Glossary  

This glossary offers definitions of technical terms commonly used in the field of art provenance and restitution. It is also available as a PDF file at this link.

AMG

Allied Military Government, the governing body put in place to ensure public order and safety during the Allied occupation of Germany.

Allied Nations

A coalition led by the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union formed in opposition to the Axis Powers.

Altarpiece

A painting or relief representing a religious subject and suspended in a frame behind the altar of a church.

Altaussee

A small alpine Austrian village known at the end of World War II for the salt mines where large repositories of Nazi safeguarded and looted art were discovered by Allied forces and the Monuments Men.

American Defense, Harvard Group

American Defense, Harvard Group was organized by a small group of Harvard faculty members to alert Americans to the dangers posed by the Axis powers after the fall of France in June, 1940, and to marshal aid to American allies in Europe and Asia. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Group helped mobilize support for America's war effort.

Anschluss

The 1938 annexation of Austria into Germany by the Nazi regime.

Anti-Semitism

The prejudice or hostility toward Jews as a group.

Arbitration

The use of an arbitrator (an independent person or body) to settle a dispute. A form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a legal technique for the resolution of disputes outside the courts, wherein the parties to a dispute refer it to one or more persons (the "arbitrators", "arbiters" or “arbitral tribunal”), by whose decision they agree to be bound. A number of Nazi-Era restitution claims have chosen Arbitration in order to determine the ownership of contested artwork.

Aryan

An English word derived from the Sanskrit “Arya” meaning “noble” or “honorable.” In Europe, the concept of the Aryan race became influential in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and racial theorists believed in biologically distinct races. The term was taken up by the Nazis who classified the Aryan-Nordic race as the master race, versus the “Jewish-Semitic” race, which was seen as a threat to Germany’s Aryan civilization.

Aryanization

Literally, means to make “Aryan.” During the Third Reich, Jewish owned property was “aryanized”, thus it was handed over to German ownership.

Auction

A process of buying and selling goods by offering them up for bid, taking bids, and then selling the item to the highest bidder.

Auschwitz-Birkenau

The largest Nazi concentration camp located in Poland, about 31 miles from Krakow. Auschwitz I was the original concentration camp which served as the administrative center for the entire complex and the site of the deaths of roughly 70,000 people, mostly Poles and Soviet prisoners of war. Auschwitz III (Monowitz) was a labor camp for the factory of the I.G. Farben company. See also Birkenau (Auschwitz II).

Austerlitz

Slavkov u Brna (Czech name; German name: Austerlitz) is a country town east of Brno in the South Moravian Region of the Czech Republic. The town is widely known for giving its name to the Napoleonic Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 which actually took place some miles west of the town.

Axis Powers

A coalition led by Germany, Italy, and Japan formed in opposition to the Allied Nations.

BBC

British Broadcasting Corporation.

Bauhaus

A school, founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. It operated from 1919 to 1933. The Bauhaus style became one of the most influential currents in Modern design which consisted of radically simplified forms, and rationality and functionality, combined with the notion that mass-production was easily integrated into the individual artistic spirit.

Bavaria

The Free State of Bavaria is a landlocked state of Germany, occupying its southeastern corner.

Birkenau

Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was an extermination camp where at least 960,000 Jews, 75,000 Poles, and some 19,000 Gypsies (Roma) were killed. Birkenau was the largest of all the Nazi extermination camps. See also Auschwitz-Birkenau. (Roma is the more common European term for Gypsy.)

Blitzkrieg

The German for "lighting war." A swift, sudden military attack using bomber aircraft to support fast moving tanks and motor vehicles.

Blue Shield

The United States Committee of the Blue Shield was formed in 2006 in response to recent heritage catastrophes around the world. The name Blue Shield comes from the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which specifies a blue shield as the symbol for marking protected cultural property. The International Committee of the Blue Shield and its affiliated national committees work together as the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross, providing an emergency response to cultural property at risk from armed conflict.

