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Provenance in the World War II Era, 1933 - 1945
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What is World War II Cultural Property?

World War II or Nazi-Era cultural property refers to objects that may have been unlawfully appropriated by the Nazis or their collaborators during the period 1933-1945. In recent years, issues concerning the restitution of such property have drawn increasing attention. Museums in the U.S. and abroad have begun examining their collections to clarify the provenance of objects that were, or could have been, in Europe during this era.

Beginning in 1998, the American Association of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) issued guidelines for museums concerning objects that may have been unlawfully appropriated during the Nazi era. AAM and AAMD, in an agreement reached with the Presidential Commission for Holocaust Assets (PCHA) in October 2000, further recommended that museums make all currently available information about certain objects accessible to online research. Under these recommendations, museums should identify works in their collections that were created before 1946 and acquired after 1932, that underwent change of ownership during 1933-1945, and that were, or might reasonably be thought to have been, in continental Europe between those dates.

The Smithsonian Institution recognizes the importance of this issue and is committed to following the directives of the AAM and the AAMD. To this end, the Smithsonian museums are working to identify objects in their collections that fall under the scope of the AAM and AAMD guidelines. In accordance with the guidelines, priority in research has been given to European paintings and Judaica, with ancillary emphasis on sculpture produced before 1946.

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