Upon entering Germany in 1944, the U.S. Army was ordered to seize any property that had been transferred under duress or through wrongful acts of confiscation or disposition, and to block the relocation of artworks and cultural materials regardless of ownership. Such items, looted by the Nazis, came under U.S. government control until they could be returned to their rightful owners. These records pertain to those objects and their restitution.
OMGUS - Cultural Affairs Branch
- Conflict: World War II
- Records: 19,799
OMGUS - Cultural Affairs Branch
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- Publication Title:
- OMGUS - Cultural Affairs Branch
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- The National Archives
- Publication Number:
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- Published on Fold3:
- April 22, 2011
- Last Update:
- July 31, 2011
- NARA M1921. Records relating to monuments, museums, libraries, archives, and fine arts of the Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone (OMGUS) in post-war Germany, 1946-1949.
The following background information is taken directly from the descriptive pamphlet published by NARA for this title, M1921.*
The basic authority for taking custody of property in Germany was contained in Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) Directive 1067/6 (1945), 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.
From November 25, 1944, through October 14, 1945, the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) function was placed in the MFAA Branch of the Reparation, Deliveries and Restitution Division of the U.S. Group Control Council, Germany (USGCC). 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 USGCC on October 1, 1945.
Seized works of art eventually came under the control of the Property Division. The Division, established in March 1948, was created as a result of reorganizing OMGUS functions relating to finance, the economy, transport, communications, restitution, reparations, decartelization, and property control into one unit. On March 1, 1948, the MFAA Section, along with the Restitution Branch became part of the Property Division, and in June 1948, when the Reparations and Restitution Branches merged, the MFAA Section became one of its sections.
Beginning in September 1948, plans were conceived to transfer the functions of the MFAA Section of the Restitution Branch, Property Division to the ECR Division. The first step was taken in that direction as the ECR Division established an Archives and Libraries Section within the Cultural Affairs Branch. By October 31, 1948, all the restitution activities of the MFAA Section, with the exception of unusual individual cases, had been completed. On November 8, 1948, the non-restitution aspects of the MFAA Section were transferred to the Archives and Libraries Section of the Cultural Affairs Branch, ECR Division. In March 1949, the remaining duties of the MFAA Section were also transferred to the Cultural Affairs Branch with the establishment of the Museums Section and the Fine Arts Section.
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 functions of the ECR Division of OMGUS passed to the Office of Public Affairs of HICOG. 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.
Most of the OMGUS records, including the records of the Cultural Affairs Branch, were retired to an Army record center in Kansas City until they were accessioned into the National Archives in the early 1960s.
Using the collection
The records are arranged alphabetically by subject. They include reports, memorandums, correspondence, questionnaires, photographs, and other records pertaining to the restitution of artworks; investigations of crimes involving art objects; conditions of archives and libraries in the American Zone and their holdings; problems encountered in reopening museums, libraries, and archives; and the exchange of experts and exhibits.
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These images are digitized from 14 rolls of microfilm that make up NARA publication M1921, Records Relating to Monuments, Museums, Libraries, Archives, and Fine Arts of the Cultural Affairs Branch, Education and Cultural Relations (ECR) Division, Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone (Germany) OMGUS, 1946-1949, within Record Group (RG) 260, Records of U.S. Occupation Headquarters, World War II. The table of contents for each roll of microfilm is provided on pages 4-9 of the descriptive pamphlet.
*Some of the information on this description page is taken directly from the NARA descriptive pamphlet for M1921, published in 2008, and prepared by Barbara Victorino. A PDF version may be viewed or downloaded here.
The following titles are available on Fold3:
M1942, Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Offenbach Archival Depot, 1946–1951
M1947, Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, 1945–1952
M1948, Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Marburg Central Collecting Point, 1945–1949
The National Archives: Holocaust-Era Assets