HL Deb 11 May 1949 vol 162 cc498-9

2.36 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government what has been the extent of loss of articles of artistic and historical value from among those stored at Fahloss Celle; what steps have been taken to trace such articles and to ascertain responsibility for their loss; whether a complete inventory of the remaining articles has been made and what progress has been made in discovering their provenance.]


My Lords, I assume that the reference is to the respository at Schloss Celle, where collections of objects from various German museums, which were concealed for safe custody in salt mines during the war, are now stored. I am aware that losses from this repository have been alleged, but it is almost impossible to estimate their extent because the inventories prepared at the beginning of the war are not complete and it is possible that some of the collections were rifled before they came to Celle.

The alleged losses have, however, been the subject of prolonged investigations by the police, both British and German, who have interviewed many people and made inquiries at jewellers, pawnbrokers, bullion dealers and other likely places. These investigations, which have been undertaken in France and the United Kingdom, as well as in Germany, and which are still being pursued, have not yet resulted in any of the missing articles being traced or in establishing who was responsible for their loss. Nothing has come to light incriminating any British official.

A full inventory of the contents of the repository is nearing completion. It has been delayed by the lack of suitably qualified experts. The packing cases in which the articles are stored have, so far as possible, been marked with the names of the museums to which they belong. The present arrangements for safeguarding the collections are satisfactory in all respects, and it is anticipated that the entire contents of the repository will be handed over to the German authorities at a fairly early date.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. May I ask whether it is not the case that amongst the objects at Schloss Celle there are, or may be, objects which had been looted from German-occupied territory during the war, which had been removed from those territories into the German museums, thence into the salt mines and then into Schloss Celle? Has it been possible to trace this double transference back again?


I have no information on that point, but I shall be glad to have it looked into. If I obtain any information I will let the noble Lord have it.