Carabinieri

The military police for the Italian armed forces that also functions as the state police.

Carinhall

The country of estate of Herman Göring, the second in command under Hitler. It’s thought that his private art collection consisted of up to 50 percent of the art stolen by the Third Reich. Some of this collection was exhibited at Göring’s estate, before being evacuated to Berchtesgaden at the end of the war.

Chartres Cathedral

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres), located in Chartres, France, about 50 miles from Paris, is considered one of the finest examples in all France of the Gothic style of architecture. Even before the early cathedral was built, Chartres was a pilgrimage site for the sick. Since the 12th century, the church has been a popular pilgrimage destination on the feast days of Blessed Virgin Mary in order to honor her cloak (Sancta Camisia).

Collaborator

Traitorous cooperation with the enemy.

Collecting Points

The Collecting Points were established in a number of German cities by the Monuments Men after World War II. Confiscated and looted objects and artwork were gathered in these locations in order to research, catalogue and ascertain their ownership. The objects were then returned to the owners or the country of origin for restitution to the owners.

Cultural Heritage

Physical or "tangible cultural heritage" includes buildings and historic places, monuments, artifacts, etc., that are considered worthy of preservation for the future. These include objects significant to the archaeology, architecture, science or technology of a specific culture.

Curator

A curator (or keeper) of a cultural heritage institution (e.g., archive, gallery, library, museum or garden) is a specialist responsible for an institution's collections (art, books, etc.)

Dachau

A German Nazi concentration camp – the first one opened in Germany – located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near the medieval town of Dachau, about 10 miles northwest of Munich in the state of Bavaria which is located in southern Germany. In total, over 200,000 prisoners from more than 30 countries were housed in Dachau of whom two-thirds were political prisoners and nearly one-third were Jews. 25,613 prisoners are believed to have died in the camp.

Degenerate Art

Degenerate art is the English translation of the German term entartete Kunst, a term adopted by the Nazi regime to describe virtually all modern art, which was banned on the grounds that it was un-German or Jewish Bolshevist in nature. Degenerate Art was also the title of an exhibition, mounted by the Nazis in Munich in 1937, consisting of modernist artworks chaotically hung and accompanied by text labels deriding the art. The exhibition was designed to inflame public opinion against modernism. Modernist artists such as Emil Nolde, Max Beckmann, Marc Chagall, James Ensor, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh were included in this group.

Duce

Deriving from the Latin word dux "leader", it National Fascist Party leader Benito Mussolini.

Duomo

A generic Italian term for a cathedral church. Such churches are usually referred to simply as "Il Duomo" or "The Duomo", without regard to the full proper name of the church. The word duomo derives from the Latin word “domus”, meaning house, as a cathedral is the "house of God", or domus Dei.

Dwight D Eisenhower

The Supreme Allied Commander and later President of the United States, General Eisenhower played a huge role in the success of the MFAA in Europe. He prohibited looting and billeting of artistically important material by Allied troops, and helped establish the collecting points that would shape the post-war restitution process.

ERR (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg)

The Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (Special Task Force Reich Minister Rosenberg) was organized under the direction of Alfred Rosenberg, specifically for the plunder of cultural property across Nazi-occupied territories.

Ethnocentrism

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one's own culture. Ethnocentrism often entails the belief that one's own race or ethnic group is the most important and/or that some or all aspects of its culture are superior to those of other groups.

Eugenics

A social philosophy which advocates the improvement of human hereditary traits through various forms of intervention. This philosophy was incorporated into the racial policies of Nazi Germany where it was abused in their programs of racial hygiene, human experimentation, and the extermination of undesired population groups.

Fatherland

German term for homeland, used primarily in the Nazi era to refer to the state, often in a nationalist sense.

Flying Fortress

Name for the Boeing B-17, a four-engine heavy bomber the U.S. Army Air Forces flew during World War II.

Fresco

Fresco (plural either frescos or frescoes) is any of several related painting types, done on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Italian word affresco which derives from the adjective fresco ("fresh").

