Spoliation of works of art during the Holocaust and World War II period

NMDC recognises and deplores the wrongful taking of works of art that constituted one of the many horrors of the Holocaust and World War II. NMDC is committed to working with other institutions and organisations both within the UK and internationally to increase awareness and understanding of the facts surrounding the spoliation of works of art by the Nazis and others during the Holocaust and World War II period.

Museums across the UK have undertaken detailed research of their collections to identify objects with uncertain provenance between 1933-1945. Details of these objects are published in a fully searchable database.

NMDC Spoliation Working Group

In June 1998 the NMDC established a working group to examine the issues surrounding the spoliation of art during the Holocaust and World War II period and draw up a Statement of Principles and proposed actions for member institutions. The Statement was finalised and adopted by the NMDC in November 1998 and presented to the Washington Conference on Holocaust Assets in December 1998. Its recommendations included a proposal that each national museum, gallery or library should draw up an action plan setting out their planned approach to research into the issue of provenance. A similar statement was issued by the Museums & Galleries Commission in April 1999, as guidance for non-national museums and galleries and a group of university and local authority museums subsequently began to consider what provenance research they might undertake. The NMDC Statement of Principles was revisited and updated in 2016.

An external Spoliation Advisory Committee, chaired by Sir David Neuberger, was established to review progress and advises on the actions necessary to fulfil the statement of principles and continues to meet.

In 2007 the provenance research reports and database were transferred to the new Cultural Property Advice website, now managed by the Collections Trust.

Search spoliation lists

Search the database of works of art with uncertain provenance during the period 1933-45 here.

Statement of Principles

Read the Statement of Principles for UK Museums' Provenance Research for the Period 1933-1945 here.

Press releases

NMDC press releases providing a summary of updates on provenance research and notification of claims from 2001-2006.

Illicit trade - loan agreements

NMDC members have agreed that national museums should make reasonable efforts to ensure that they are not lending to exhibitions containing objects without satisfactory provenance. For further details see the Cultural Property Advice website.