War leads to the loss of lives, buildings and even art. The taking of art was not new when the Nazis began to take pieces from the countries they invaded and conquered. Just go into the British Museum and you will find many examples of plunders of war and conquests. However, the amount of art which was stolen and went missing during World War II was at a spectacular level. There were several reasons why art was taken during this time. Overall, art was treated similarly to the way the Nazis treated people and countries: namely some art was identified as inferior, others were claimed to belong to the Nazi’s as a result of their history with Germany (either having been made by a German or owned at one point by a German) and then there was art that was considered superior to all others and thus was desired for the purpose of “protecting” or used as a sort of trophy of the conquests of the Nazis. Most of the art which was considered inferior were done by modern artists. Work by Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh and even some German artists like Kurchner fell into this category. The art was labeled as “degenerate art“.  This art was taken not only from countries that were invaded but also from Germans themselves. The art was often displayed to show the inferiority of the artwork but the works were also sold to help in the funding of the war or the pieces were burned. The burning of the paintings was done in part as an intimidation tactic. By burning art the Nazi’s encouraged Swiss museums as well as private art collectors to come forward to purchase the art as to make sure that it was not destroyed. It is unclear how many paintings were burned though it is known that paintings by artists like Van Gogh were set aflame.

The Germans claimed a large variety of art as a result of their connection to German history. One such example is the Altarpiece of Veit Stoss which was made by a German in Krakow. Though the German had lived for twenty years in Poland the Germans still claimed his work as rightfully belonging to the Germans. The altar was broken up into pieces and hidden by the Poles to prevent the Germans from finding it. Unfortunately the Nazi’s found the pieces of the alter and brought them to Nuremberg Castle where it was recovered at the end of the war.

There was art which Hitler and the Nazis had a particular desire to collect for the purpose of “protection” or to be placed in a museum which Hitler was planning to create, the Furermuseum. One painting, The Astronomer by Johannes Vermeer was successfully taken and was meant to be a central part of the museum’s collection.

Hitler may have ordered the taking of many pieces of the art but many members of the Nazi party decided on their own to steal art. France, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia and other countries saw the removal of works from museums, churches and private collections. Unfortunately, even art which survived the war did not always make it back to their original owners some pieces ended up in museums with the curators being unaware, or unwilling to admit, the fact want the art had been stolen from owners. Luckily, a lot of art was able to escape the Nazis as a result of the hiding and moving of art. If you go to the Stedelijk Museum which is located in Amsterdam, there is an exhibit about the hiding of art during World War II in the Netherlands. In the case of this particular museum, paintings were marked with stickers to indicate the level of importance of a painting and as a result the amount of steps which would be taken to protect the piece. The three stickers colors ranged from meaning irreparable, important but “replaceable” to “replaceable”. Most paintings were hidden in safes or underground, in places where it would be difficult for the Nazis to find.

To this day art stolen by the Nazis is being discovered recently over one billion dollars in art, suspected to have been stolen was discovered in a Munich apartment. The work of such groups as the Monument Men, a group that before and after the work attempted to locate and protect art in Europe, has helped in the recovery of missing pieces. Unfortunately the fate of 100,000 pieces’ are still unknown. The most famous example of a pieces that went missing after being stolen by the Nazis is the Amber Room. The Amber Room is a room which was made and held in Russia until it was stolen by the Nazi’s. The Nazi’s claimed that it was there’s because the room had belong in the past to the Prussians (who were the ones that created Germany). The room is famous for its unique amber color and material composition. There are claims that the room was destroyed when the Nazi’s realized they would lose the war but three is still hope that the Nazi’s decided to not destroy the room. Many groups have been formed to try and find the Amber Room and other missing pieces of art but to no avail. Sadly, it is unlikely that all of the missing pieces has survived the test of time or, for that matter, the burning of the Nazis.

There are a lot of possibilities of where the missing pieces of art could be. The most popular hiding spots which the Nazis used were mountains and mines. Specifically those in Germany, Austria and Italy. However, missing art has turned up in museums like the Museum of Amsterdam and the Seattle Art Museum. Art was even found under a jail cell in Italy. Thus the art could be both in plain sight and hidden well. The search for the art will be thus one which will last for many years to come.