Since 1992, the Polish Ministry of Culture has been collecting data on losses from the country’s libraries in the WWII era, as well as on works of art originating in regions that have been located within the boundaries of Poland after 1945.
Initially, the documentation was carried out as part of the activity of the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad, which was established by a resolution of the Council of Ministers in 1991. In 2001, when the office of the Government Plenipotentiary was abolished, his duties were taken over by the Polish Minister of Culture. At the moment, the work is being continued by the Department of Cultural Heritage.
Information on movable monuments lost by Poland was provided by museums and private individuals. They were also sought by the Office’s staff and partners among archival collections, predominantly in the Archives of New Records, and in documents prepared by the Office of Recoveries and Reparations, which in 1945-1951, operated under the Ministry of Culture and Art. The most valuable data was acquired as a result of archival research conducted in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Russia, and the United States. On the basis of this documentation a computer database was created of objects lost by Poland during the WWII.
The register of movable cultural goods that is being compiled by the Department of Cultural Heritage includes twenty three sections, such as: painting, sculpture, graphic arts, pieces of furniture, fabrics, porcelain, glassware, goldsmithery, as well as military, numismatic and archaeological items. To this day, approximately 60,000 records have been created, each of which should – theoretically – match one object only. However, in many cases, an individual record corresponds to several objects that once shared a common inventory number.
Another source of information on lost works of art is the Department’s Losses of Polish Culture book series. Catalogues of wartime losses are regularly sent to leading auction houses and nearly all Polish diplomatic missions, as well as to foreign cultural, governmental and non-governmental institutions dedicated to provenance research. Information on Polish wartime losses is also published on the website of the National Institute of Museology and Collections Protection (www.nimoz.pl), the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Washington, D.C. (www.polandembassy.org), and the Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945 (www.lootedart.com).
Thanks to efforts on the part of the Ministry, a number of valuable items have already been recovered, including The Washerwoman by Gabriel Metsu, a painting brought to Poland from the United States in 1994. In 1997, the canvas Apollo and Two Muses by Pompeo Batoni was recovered from Russia, while in 1999 – A Portrait of Philip I, Duke of Pomerania painted by Lukas Cranach the Younger was brought to Poland from Switzerland. In 2002, Peasants at an Inn by Adriaen Brouwer found its way from Great Britain to Poland, while one year later, a helmet and a scale gortet from a Polish scale armour, were recovered from Great Britain and Finland. Since 2006, the great Portrait of Karol Podlewski by Jan Matejko, which was lost during the Warsaw Uprising, has been anew part of the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw. The year 2010 brought the recovery of Wojciech Gerson’s Rest in a Tatra Shed and A Still Life with Birds by the Dutch painter Melchior d’Hondecoeter.
The recovery of the majority of these items was made possible thanks to numerous pieces of information provided by museologists, collectors and art lovers. Should you recognise any of the objects presented on our website as rescued from the war, please contact the Department of Cultural Heritage.
- Architectural Detail
- Graphics & Drawing
- Musical and Technical Instruments, Clocks
- Dolls, Puppets, Toys & Games
- Foreign Painting
- Polish Painting
- Coins & Medals
- Vehicles & Equipage
- Woven Fabrics: Cloth, Tapestry, Embroidery, Laces Cloth
- Leather & Feather Products
- Woodwork, Furniture
- Metalwork. Militaria
- Horn, Bone, Tortoise-shell & Amber Products. Lacquer
- Different Collections
- Jewelery Goldwork. Gems