We are all aware of the treasures stolen in time of warfare. European Museums are full of treasure taken from Egypt, the Middle East, and the orient during Europe’s colonial days. We also are well aware of the theft by the Nazi’s of wealth, art and treasures during World War II. However it was not just the Germans but allied forces as well. The Russians obviously looted and plundered on their vengeful quest to drive the Nazis out of Russia and on victory in Berlin.
As the Americans, British, and French conquered from the west the magnitude of stealing was less pronounced but in reality did occur. It was not done on sanctioned basis by its uniformed leaders, and therefore was not as obvious but it did happen. The theft of gold and silver is one thing, but the theft of art seems be more personal to the countries or people who were victims of such plunder.
Late in the Second World War when Germany was under extensive bombing they stored many works of art in Schwartzburg Castle. American troops seized the castle as they advanced through Western Germany. Most of the artwork was left intact, however 13 paintings were missing when American occupation forces returned it to Germany. It was suspected American soldiers stole the artwork. An investigation in 1950 was unable to find the culprits or the missing treasures. Time has helped return some of the paintings.
In 2000 a fourth of the missing paintings was retrieved by an “art recovery team,” out of New York City. The painting was a portrait of Christ done by Venetian artist Jacopo de’Barbari, appraised at 5 million dollars at that time. The painting had been in a Astoria, New York Catholic parish for decades probably not realizing its value. In 1998, when a nun brought the picture in to have the frame repaired, the owner of the business realized it may a painting of value. He contacted the Customs Art Fraud Center in New York City. The painting has been returned to Germany. The Art Fraud Center has helped return a Rembrant drawing, a 5th century B.C. gold plate, Tuirkish medieval antiques, and an antique torah crown taken form a Jewish synagogue.
I included the following situation card allowing a player to receive a nice reward for returning stolen art. Would the reward be that nice in real life? Probably not, but you never know. If some treasures are found worth hundreds of millions, it could be possible. Since most of us will probably never find secret treasure, it is fun to imagine maybe we could be rewarded if we run across secret plunder by doing the right thing and returning it to its rightful owners.