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Cultural Embassy

PATRICIA GRIMSTED

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The Miss Marple of stolen art and archives around WOII
She is the Miss Marple of art and archives stolen first by the Nazis, and then again by the Soviets; a quite senior lady who with her kind yet persisting manner is able to access archives that remain firmly closed to others and crack unsolved cases. In one of her current projects she attempts to track down a collection of c.30 looted paintings that Nazi Gauleiter and Praesident of East Prussia Erich Koch collected in Königsberg during World War II.
Since Koch was also Reichs Commissar of Ukraine, not surprising the collection also had a Ukrainian component. One painting from Ukraine he had ordered to Königsberg surfaced on auction in the Netherlands a couple of years ago and was returned to Kyiv in April 2015.

Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg
Others evacuated to Weimar and then seized by Soviet scouts, were taken to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Until now, access to those paintings themselves is denied to her, but as one of her colleagues remarks; “She is a woman who walks through walls when it comes to obstacles to her research”. For she finds it very important to identify the cultural prisoners of WWII – archives, books and works of art – that remain displaced, including many in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Ukraine, and Poland. Even if it is difficult today to get displaced cultural valuables in those countries returned to their rightful owners or heirs, at least, she believes it very important to identify them and know where they are.

Harvard, Amsterdam, Moscow
Each year, Patricia Kennedy Grimsted (1935), a leading expert on Soviet trophy archives and an associate at Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute and Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Research, spends four to five months abroad. She has a Moscow apartment, where she works in the archives and still directs a database directory of Russian archives, developed with the International Institute of Social History (IISG). As an IISG Honourary Fellow, when in Amsterdam, she stays at Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy. Her regular 4th floor room has a large table at the window, so she can spread out her papers and work.

Break-up Soviet Union
Her interest in looted art, books, and archives stems from the break up time of the Soviet Union in the late eigthies, when she was living in Moscow working with Russian colleagues in setting up a comprehensive database of Russian archives, ArcheoBibliobase. After publication of Russian and then English printed directories from the database, an Internet version was developed by the IISG. Now the Russian State Historical Library in Moscow is taking over the project.

Masonic archives
Last fall IISG published online her presentation at the seminar on her eightieth birthday, when she described some of the findings about restitution progress over the past 25 years. In 1991 she broke the story that many of the archives seized from Western Europe (including the Netherlands) by the Nazis during WWII were now in Moscow, including the Masonic archives looted by Himmler’s services and kept at his Silesian castle, and military ones that the Red Army seized from the top-secret Abwehr analysis centre in Berlin-Wannsee.

Bach
Many of the Dutch archives came home from Moscow in 2002 and 2003. She was also involved in the international sleuthing around the musical estate of the Bach family, discovered in Kyiv in 1999, that was finally returned to the Sing-Akademie in Berlin.

Goudstikker Collection
The Koch collection of looted art is just one of many projects she is currently working on. So far she has identifed paintings ‘acquired’ by Gauleiter Erich Koch from Reichsmarschall Hermann Gӧring during WWII. Several from the Goudstikker Collection are now in the Hermitage. She verified that ‘Peasant Huts by a Canal’, by Jan van Goyen, that Koch ‘purchased’ from Göring, was in turn from the Goudstikker collection, and is now on display in the Muzeum Narodowe (National Museum) in Gdańsk, Poland. She also documented the wartime history of ownership of a second Goudstikker painting that passed through Gӧring’s hands and now in Danzig.

Grimsted estimates that a further 15 or 16 ‘displaced’ Dutch paintings are also there. More research into the history of their ownership is badly needed, because many may have a ‘red flag’ wartime past. As Grimsted remarks: “the Goudstikker Van Goyen and the Willem van Nieulandt paintings are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of questionable sales during wartime occupation, with purchases arranged by the Nazi museum director Will Drost.” Her investigations are an important contribution to identifying art objects, books, and archives which are now abroad, in hopes that some may eventually return home.
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