MUSEUMS: MUSEUMS: Russia's Secret Spoils of World War Ii

The Hermitage in St. Petersburg breaks its silence on a hidden trove of Impressionist treasures

It is one of the most vexed questions left over from World War II: What, 50 years later, has become of the immense quantities of works of art -- paintings, sculptures, drawings, antiquities, textiles -- that Germany stole from Russia and Russia from Germany? Many of the missing objects, no doubt, were destroyed; others, stolen by individual soldiers. But systematic cultural looting was also policy for both Hitler and Stalin, and both sides carried it out on an unprecedented scale, using art specialists to pick the goodies.

In 1954 Russia and Germany signed the Hague Convention, under which both sides had...

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