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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.


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.


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


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.


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


The prejudice or hostility toward Jews as a group.


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.


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.


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


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


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).


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.


British Broadcasting Corporation.


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.


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


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.)


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.


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


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).


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.


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.)


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.


Deriving from the Latin word dux "leader",