These brown leather bound photograph albums, created by the staff of a special Nazi task force, the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, or ERR, document the unprecedented and systematic looting of Europe by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. The ERR was the main Nazi agency engaged in the theft of cultural treasures in Nazi-occupied countries. As the ERR staff looted, photographed and catalogued the French collections, they created leather bound albums. Each page of the album contained a photograph of one stolen item.
In May 1945, 39 original ERR albums were discovered at the Castle of Neuschwanstein by the Monuments Men. They had been stored there by the Germans along with records that documented their confiscations and thousands of looted items. These albums were subsequently taken to the Munich Central Collecting Point where they were used by the Monuments Men to assist in the restitution process. In late 1945 these albums were used as evidence at the Nuremberg trials to document the massive Nazi art looting operations.
Until recently it was believed that the remaining ERR albums had been destroyed during the latter days of World War II. Since 2007, The Monuments Men Foundation has recovered four more: ERR Albums 6, 7, 8 and 15. These were taken as souvenirs from the Berghof at Berchtesgaden by members of the 501st Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division and the 989th Field Artillery Battalion. Today, all 43 ERR photo albums are property of the United States National Archives.
2012 - ERR Albums 7 & 15
Cpl. Albert Lorenzetti and Private First Class Yerke Zane Larson each took one leather bound album from Adolf Hitler’s home in the Bavarian Alps. Yerke Zane Larson, who picked up Album 15, served in the 501st Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division, “the Screaming Eagles.” Cpl. Albert Lorenzetti, who served in the 989th Field Artillery Battalion, removed Album 7 from the Berghof the same week as Larson as proof he’d been in Hitler’s home.
Album 7 includes images of sixty-nine paintings which represented very early thefts, some as early as 1940 and early inventory numbers such as EW4 (the fourth item stolen from Elizabeth Wildenstein). Images of two important paintings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard are featured in Album 7. Girl with Two Doves, or Mädchen mit zwei Tauben (inventory code: R38) sold at auction in 2000 for over $5 million after having been properly repatriated by the Monuments Men in 1946. Album 7 also includes The Dance Outdoors, or Tanz im Freien, (inventory code: R67) attributed to the painter Jean-Antoine Watteau, which was intended for Hitler’s Führermuseum. Although the majority of the paintings featured in Album 7 appear to have been properly restituted after the war, four paintings are listed on the ERR Database as not having been restituted.
Album 15 contains photos of forty-one pieces of furniture, primarily from the Rothschild family. Three of those pieces, inventory codes R917, R943, and R944, were prominently featured in one of the exhibits staged at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris for Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring to select items for his own collection.