Hunt begins in homes for spoils of Holocaust

At the end of each day, Wilfried Wabra’s grandmother used to sink gratefully into what she called her “Jew chair”, an antique armchair with silk upholstery and an exquisitely carved backrest.

The chair, together with her dresser and her grandfather clock, had been looted by the Nazis from the homes of concentration camp victims in a systematic program of furniture theft.

Today, more than seven decades after the end of World War II, a younger generation of Germans is waking up to a realisation that hundreds of thousands of their household heirlooms were plundered from Jewish homes left empty by the Holocaust.

Historians at several museums are piecing together the little-known story of the Mobel-Aktion (Furniture Action), a campaign approved by Hitler himself in 1941. At the behest of ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, troops ransacked 69,619 Jewish homes in France and Benelux, packing the contents on to trains and ships bound for Germany, where they were sold to the public at bargain prices to bolster morale.

By some estimates, more than a million cubic metres of Judenguter (Jewish goods) were carted east. Yet the full story of the theft has been irretrievably lost. Nearly all of the documents describing the shipments were burnt by civil servants in February 1945.

Read the article by Oliver Moody in The Australian (from The Times).