A Us Soldier Inspects Priceless Art Taken From Jews By The Nazi's And Stashed In The Heilbron Salt Mines May 3, 1945 In Germany. The Treasures Were Uncovered By Allied Forces After The Defeat Of Nazi Germany. (Photo By National Archives/Getty Images)

Reclaiming the Spoils of War

In the aftermath of World War II, photos of U.S. soldiers reclaiming works of art looted by the Nazis.

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A Us Soldier Inspects Priceless Art Taken From Jews By The Nazi's And Stashed In The Heilbron Salt Mines May 3, 1945 In Germany. The Treasures Were Uncovered By Allied Forces After The Defeat Of Nazi Germany. (Photo By National Archives/Getty Images)

"From 1940 to 1945, Nazi soldiers across occupied Europe seized books, religious icons, and untold amounts of art from prisoners and public institutions," writes Debra Kamin in her FP piece, "Israel’s Nazi Art Hunters." According to the National Archives Greg Bradsher, it's estimated that some 20 percent of Europe's art works was taken by the Nazis. (Vanity Fair's  Alex Shoumatoff put the actual number at 650,000.) The recovery of these priceless works began with the Allied Forces, in particular the United States, after Germany surrendered in 1945. But as Kamin writes, many of these pieces were displaced, "sold and traded — with and without knowledge of their sordid past — across the globe."

Above:A U.S. soldier inspects art, taken from Jews by the Nazis and stashed in the Heilbron salt mines, on May 3, 1945, in Germany.

National Archives/Getty Images
UNTERSTEIN, GERMANY - APRIL 01:  American soldiers of the 101st Airborne loading a truck with recovered art treasures stolen by German General Hermann Goering.  (Photo by William Vandivert/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

American soldiers load a truck with recovered art stolen by German General Hermann Goering on April 1, 1945.

William Vandivert/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Storage Room in Niederschönhausen Castle for Confiscated Works of Degenerate Art. Found in the collection of Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

A storage room of artworks deemed "degenerate" and confiscated by the Nazis in Berlin, Germany, date unknown.

Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
May 1945:  A US Army soldier unwraps an old master painting by the 18th century painter Fragonard. This along with other art treasures was found at Neuschwanstein Castle, Fussen, Germany, where the Nazis kept treasures stolen from throughout Europe during the Second World War.  (Photo by Horace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images)

A U.S. soldier unwraps a painting recovered in May 1945 from a storage site in Fussen, Germany, where Nazis had stashed stolen art.

Horace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images
1945:  A couple of American soldiers with two of the valuable paintings found amongst a huge cache of art treasures in Neuschwanstein Castle, Fussen, Germany. The paintings were stolen by the Nazis from private collections in Europe during the Second World War.  (Photo by Horace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images)

American soldiers pose with two paintings found among a cache in Fussen, Germany, in May, 1945.

Horace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images
May 1945:  US soldiers carrying some of the priceless collection of paintings discovered in an Austrian castle. The Nazi loot was intended to go into a huge art gallery at Linz, in a plan devised by Goering.  (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

U.S. soldiers carry paintings discovered in an Austrian castle in May 1945.

Keystone/Getty Images
May 1945:  American servicemen view art treasures on show at a former Luftwaffe barracks near Konigsee. Priceless paintings looted from all parts of Europe under orders from Hermann Goering.  (Photo by Horace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images)

U.S. soldiers view art at a former Luftwaffe barracks near Konigsee, Germany, in May, 1945.

Horace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images
American servicemen with a 15 century statue of Eve, three Cranachs and three Rembrandts amongst the looted art treasures on exhibition at a former Luftwaffe barracks near Konigsee.    (Photo by Horace Abrahams/Getty Images)

U.S. soldiers stand next to a 15th century statue of biblical Eve, three paintings by Lucas Cranach, and three by Rembrandt at a former Luftwaffe barracks near Konigsee, Germany.

Horace Abrahams/Getty Images
A US soldier inspects priceless art taken from jews by the Nazi's and stashed in the Heilbron Salt Mines May 3, 1945 in Germany. The treasures were uncovered by allied forces after the defeat of Nazi Germany.

A U.S. soldier inspects art recovered from the Heilbron salt mines on May 3, 1945, in Germany.

A US soldier inspects priceless art taken from jews by the Nazi's and stashed in the Heilbron Salt Mines May 3, 1945 in Germany. The treasures were uncovered by allied forces after the defeat of Nazi Germany.

A unidentified man unravels scrolls found at the Heilbron salt mines on May 3, 1945, in Germany.

US soldiers unload acrates of art taken from jews by the Nazi's and stored in the Heilbron Salt Mines in Germany May 3, 1945.

U.S. soldiers unload a crate of art at the Heilbron salt mines in Germany on May 3, 1945.

On May 18, 1945, first lieutnant James J. RORIMER, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of New York taking a look at a jewellery collection of the 16th c. stolen by the Nazis from the Rothschild family in Paris. This is in the cellars of the castle of Neuschwanstein. GOERING despoiled families all over Europe to make up a museum.
Le 18 mai 1945, le Lieutenant James J. RORIMER, conservateur au Metropolitan Museum de New York examine une collection de bijoux du XVIème siècle dérobée à Paris par les troupes d'occupation à la famille ROTHSCHILD, dans les caves de Neuschwanstein. En spoliant les familles de l'Europe entière, GOERING avait pour but de se constituer un musée.

A U.S. soldier views a jewelry collection, stolen from a Jewish family by the Nazis and stashed in Germany, on May 18, 1945.

Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
FRANCE - DECEMBER 01:  Salomon Ruysdael'S Work Of Art Auction "Halte Devant L'Auberge" Stolen By Nazis During The Second World War In Paris On December 1948  (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Men hoist a painting up at an auction of art reclaimed from the Nazis in Dec. 1948 in Paris.

Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES:  Michael Loewenthal holds the painting "The Seamstress", 1883, by German painter Lesser Ury that was returned to Loewenthal as part of a settlement by the Holocaust Claims Processing Office of the New York State Banking Department 12 July, 1999, in New York. The settlement was with officials of Linz, Austria, who purchased the painting from a dealer in 1956. The painting was linked to "tainted art" obtained by Nazi officials through forced-sales from Jews. It originally belonged to Louis Loewenthal, the grandfather of Michael Loewenthal. AFP PHOTO  Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

The member of a Jewish family whose art was stolen by Nazis holds up a painting returned to the family on Dec. 12, 1999, in New York.

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
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