ARAR (Azienda Rilievo Alienazione Residuati , company for the acquisition of residual war materials)
On 29 October 1945 by Decree No. 683 the Italian Ministry for Reconstruction established ARAR (Azienda Rilievo Alienazione Residuati , company for the Acquisition of Residual War Materials), to administer the sale of property which had been left behind by the Allies or abandoned by the German occupiers in Italy or acquired in other ways.
Property in the ARAR warehouses (which included cultural property) had been consigned to ARAR by the Allies, who had stored it in their repositories of Captured Enemy Material (CEM) which were now being closed down.
The Italian government's plan was to sell this property and to replenish the depleted Italian Treasury with the proceeds of the sale.
In March 1946 ARAR received their first consignment from CEM, a large quantity of silver including religious objects from Italian Jewish communities.
A British inventory of the consignment listed some 1,369 kilos of silver under the heading: "Silver stored in the Infantry Barracks"(Argenteria immagazzinata presso la Caserma di Fanteria ). A further 763 kilos of silver were transported to Milan from a CEM depot by Ing. Casciati. Ing. De Benedetti, a counsellor of ARAR, was in charge of the shipment of silver and carpets to a CEM depot run by a Colonel Campbell. Following the loss of some items in transit between the CEM depot and the ARAR depot, Campbell was suspected of embezzlement.
On 15 April 1946 ARAR authorised the sale of goods stored in its warehouses. It then proceeded to sell at auction 730 kilos of the silver at auction, despite the fact that it had received detailed inventories from Jewish private citizens, Italian Jewish communities, and had been approached by the Italian Restitution agency, Ufficio Recupero Opere d'Arte e beni bibliografici , run by Rodolfo Siviero whose aim was to achieve restitution of looted property to its rightful owners.
The silver was sold in Milan by auction in the offices of ARAR at Via Dogana 1. Altogether five auctions were held between December 1947 and February 1948. Art objects were also sold in Milan by auction in an art gallery the identity of which is unknown. The auction sales of over 700 kilos of silver organised by ARAR produced, in postwar monetary value, some 8 million liras.
In May 1946 Renzo Levi, vice president of the Union of Italian Jewish communities (Unione delle comunità israelitiche ), found out that the head office of ARAR in Rome had moved silver, carpets and Judaica from the Merano depot to the Cassa di risparmio bank of Milan.
In a letter of 18 June 1946, the President of the Union of Italian Jewish communities, Signor Mayer, writes of having witnessed the opening of eight crates containing Judaica belonging to families and synagogues. Mayer viewed the German loot in the central ARAR repository.
The letter included an inventory list which is in the archives of the Italian Jewish Communities (in a file named ARAR).
The Union of Jewish Communities was very concerned about the ARAR sales of property belonging to the communities and individuals. It officially requested restitution of Jewish cultural property from the ARAR and CEM repositories in the Merano and Bolzano areas when the auction sales began.
Walter Götz, an official of the Jewish community of Bolzano and Trento, visited the Merano ARAR repository. He found two crates of Judaica containing silver and religious texts, two further cases of objects (which he believed belonged to Jewish families) and a large quantitiy of other property which had been set aside for the Red Cross, which property, he suspected, was also loot from confiscations in Jewish homes.
Despite protests from Götz to Mr. White of the American Joint Distribution Committee that the ARAR repositories contained Jewish property, the man in charge of the Bolzano ARAR depot, Ing. Gabella, told Götz that he could not guarantee that the property would not be sold off.
In January 1947 the Executive Committee of ARAR admitted that 220 kilos of Judaica, mainly silver objects, had been recovered and stored by ARAR, but claimed that the assets could not be restituted to the relevant Jewish community without the mediation of a bank and payment of a sum of money. Later that month, on 22 January, the Union of Jewish Communities sent Rodolfo Siviero, Head of the Italian Restitution agency, an inventory of the looted property now held in storage on the premises of the Cassa di Risparmio of Milan and of the Milan Tribunal.
In February 1947 the works of art and valuable books in the ARAR repositories of Merano and Bolzano were sequestered by Siviero's agency in order to secure restitution to their rightful owners.
In June 1947 a change of policy was forced on ARAR when a Commission composed of officials from the Restitution agency, from ARAR and from the Jewish Union of Communities (the latter represented by Prof. Dante Lattes) was set up. Having been challenged by the Jewish Union of Communities and Siviero, ARAR were no longer in a position to sell off or retain the looted cultural property they held in storage.
