Branch, United States Forces European Theater (USFET), then with the MFA&A Branch, United States Group Control Council (USGCC), wrote branch chief Lt. Col. Mason Hammond[2], on August 19, 1945, requesting permission, through Russian Liaison (Berlin), the removal from Schloss Weesenstein, near Heidenau, 12 miles southeast from Dresden, in the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany, forty folders containing correspondence and documents pertaining to the purchase of works of art for the planned museum in Linz and card index of works of art purchased for the museum. He noted that all works of art produced for the museum, being dispersed within the U.S. Zone, the documents would be of no intelligence value or interest to the Russians and that the documents were desired for the investigation of War Crimes (looting of Art works) then being carried on by the Judge Advocate, Third Army, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Special Interrogation Center near Alt Aussee, Austria, and also for the Munich Central Collecting Point (housing looted works of art), where the main bulk of the material was reassembled.[3]

The next day, Hammond wrote the Director, Reparations, Deliveries, and Restitution (RD&R) Division referencing the return of the Russian archives to Kiev and Latvia, and suggested that requests for restitution should not be made direct to lower echelons by representatives of claimant government, but should either be from their element in the Control Council, if they have one, or through the U.S. Representative in their country pending the establishment of missions from them to the Control Council. Such requests should be considered by USGCC and agreement reached at Berlin on the transfer. Details then could be arranged locally by direct liaison. With respect to the USSR, he pointed out that there were materials lying in their Zone of which he needed, notably, for MFA&A Intelligence and for War Crimes Investigation. He desired to secure the card index of works of art purchased for the Führer Museum at Linz and forty folders containing material relative thereto. These, he noted, were stored at Schloss Weesenstein. He wrote that he would like to send an officer to secure these and that “they are of no value to the Russians.” He also noted that there were certain archival holdings in the Soviet Zone that were desired to complete files at the Ministerial Collecting Center, that housed captured German ministry records. He concluded his memorandum by stating:

“It is likely that other needs exist in other fields, and that in view of the nature of negotiations with the Russians, any trading point should be played to its full advantage.

In view of the desire of Hq 3 US Army to get rid of the archives in question [Russian material in the U.S. Zone], it is recommended that permission be given for their return but that this fact be notified to the USSR representatives on the Control Council with the request that facilities be given to US representatives to secure the Linz materials and such other materials as may be desired in the near future.”[4]

Horn wrote Hammond again on September 1, informing him that an Art Document Center in which all documents, files and records pertaining to art works would be united, had been established at the Munich Central Collecting Point and would be administered under the joint auspices of the collecting point and USFET MFA&A Intelligence Unit. He recommended that interested agencies be informed of the existence of such Art Document Center, which was expected to be open for study and research by October 1. He also asked for information as to the progress of arrangements with Russian Liaison concerning permission to remove from Schloss Weesenstein, for evacuated to the Art Document Center, the correspondence and records of Linz Museum.[5] A request relative to these records was submitted to the Soviet Authorities on October 1, through Col. DuBose of the Visitors Section, Allied Control Authority. By early January 1946 no Soviet response had been received.[6]

With no response forthcoming from the Russians, in late December 1945 a letter was drafted for Lt. Gen. Lucius D. Clay, Deputy Military Governor, to send General Vasily Danilovich Sokolovsky, Deputy Commander, Soviet Occupational Forces, Berlin, regarding the Linz documentation. The letter, which was sent in January 1946, indicated that the MFA&A personnel of Office of Military Government for Germany (US) (OMGUS) were attempting to identify and restitute cultural objects which Germany collected from the Führer Museum, Linz. This project, Clay noted, came under the policy outlined in CORC/P(45)185[7] as amended by CORC/M(45)26. It was reported, Clay added, that there were at Schloss Weesenstain, some 40 folders of correspondence of the Führer Museum concerning the acquisition of these works of art. As these folders would provide the MFA&A personnel with clear records of the various items and of the country from which each item was brought, Clay indicated it would be a great help if these records could be made available to the Americans. He mentioned the October 1 communication to the Soviets which no response had been received and requested permission to microfilm the records either at their present site or to remove them temporarily to Berlin for reproduction.[8] 

On April 22, the Deputy Chief, Reparations, Deliveries and Restitution Division, Soviet Military Administration (SMA) in Germany wrote the Americans regarding the files of correspondence concerning the proposed Linz Museum. He indicated that the records would soon be made available to the Americans to assist them in their restitution efforts. He suggested that the further questions regarding the matter should be directed toward Lt. Col. Gulaev. Colonel Allen responded a week later thanking Col. Tsvetkov for his letter and expressing his satisfaction that the Americans would soon be able to use the records.[9] A week later Allen reported that permission had been granted by Col. Tsvetkov to allow MFA&A representatives to examine and photograph certain number of files of correspondence regarding the proposed Linz Museum. He indicated that the material, which had been stored in the castle Weesenstein in the Russian zone, was in the process of being brought to Berlin by the Russians for investigations and assistance in making restitution of works of art.[10]

Finally, in August, 64 heavy volumes of documents and correspondence forming the complete administrative files relating to the projected Führer Museum, were loaned to MFA&A by the SMA for study and microfilming. The files, which were to be microfilmed in their entirety, it was believed would help in identifying paintings of the Linz Collection held at the various collecting points and would also shed light on many shady acquisitions made by Hitler’s agents spread all over Europe, which heretofore had baffled art intelligence officers working on these cases.[11] In October, the Americans returned the documents to the Soviets and General Clay wrote the Commander in Chief, Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany to thank him for the loan which he had facilitated and to express his greatest personal appreciation for his courtesy in the matter. Clay wrote that the microfilm, it was anticipated, would prove of the greatest value in uncovering to the fullest extent the art-looting activities of those involved in the Linz Museum project.[12]


