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Madrid became, back in 1941 , in one of the capitals of the espionage world . Which, years after, would be the divided Berlin during the Cold War. A neutral country on the role, entry gate and exit of America and, above all, close geographically to the heart of the Third Reich, Spain was built as a theatre perfect for artists of deception to do what they know best: trapichear with information and try to attract foreign ambassadors to his cause. With that backdrop, no one found it strange that, on April 12, 1945, an american and a German meet to chat in a room at a hotel Capitol. Consisted of a further example of the multiculturalism that we lived in the city.

But the meeting, held at about six and a half in the afternoon (bad time for foreigners because of its closeness with the dinner), was going to be the tip of the wire that desenmarañaría a giant ball of yarn: the fabric that had orchestrated the Third Reich during the Second World War to the plunder of the works of art of old Europe . To one side of the table was lieutenant Theodore Rousseau, member of the u.s. secret service and the “Investigative Unit of the Art Plundered” (sister of the who formed the famous “Monuments Men”); the other, Alois Miedl , a prominent dealer, German fled from nazi Germany who believed that he had been summoned for selling illegal of a painting. Poor innocent.

Sad truth

Rousseau revealed soon that longed for information. And, to their astonishment, Miedl smiled and agreed to tell everything he knew about his boss: Hermann Göring, the locomotive that had mobilized, for more than half a decade, the systematic theft of works of art in the occupied countries, the sale of thousands of paintings stolen to the jews, germans, or -among so many other things – the acquisition of paintings of the great classical masters at a very small price. Overlooked, yes, that he had himself been a significant piece (more than a pawn, less than a queen) in all the maelstrom of conspiracy and flow rates. An overwhelming spider web that took years to be discovered, and that analyses, documents and narrates the historian Miguel Martorell The ravages of nazi (Gutenberg Galaxy). “His role was to be the largest supplier of Göring, though it was also the main dealer, German in Holland and a leading figure within the estate”, explains this journal Martorell.

In his words, to understand the importance of Miedl enough to know that, during the Second World War, his major achievement was to sell your boss about 2,400 boxes acquired with malice to the popular art gallery Dutch Kuntshandel J. Goudstikker. “Many were returned as payment, but the figure shows that there was a trader either,” he adds. But, for the historian, the key is that this German-entered in kilos witnessed the looting from the beginning to the end.

Mield, pushed by the succulent commissions, was converted into a dealer of the Reich

what you can’t accuse Miedl is to have been someone easy to defeat.

From his youth he was ahead in the business. Began his professional life away from the museums, as a banker first and an entrepreneur later. In both cases it was well with him, as left on record the reports of the Allies at the tildarle of a “genius of finance”. Rousseau also added that it was “a speculator who took advantage of any opportunity that is presented” and that you could not trust him. What is certain is that her on your figure all those features. “It was, in short, a survivor who knew how to take advantage of a good business, and that, in the thirties, you created a true empire international with companies in Africa, Argentina, Uruguay or India ,” says Martorell.

Acolyte of Göring

As a good survivor, in the years following the rise to power of Adolf Hitler knew how to see in the sale of paintings despised by the Third Reich a perfect business. “In Germany, there was then a great stock for the purge that the nazis had made so-called degenerate art : cutting-edge work that is away from the figurative style that marked the leader,” adds the author.

Also fell, as a bird scavengers on the pieces taken from jews in German and, after the debacle of its holding enterprise because of the beginning of the Second World War, on the canvases, tapestries, carvings and sculptures foreign that are demanded in their native land. “Germany decided to exercise cultural hegemony over Europe, but in the opposite way to the French, which had been used as main engine the creativity emanating from Paris. The nazis became the great-power european artistic by collecting and looting” , reveals Martorell.

Miedl, driven by the lucrative commissions that were paid by the piece (between 10% and 15%), it was converted as well at dealer for a Reich in which there was a real craze for the art. The reality is that they bought all, no matter the quality of the author or their pictorial value.

The little contacts, we came to Hermann Göring, one of the favorites of the “Fuehrer”. Theirs was love at first sight, as the head of the “Luftwaffe” was obsessed with made with hundreds and hundreds of works, and Miedl wanted to amass a good fortune. “When the war started in Germany created a sort of pyramid of the estate. Up they were, far above the rest, Hitler and Göring. In a second step the leaders of the first level as Himmler and, in the end, dozens of museums, institutions, and citizens who were eager to expand their collections at ridiculous prices,” says the historian.

Under the umbrella of Göring, Miedl looted the Netherlands and he made money in Paris , where the devaluation of the currency caused by the nazis did that they might purchase paintings of great masters at the price of a joke. The drop was so pronounced that even our traditional peseta was strong in the face of franco gallo.

Fell like a bird scavengers on the pieces taken from jews in German

Unless it had to do with the systematic theft of the soviet people that Hitler was not considered worthy of having notable pieces of art by their barbarism. “ there is No data spoliation in the USSR because they did what they wanted, but we know that, in France, around 100,000 works. Holland were 30,000 and Belgium 20.000″, reveals Martorell. This also happens with the total amounting to the current account of the dealer, after his wanderings over half of Europe. It is known that it was gigantic, but not the exact figure.

What you can do is to intuit the figure thanks to the amount that he took with him when he understood that the war was lost and that the best thing I could do was to escape from Germany . is Your choice was the Iberian Peninsula . According to Martorell, with the total likely to Portugal to escape from there to America. However, when you pass the border, franco’s authorities blocked 22 boxes carrying a considerable amount of liquidity. “He would bring about five million guilders in various currencies (debt securities, swiss, paintings…). In addition, all the sources give for the fact that I had money in Switzerland,” says the historian. In that capital, including the million and a half that had been (part, given in species), after selling to Göring a fake very elaborate, a box of Johannes Vermeer.

the Good life

you can’t say that in Spain they went bad. Despite the fact that the authorities invited him to leave when they knew that moving capital is considerable and doing business from the Madrid (something from nothing palatable to a government that favored autarky economic), got the favor of the Allies and, in 1949, when he returned to Germany, we were returned to the boxes and the money .

Alois Miedl, architect of the estate, ended his days as the majority of the merchants who worked for the nazis: without charge. “ Not they were prosecuted for being on the ladder over under . In fact, we made deals with them. When Rousseau became a conservative first, and vice-chair after the Metropolitan Museum, he used many of his old contacts in europe to get paintings, among them, some marching nazis who had been questioned”, complete Martorell. He died in the nineties, wealthy and with the only punishment that you can exercise awareness of the unworthy. If it is had.