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French Court Sentences Germans to Hard Labor for Looting Jewish Art Collections

Four of six Germans charged with looting Jewish properties for the Nazis during the occupation of France were sentenced to hard labor and imprisonment by a Paris military court today, two of them in absentia. The two men condemned in absentia were Robert Schlotz and Walter Hoffer who received ten years at hard labor.

George Ebert was sent to prison for one year and Arthur Frannsteil received a three-year suspended sentence. Dr. Bruno Lohse was found not guilty. The sixth man, Gerhart Utika, having objected to certain documents in evidence against him, will be tried separately. All were alleged to belong to the “Alfred Rosenberg Group” charged with requisitioning property from the Rothschilds and other Jewish families.

Otto Abetz, Hitler’s Ambassador to France, was chief witness today at the trial. He testified that the loot amassed by the trained pillagers included 11,000 paintings, 583 statues and tapestries, 2,477 pieces of antique furniture, 5,825 pieces of china and 4,174 cases of other art treasures.

Works of art stolen from 203 private French Jewish collections and 550 volumes taken from Jewish libraries–including those of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, the Federation of Jewish Societies of France and the Rabbinical Seminar’s Lipschitz Library–were removed to Germany by the special Nazi pillaging units, it was stated in the indictment.

INDICTMENT CITES HITLER’S ORDER TO SEIZE ART FROM JEWS

The indictment said that between March, 1941, and July, 1944, a total of 29 convoys of 137 trucks laden with precious goods–including 4,174 crates of art works–were removed from France by the unit and sent to Germany. The systematic looting began, the indictment continued, immediately after the German Army entered France. The order to seize works of art belonging to Jews was given by Hitler on June 30, 1940, it was disclosed. The order, however, said that this was “not confiscation, but the taking of objects into custody pending peace negotiations.”

The indictment revealed that eight units directed the pillage. Each dealt with a special field: prehistoric finds, fine arts, anthropology, science, music, ideology, higher learning and special services. One of the defendants–a Herr Schultz–who is being tried in absentia, said at a preliminary interrogation that the mansions and country houses of the Rothschild family, located on the River Loire, had been selected for particularly thorough looting.

The Germans, it was charged, also seized works of art stored in Bordeaux warehouses for shipment to the United States. The program of pillage lasted for two years and the stolen works of art were stored in one hall of the Louvre before being shipped to Germany where many were expropriated and others were sold in Germany and Switzerland.

At the trial, all of the defendants admitted that they had belonged to the Nazi Party prior to the rise of Hitler. One of the accused, George Ebert, claimed he is a descendant of Jacques Rene Hebert, a well-known figure in the French revolution.

The court decided to try Gerhardt Utika separately after the defense attorneys had contested the relevance of certain documants introduced by the prosecution. Utika had testified that the Vichyite Commissariat for Jewish Affairs, operating through the French Foreign Ministry, had asked the Nazi Government that the Jewish-owned art treasures be allowed to remain in France. The defendant said that Alfred Rosenberg, Nazi theoretician who dealt with problems of race and nationality in Nazi-occupied territories, objected to the French request.

The prosecution then read a note signed by Utika in reply to the French request. The note, which Utika and Rosenberg drafted, reads: “The war was unleased and is being carried on by international Jewry which always has shown itself hostile to the German people. There can be no truce with the Jews. These confiscations are very poor indemnification for the German Reich.” Utika told the court that he had merely signed the note because “somebody of equal rank had to reply to the French note, which was signed by the Embassy counsellor.”

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