Archival Records:

Direction des Archives et de la Documentation


Direction des Archives et de la Documentation

These archives concern the spoliation of cultural property belonging to French families, including 70,000 index cards. They comprise the archives of the Commission de Récupération artistique (Commission for the Return of Art) of the postwar Allied Collecting Points (CPs), repositories based in Austria and Germany where cultural property which had been looted during World War II by Germany was stored, the archives of the Baden-Baden Restitution Office (Direction économique, section Réparations et Restitutions du Commandement en chef français en Allemagne), and the archives of other unspecified institutions. The Direction des Français a l'Etranger succeeded the Office des Bien et Intérets privés which was responsible for pursuing the restitution of stolen property, in conjunction with the Commission de Récupération artistique.

The Direction des Archives et de la Documentation is reorganizing and evaluating the archives, comprising 700 boxes of documents, which became available only in the 1990s, mostly pertaining to the spoliation of individual families in France, and 70,000 index cards. The purpose of the evaluation is to identify the property which has not been returned, to process requests for information from spoliated families, and to conduct investigations on the families' behalf. These investigations take priority over the reclassification work.

The index cards are divided into two groups: the first relates to the owners of the spoliated cultural property, the second to the artworks. In cases in which restitution has already taken place, this information is recorded on the relevant card. There are overlaps in the information about the families in separate card index files.

Each electronic file version contains the box number, the index card number, name of owner, place where property was looted, name of artist, title of artwork and description, information concerning restitution if available, requests for information contained in the archives, previous page reference of the records.

The Direction des Archives et de la Documentation is also in communication with agencies in other countries where stolen cultural property has been found. It has shared information with the Netherlands, Italy, US and Slovenia.

The archives include the Rose Valland Archives, which comprise files from the Commission de Récupération artistique (Commission for the Return of Art) and of the Baden-Baden Restitution Office which were passed on to Rose Valland in 1954 to assist her investigations on cultural property looted from France during World War II. They were returned to the French Foreign Ministry in 1991 and 1992. These files form part of the archives relating to French looted cultural property administered by the Direction des Archives et de la Documentation, and are duplicates of the documents stored by the Office des Bien et Intérets privés.

With the exception of a small number of files which include Rose Valland's notes written in the Jeu de Paume during the German Occupation, the majority of the files are duplicates of documents of the Office des Bien et Intérets privés which were used by the Bureau central des restitutions (part of the Direction économique, section Réparations et Restitutions du Commandement en chef français en Allemagne, based in Baden-Baden). Some relate to individual claims, others to correspondence between authorities dealing with the claims, and others still are copies of captured German documents.

Documents mentioning individuals by name are, in compliance with the French law on archives (no. 79-18 of 3 January 1979), barred from public access for sixty years from the date of the file's creation. In addition, Ordinance no. 79-1038 of 3 September 1979 also bars from access for sixty years those files concerning damages caused by war; or to do with matters at issue between France and other countries of interest to state, legal entities, or persons; and files to do with private property or other information concerning the private affairs of individuals. Only claimants who provide proof of identity and right of succession are allowed access to the files (in accordance with Article 6b of Law 78-753 of 17 July 1978).

Marie Hamon, The Working Group on Cultural Property in Jost Hansen and Doris Lemmermeier, (eds.) Country Report for the Bremen Conference: Cultural Treasures Moved Because of the War: A Cultural Legacy of the Second World War Documentation and Research on Losses. Documentation of the International Meeting in Bremen 30 November-2 December 1994.
<>, accessed 2 January 2003.

The report online
<>, accessed 2 January 2003.

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