Frieze

In architecture the frieze is the wide central section of an entablature (the horizontal area above the columns) and may be plain or decorated with a low relief sculpture (bas-reliefs).

Fuhrermuseum

The “greatest museum in the world” ordered to be built by Hitler in his hometown of Linz. However the project was never realised. The drive to stock the museum with the greatest art in the world was undertaken by the ERR and the Sonderauftrag Linz. See: Linz.

Führer

The German word for leader and Hitler's self-appointed title.

GI

A nickname given to U.S. Army soldiers during World War II.

Genocide

The deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.

Gestapo

Abbreviation of Geheime Staatspolizei, Nazi Germany’s secret police.

Good Faith

“Good faith” is the honest intent to act without taking an unfair advantage over another person or the desire to defraud another person. The term is applied to all kinds of transactions. See: Good Faith Purchasing

Good Faith Purchaser

(U.S. law vs. Napoleonic [European] law) – Good faith purchasers face different rules in the Western legal systems. American legal rules favor the owner of an object, while European law protects the good faith purchaser.

Gothic Line

A series of fortifications 200 miles long that the Germans built into the northern range of Italy’s Appennines Mountains as a last line of defense against the Allied armies.

Gustav Line

Also called the Winter Line, it was the first formidable German tripwire for the Allies in Italy, located at the skinniest part of the peninsula, south of Rome.

Hague Convention

A series of international treaties that dictate the laws of war. These treaties were negotiated during two international peace conferences in 1899 and 1907.

Hitler Youth

State organization established in 1926 to educate young boys in the Nazi worldview and train them for eventual service in the armed forces.

Holocaust

A term generally used to describe the genocide of approximately six million European Jews (and also of Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals and other "undesirable" groups) in Europe during World War II as part of the deliberate extermination planned and executed by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi) regime in Germany led by Adolf Hitler.

Holy See

Originating from Sancta Sedes, Latin for “Holy Chair,” it is the authority of the pope in Rome to serve as the sovereign head of the Catholic Church.

Honorary Aryan

An expression used in Nazi Germany to describe those of non-Aryan descent who were informally considered Aryan. This label was usually bestowed upon persons who were seen as valuable to the German economy or war effort. Some notable examples are Stephanie von Hohenlohe, a Jewish-Austrian princess, and the peoples of Japan, Finland, Hungary, and Turkey.

Impressionism

A 19th-century art movement that began in France in the 1870s characterized by a sketchy and impressionistic use of unmixed primary colors and small strokes to simulate actual reflected light. The name of the movement is thought to be derived from the title of a Claude Monet painting, Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant). Among the artists working in this style were: Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Pierre August Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne.

In situ

A Latin phrase meaning “in the place.” In archaeology, in situ refers to an artifact that has not been moved from its original place of deposition. This only means that the item was not newly moved. Thus, an item was discovered in one location, but many years prior could have been of foreign origin. In architecture, in situ means construction which is carried out on the building site.

Jeu de Paume

A French art museum, the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in the center of Paris. From 1940 to 1944 the Nazi looting organization ERR used the Jeu de Paume Museum as their central storage and sorting depot prior to distribution to various persons and places within Germany. The French art curator, Rose Valland, who was overseer at the museum during this time, began secretly recording as much information as possible on the more than 20,000 pieces of confiscated art brought to the Jeu de Paume Museum, aiding in its recovery at war’s end.

Kristallnacht or Night of Broken Glass

In response to the shooting of a German diplomat by a 17-year old Jewish youth who was enraged over his family’s expulsion, Nazi Germany began a systematic anti-Semitic reprisal. In the early hours of November 10, 1938, coordinated destruction broke out in cities, towns and villages throughout the Third Reich. On that night, 91 Jews were murdered, and 25,000–30,000 were arrested and deported to concentration camps; more than 200 synagogues were destroyed and tens of thousands of Jewish businesses and homes were ransacked. This event was a turning point for the rest of the world in terms of its relationship with Nazi Germany.