Pioneers In Museum Evacuation And Obstinate In Restitution

Spain's experience of war and modern firebombs came during its own Civil War in the mid-1930s. Museum staff were pioneers in methods for moving their collections out of harm's way, and curators in other European countries followed their example.

During World War II, under Generalissimo Franco, Spain was closely aligned with Germany but nominally neutral. Near the end of the war, with the Allies gaining strength in Africa to the south, Spain was less receptive to dealings with Germany. Spain provided asylum for people in Nazi-occupied countries who were benefitting from the German takeover. One example is the art dealer Alois Miedl, who was Goering's henchman and art supplier from the occupied Netherlands, where he ran the aryanized gallery of Jacques Goudstikker who was forced to flee. By 1944 he had moved, with plenty of inventory, to Spain where he continued his business and was investigated after the war.

"Late in January 1945, the ALIU Operations Officer initiated an investigation of German-owned property present in Spain and Portugal. This operation continued intermittently through May 8, 1945, and included the highly detailed interrogation of the art holdings of Alois Miedl, a German banker, speculator, and financial agent of Hermann Goering. With the intervention of the U.S. and Dutch diplomatic missions in Madrid, the Operations Officer secured the permission of the Spanish Government to examine personally the 22 works of art placed in Miedl's name in the Free Port of Bilbao. The Miedl case became the keystone in subsequent investigations by the Unit of German art looting in Holland. The Miedl-owned paintings were sequestered by the Spanish Government and placed at the disposition of the Dutch Minister as a result of information presented by the Operations Officer to the Spanish Government. The ALIU was, however, unable to achieve the extradition of Miedl."
—OSS Art Looting Investigation Unit Reports, 1945-46

Las Meninas

Diego Vel�zquez, Las Meninas
The Prado and other Spanish museums pioneered the evacuation of masterpieces to avoid destruction during the Spanish Civil War.

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