[1] See “A Monuments Man Investigator: Walter Horn,” at https://text-message.blogs.archives.gov/2014/01/30/a-monuments-man-investigator-walter-horn/

[2] See “Mason Hammond: The Early Activities of the First American Monuments Man in the Field,” at https://text-message.blogs.archives.gov/2013/12/26/mason-hammond-the-early-activities-of-the-first-american-monuments-man-in-the-field/

[3] Memorandum, 1st Lt. Walter W. Horn, MFA&A Branch, RD&R Division, HQ USGCC to Lt. Col. Hammond, August 19, 1945, File: 3 [Miscellaneous MFA&A Reports], 1945, General Records, 1938-1948, Records of OMGUS Headquarters Relating to Central Collecting Points, Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection,” Property Division, Office of Military Government for Germany (US) [OMGUS], Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260 (Roll 9 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941).

[4] Memorandum, Lt. Col. Mason Hammond, Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Branch, Reparation Deliveries and Restitution Division, USGCC to Director, RD&R Division, Subject: Restitution of Russian and Latvian Archives, August 20, 1945, File: 3 [Miscellaneous MFA&A Reports], 1945, General Records, 1938-1948, Records of OMGUS Headquarters Relating to Central Collecting Points, Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection,” Property Division, Office of Military Government for Germany (US) [OMGUS], Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260 (Roll 9 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941).

[5] Memorandum, 1st Lt. Walter W. Horn, Intelligence Unit, MFA&A Subsection, USFET to Lt. Col. Masson Hammond, Chief, MFA&A Branch, RD&R Division, USGCC, Subject (2): Art Document Center at the CCP Munich, September 1, 1945, File: 1 US Group CC, General Records, 1938-1948, Records of OMGUS Headquarters Relating to Central Collecting Points, Box 9, Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection,” Property Division, Office of Military Government for Germany (US) [OMGUS], Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260 (Roll 8 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941).

[6] Copy, Letter, Lt. Gen. Lucius D. Clay, Deputy Military Governor, OMGUS to General of the Army Vassily D. Sokolovsky, Deputy Commander, Soviet Occupational Forces, Berlin Germany, January 11, 1946 [signed and dispatched January 15], 1946, File: 007 – 1 Fine Arts and Cultural Objects Folder #1, Jan 1946-April 1946, General Correspondence (Central Files), 1944-1949, Records of the Economic Division, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260.

[7] See Memorandum for the Coordinating Committee, Allied Control Authority, CORC/P (45)185 and (DRDR/P (45)14 Revise), Interim Restitution Deliveries (Cultural Objects), [Berlin,] 6 December, 1945, at https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1945v02/d349

[8] Letter, Lt. Gen. Lucius D. Clay, Deputy Military Governor to General of the Army Vassily D. Sokolovsky, Deputy Commander, Soviet Occupational Forces, Berlin, December 23, 1945, [noted on document, not dispatched, corrected, dated January 7, 1946, letter revised January 9, 1946] File: 1 [Miscellaneous Reports] 1945, 1938-1948, Records of OMGUS Headquarters Relating to Central Collecting Points, Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection,” Property Division, Office of Military Government for Germany (US) [OMGUS], Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260 (Roll 8 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941); Copy, Letter, Lt. Gen. Lucius D. Clay, Deputy Military Governor, OMGUS to General of the Army Vassily D. Sokolovsky, Deputy Commander, Soviet Occupational Forces, Berlin Germany, January 11, 1946 [signed and dispatched January 15], 1946, File: 007 – 1 Fine Arts and Cultural Objects Folder #1, Jan 1946-April 1946, General Correspondence (Central Files), 1944-1949, Records of the Economic Division, ibid.

[9] Letter, Col. John H. Allen, Chief, Restitution Branch, Economics Division, OMGUS to Col. G. Tsvetkov, Deputy Chief, Reparations, Deliveries and Restitution Division, Soviet Military Administration in Germany, April 30, 1946, File: 007 – 2 Fine Arts and Cultural Objects Folder #2,1 Apr-30 June 46, General Correspondence (Central Files), 1944-1949, Records of the Economic Division, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260.

[10] Memorandum, Col. John H. Allen, Chief, Restitution Branch, Economics Division, OMGUS to Reports and Statistics Branch, Economics Division,, OMGUS, Subject: Weekly Progress Report, May 7, 1946, File: 319.1 P-2 Progress Reports Folder #2 Apr 1946-Oct 1946, General Correspondence (Central Files), 1944-1949, Records of the Economic Division, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260.

[11] Memorandum, Col. John H. Allen, Chief, Restitution Branch, Economics Division, OMGUS to Reports and Statistics Branch, Economics Division,, OMGUS, Subject: Weekly Progress Report, August 13, 1946, File: 319.1 P-2 Progress Reports Folder #2 Apr 1946-Oct 1946, General Correspondence (Central Files), 1944-1949, Records of the Economic Division, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260.

[12] Copy, Letter, Lt. Gen. Lucius D. Clay, Deputy Military Governor, OMGUS to Marshal of USSR Vassily Sokolovsky, Commander in Chief, Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany, October 14, 1946, File: 007 – 4 Fine Arts and Cultural Objects Folder #4, 20 May 1946-31 Dec. 46, General Correspondence (Central Files), 1944-1949, Records of the Economic Division, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260.

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