The following background information is taken directly from the descriptive pamphlet published by NARA for this title, M1946.*
The basic authority for taking custody of property in Germany was contained in Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Directive 1067/6, which directed the U.S. Zone Commander to “impound or block” certain specified categories of property, including those of the German Reich; the Nazi Party and affiliated organizations and their prominent members; and absentee owners of non-German nationality, including United Nations and neutral governments and individuals. The American Zone Commander was also required to impound all property that was transferred under duress or through wrongful acts of confiscation, disposition, or spoliation, and to block the relocation of works of art and cultural material of value or importance, regardless of its ownership. When the U.S. Army entered Germany in September 1944, provisions were made for the seizure of all categories of property, including that of the Nazi Party organization.
At the cessation of hostilities in May 1945, a number of temporary collecting points were set up by the 12th Army Group to store all cultural objects found in the U.S. zone in need of preservation or suspected of having been looted by the Germans. The seized property was turned over to the custody of the Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone (Germany) [OMGUS] when it became the successor to the U.S. Group Control Council, Germany (USGCC) on October 1, 1945. OMGUS was responsible for administering the U.S. zone of occupation and U.S. sector of Berlin, and for functioning as the U.S. element of organizations comprising the Allied Control Authority, the name given to the four-power occupation control system.
Within OMGUS, the seized works of art eventually came under the control of the Property Division. The Property Division, established in March 1948, was created through reorganization of OMGUS functions related to finance, the economy, transport, communications, restitution, reparations, decartelization, and property control. The primary responsibility of the Property Division was to formulate and implement policies required in the fields of property control, German external assets, internal and external restitution, and reparations.
By 1946 only four of the collecting points remained and were located in Munich, Wiesbaden, Marburg, and Offenbach. After June 15, 1946, when the Marburg Central Collecting Point was closed, the remaining three central collecting points (CCPs) became specialized. The Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point (WCCP) held mostly German-owned material, especially that of the former Prussian State Museums, the Städel Institute of Frankfurt, and the local museums of Wiesbaden, plus a certain amount of internal loot (materials confiscated from German nationals) and objects subject to restitution. At its height, this installation contained approximately 700,000 objects. The Munich Central Collecting Point specialized largely in materials subject to restitution, although in addition it contained the cultural objects of the Bavarian State Museums. At its height, this central collecting point held in excess of a million objects. The third of the specialized CCPs, the Offenbach Archival Depot, was devoted primarily to Jewish religious items, books, and archives. It handled more than 21/2 million objects during its four years of operation.
The transition from military to civilian occupation administration was initiated by the Presidential appointment of the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany (HICOG), who assumed his duties on September 2, 1949. OMGUS organizations were progressively abolished, and all functions were transferred to HICOG organizations between June and September 1949. The Offenbach Archival Depot was closed in June 1949. Upon the termination of the Property Division on July 1, 1949, the property control functions with respect to the liquidation of claims devolved on the Central German Property Control Agency in Munich. Its directorate was composed of the four Land Civilian Agency Heads in the U.S. zone. The transition was completed by September 21, 1949, the same day of the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany. OMGUS was formally abolished on December 5, 1949.
The Munich and Wiesbaden CCPs closed in August 1951, although some cultural objects remained at both facilities under U.S. control after that date. The Office of Public Affairs of the Office of the High Commissioner for Germany exercised residual restitution authority for these objects. Most of the OMGUS records, including those of the Property Division, were retired to an Army records center in Kansas City until they were accessioned into the National Archives in the early 1960s.
During the period in which they operated, the CCPs administered the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Sections of Bavaria, Bremen, Hesse, and Württemberg-Baden. They also received policy guidance from the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section of OMGUS general headquarters. The composition of the records of the CCPs is unique among the records of OMGUS headquarters. The Offices of Military Government for Bavaria and Hesse created most of the records concerning the CCPs through their restitution and preservation programs from 1945 to 1949, but they also contain records of monuments and fine arts officers assigned to Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) and U.S. Forces, European Theater (USFET) Headquarters; records of Headquarters, Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone (Germany)[OMGUS]; records of the Office of the High Commissioner for Germany (HICOG); and some papers added to various files by the State Department’s Arts and Monuments Adviser, Ardelia Hall, while the records were on “loan” to her from 1954 to 1961. Because Ms. Hall worked extensively with these records, which were combined into one body, they are referred to as the “Ardelia Hall Collection.”
The records of the CCPs document the preservation of monuments and fine arts and the restitution of cultural objects by OMGUS and, much less adequately, the administration of the preservation and restitution program. A significant portion of this documentation is in German. In order to research restitution claims, monuments and fine arts officers gathered together intelligence reports, interrogation reports, captured documents, and other records concerning fine arts and monuments in Europe. These research files constitute a considerable portion of the records. Included among these records are reports and original documents detailing the looting operations of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), the involvement of Hermann Göring in the cultural looting, and plans for the proposed “Hitler Museum” in Linz, Austria.