Finding and returning Nazi-looted musical instruments, an ongoing task

Posted on: August 5, 2020

“There has been a lot of research into the Nazis’ plunder of Jewish-owned artwork in Europe during World War II, though far less attention has been paid to the looting of instruments,” reports Eleanor Beardsley on Wednesday (7/29) at National Public Radio. “But a number of scholars have been focused on bringing this facet of Nazi crimes to light. [French archivist Caroline] Piketty was among many experts who attended a conference in January in Paris titled Looted Music, Sources and Research Methods. The gathering … included historians, musicologists and lawyers…. Piketty says in the spring of 1945 … French authorities opened three warehouses to the public to display hundreds of pianos that had been stolen by the Nazis. Those who had lost an instrument were invited to write a letter for an appointment to visit…. ‘There were pianos in so many Jewish homes, even the most modest ones,’ Piketty says…. A 1997 French government commission that looked into looted Jewish property reported 8,000 pianos missing after the war, with 2,221 recovered. Archivist Piketty … studied the letters of 3,000 Parisians searching for their pianos. She says about half of them got their instruments back.”