Edda Göring, 76, who in one infamous photo stroked the cheek of Adolf Hitler during her christening in 1938, and who was presented with a white christening dress decorated with swastikas, filed a failed lawsuit to recover money and assets taken from her family at the end of World War II. One of the things she wanted was a painting her father gave to her—no doubt a work of art he had looted. The State of Bavaria refused to honor her petition. Edda Göring does not condemn the crimes committed by her father. She is his staunch defender and says he was “a loving man.” Göring committed suicide in 1946 to avoid being hanged for his war crimes.
There have been some happy endings to the mysteries surrounding the whereabouts of art stolen during the war. In 2014, Norway’s Henie Onstad Art Center returned one of its most prized pieces, Henri Matisse’s “Woman in Blue in Front of a Fireplace.” The painting, worth an estimated $20 million, was taken from the home of art dealer Paul Rosenberg when he fled from France to the United States. Shipping tycoon Niels Onstad was unaware of the history of the painting and purchased it from a French art dealer who was later convicted of dealing with art stolen by the Nazis. Chris Marinello of Art Recovery Group, and an attorney representing the family, told Tablet Magazine, “Ultimately, it was the strength of the moral claim that persuaded the Henie Onstad Art Center to restitute this painting unconditionally to the Rosenberg heirs.”
Hermann Göring, who was a fighter pilot in World War I, was head of the Nazi party under Adolf Hitler, organized the Nazi police occupation of cities, was architect of the incessant air raids known as The Battle of Britain, and was commissioner of “the final solution to the Jewish problem.” He and Hitler tried in the 1920s to overthrow the German government. During the beer hall putsch of November 8–9, 1923, he was severely injured in the groin and began to take painkillers to which he became severely addicted for the rest of his life. Göring rose to head the Nazi Party in Parliament and when Hitler was named Chancellor, Göring started the Gestapo. He organized the Night of Long Knives, which involved the assassination of 85 political enemies, an event that consolidated the power of the Nazi party and silenced dissent. He was named as Hitler’s successor in 1939, and when things looked bad for the Nazis in 1945, Göring assumed power, which Hitler considered treason. Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide and Göring surrendered to Allied troops. When his death sentence was pronounced, he demanded to be shot rather than hanged, but his request was denied. Göring died of poisoning from a cyanide pill he took in his jail cell.
Returning stolen art to its owners and their families has been a significant challenge given the intricate process and cooperation involved. In 1998, the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi confiscated art created a consensus of non-binding principles for dealing with investigations. According to the agreement, registries were created to publicize art that was known to have been stolen, and previous owners and heirs were encouraged to come forward to seek a just and fair resolution to their claims. Among the resolutions was a call to countries involved to develop a process to implement these principles. A database called the Sonderauftrag Linz (Linz Special Commission) displays routinely updated images and information on paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewelry and other art objects that were stolen by the Nazis. During the Nazi regime, an organization by the same name was designed to collect stolen art that would be displayed in the Fuhrermuseum Hitler was planning to set up at the end of the war.