ARAR continued, however, to sell off silver which was not immediately identifiable as Judaica. The sales were announced in ARAR Bulletins ( Bollettini ARAR) and the sales continued until 10 February 1948. The Alessandro Basevi Collection was sold off in this way. Ing. Basevi, however, was able to repurchase some of his silver collection from the shipping firm Pietro Accorsi of Turin which had acquired some of his collection, and from Bacchi, an antiques dealer of Milan. (During the war Accorsi had both transported and sold works of art to Hitler's Linz Collection). Subsequently Basevi was "allowed to purchase" from ARAR the remaining third of his collection which had not yet been sold at auction.
The synagogue of Merano requested the return of a looted Sefer Thorah, but the ARAR Bolzano office demanded payment of 50,000 liras. The Sefer Thorah was eventually restituted and the demand for payment waived. On 17 August 1948 six crates of books and cultural and artistic property were restituted to the Merano Community by the ARAR office of Merano.
Earlier in April 1948 the Bolzano office of ARAR sent the former confiscation agency EGELI (Ente Gestione e Liquidazione Immobiliare ), an inventory of stocks and shares it had found among abandoned military hardware, asets it believed had been looted from Jewish homes in Italy and which it had stored for over two years. (Some of these were later withheld by EGELI, despite the fact that the identities of the rightful owners were known to the agency.)
While ARAR created major obstacles to the restitution of the cultural property looted from Italian Jewish communities, the Siviero organisation (Ufficio Recupero Opere d'Arte e beni bibliografici ) acted decisively to secure restitution by sequestering objects from ARAR and returning them to the communities.
Among Siviero's successes were the recovery of art objects and precious books which he persuaded CEM to send to his Bolzano office, rather than to ARAR. 144 works of art and other cultural objects, which had also been recovered through the efforts of Siviero's Ufficio Recuperi, were never claimed by the legitimate owners or their heirs. These works were exhibited in 1984 at Palazzo Vecchio in Florence and stored there when the exhibition closed. With a view to absorbing these unclaimed works into the national collections, the Italian government established a Commission to decide their fate, through a Decree of 1 August 1988. The Jewish Community of Milan opposed the Decree in respect of four silver Judaica objects which were destined for the Fine Arts administration of Milan (Sopraintendenza Beni Artistici e Storici) and eventually obtained their restitution in 1991, after the case was adjudicated in court. The report states that the remaining works were to be included in the national art collections of Florence, Rome, Venice, Milan, and Naples.
The archives of ARAR (internal memos, correspondence, shipment inventories etc.) have been lost. However, documents relating to ARAR activities are now held in the Italian State Archives in Rome (ACS) in the archives of the Anselmi Commission ( Archivio Storico della Commissione internazionale per il recupero delle opere d'arte ). This new fond was deposited in the State Archives by the Anselmi Commission [The full report of the Anselmi Commission at the conclusion of its research in April 2001.
The new fond includes a record group of files from the Archivio Siviero : ASCIR, 3/4-2 among which are documents concerning the relations between Siviero's Ufficio Recuperi and ARAR); Rome, Biblioteca Alessandrina; Biblioteca Nazionale; Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale; Milan, Archivio Comunità israelitica; Rome, Archivio dell'Unione delle comunità israelitiche italiane; Archivio Storico della Banca d'Italia; Genoa, Archivio Storico dell'Istituto della Resistenza; Milan, Genoa and Rome Archivi dei Tribunali (Archives of the Judiciary).
The documents include correspondence and minutes of ARAR meetings concerning the restitution of religious objects to the Italian Jewish community of Merano. Documentation (the ARAR Bulletins) is available in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence and the Biblioteca Alessandrina, Rome, regarding the silver objects sold by ARAR at auction.
Enrica Basevi, "Azienda Rilievo Alienazione Residuati", in Commissione per la ricostruzione delle vicende che hanno caraterizzato in Italia le attività di acquisizione dei beni dei cittadini ebrei da parte di organismi pubblici e privati, Rapporto generale , Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, Rome 2001, pp. 523-534.
The above report (of the Anselmi Commission) is also available online:
<http://www.cittadinolex.kataweb.it/Article/0,1519,12314|138,00.html>, accessed 18 June 2003.
See also: Le spoliazioni nella zona d'operazione Prealpi: Bolzano, Trento e Belluno, in Rapporto generale, pp. 182-183 (Spoliations in the Alpenvorland zone of operations: Bolzano, Trento e Belluno); and ibid., "L'abrogazione delle leggi razziali: l'Egeli e le restituzioni", pp. 277-282. (The annulment of racial laws: Egeli and restitutions).
(For further information on how ARAR dealt with property looted from Jewish families and communities in Italy see: Federico Steinhaus, Ebrei/juden. Gli ebrei dell'Alto Adige negli anni trenta e quaranta , Giuntina, Florence 1994.)