Originally posted by Steve Cohen:
This IS the stuff book are written about.
Anybody who lurks or posts from France?
May I help you? I've been lurking around...
According to a governmental report to the Prime Minister published by a special commission in 2000 and titled “Mission d'étude sur la spoliation des Juifs de France” (Study Mission about the looting of Jews of France, composed of officials, historians and representatives of Jews associations) - that you can download at http://lesrapports.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/BRP/004000897/0000.pdf-
the pianos which were not returned to their owner at the end of the war, or lent to musicians who themselves were looted during the Occupation, were sold by the French administration in the late 1940s.
Here are a few excerpts from this report (with the original pagination of the rapport for those who read french) :
- Pages 92 and s. : The action in France of a “Sonderstab Musik” (based on the study published by Willem de Vries, “Sonderstabmusik”, Amsterdam U.P. 1996):
Page 93 :
Example of Wanda Landowska (1879-1950), pianist and harpsichord player (“claveciniste”), founder of a world famous School of ancien music in Saint-Leu-la-Forêt, whose belongings were amid the firsts to be seized by the Sonderstab Musik – she managed to reach the United Sates. In september 1940, her library and musical instruments were sent to Germany, in spite of French protestations. Only a part of them were discovered and returned at the end of the war.
The action of the Sonderstab Musik was demultiplicated by the “Action meubles” (Furniture Action). It's a flood of pianos that were seized by the Nazis. Willem de Vries renounced to count the number of musical instruments seized in 1940 and 1941, or in the hands of the Sonderstab Musik in the context of “l'Action meubles” between may 1942 and august 1944, but he quoted some documents about the transport in Germany of a great number of pianos. The 21.07.1944, two wagons with 43 pianos left Paris in direction of the Silésie and Francfort-on-Oder. It seemed to be the last one.
Before their departure for Germany, the pianos were stocked in several places where a part of them were discovered at the Liberation. Some of those warehouses were specifically reserved to musical instruments : the one at the Palais de Tokyo is for grand and upright pianos. In november 1942, a lot of instruments coming from l'Action meubles were brought in a wing of the National Museum of Beaux Arts, rue de la Manutention. And also in a garage rue de Richelieu, mainly destinated to books and scores. In fine, they were also piano at the camps of Bassano and Austerlitz . The Austerlitz one had a reparation workshop, financed by the nazi leisure organization KraftdurchFreude (“strenght throught joy”) who bought some 500 pianos (seized by the Sonderstab Musik). They employed French workers, and even Jews placed in deportation camps with abilities in these field.
- Pages 143-148 : “The question of pianos” :
At the end of the war, 2000 pianos were found in the basement of the Palais de Tokyo. Others were also discovered in other places, where german forces used to live and entertain. A census was completed in April 1945, and until May 1947 they were exposed in public places to be returned to their owners. A list of those who found their piano is in the archives. Some of them were claimed by various people. At the end of March 1946, a report stated that from the 2073 pianos found, some 900 were returned or at the point of being returned. 1200 pianos remained which were to be sold by the french administration - according to the 11.04.1945 law - two years after the official end of the war.
A special offer was reserved to musicians whose pianos were looted and which were not found. They were allowed to lend one of the instruments not reclaimed for a maximum of two years. And in1949, the administration proposed them to buy the pianos lent.
In a partial report made in january 1948, 8000 pianos were presented to be seized by the nazis according to their owners, and 2221 were found in the only department of Paris. 1356 pianos were returned, 134 lent, and 443 given to the administration (to be sold). 288 were still in the warehouse.
The report (the 2000 one) didn't say where and why those pianos remained there. Did they need some work?
The law passed in 1945 made their sale by the french administration in the next months compulsory.
The 2000 report evaluated the money of the sales.
Of course, sorry for my mistakes in English...