“The Rape of Europa” by Lynn H Nicholas
You are probably aware that during the Second World War the Nazis stole a few paintings. This lengthy but very readable book details the full extent of the Nazi art looting. They started by seizing and suppressing or selling off what they considered “degenerate” (i.e. modern) art. Then when war was declared and they started to invade other countries, they had organisations set up to seize interesting art for the Fuhrer’s personal collection, for the new German state collection, and for the collection of Hermann Goering. Sellers were often forced to sell at unfavourable prices, and the property of Jews was often simply stolen. The quantities involved were astonishing, running into museums full, trainloads, salt mines full, over a million art items in all.
Meanwhile, national collections were being packed up all over the UK and Europe and shifted to safer accommodation.
When the Nazis were being defeated, the Allies put the process into reverse, setting up their own art protection and recovery teams, who followed closely behind the armies, trying to secure and protect what they could.
Many well-known works had an eventful and hazardous time during WW2, and an unquantified number of art items disappeared forever amongst the ruins. A trickle is still appearing today, as the descendants of those who took works into “safekeeping” go public.
A fascinating and eye-opening book, well worth reading.
By the way, the title is not a typo – “The Rape of Europa” was a popular subject for classical paintings.