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#208498 - 05/02/08 10:30 PM Looted pianos still in Paris warehouse?
d4 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 28
Loc: seattle
This afternoon I was watching the baseball game on T.V. (Mariners-Yankees) when my wife, reading a book and ignoring the game, said "this is interesting, did you know there is a warehouse in Paris where there are still hundreds of pianos that the Germans looted from the Jews?" She is reading "Murder in the Rue de Paradis," a novel by Cara Black, in which the heroine is told of said warehouse. The Mariners were losing, so I decided to see, via the internet, if there is any historical fact to the story. I discovered that in April, 1943, there were, in fact, 1,006 pianos stored in Paris by the Germans. These pianos were looted and confiscated from the Jews. The story in the novel is that there is still a warehouse "on the outskirts of Paris" with hundreds of pianos tagged for Dusseldorf and no one wants to wade into the horrible legal and ethical morass of who they belong to.
I know this is off the usual Yamaha vs. Kawai vs. Estonia path of this forum, but does anyone know anything about such a warehouse? Especially you folks who frequent the continent (are you there AJB?)

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#208499 - 05/02/08 11:07 PM Re: Looted pianos still in Paris warehouse?
whippen boy Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
I think something is missing in this story, which seems to leave its latest clue in 1943.

A lot[/b] could have happened to this warehouse and/or collection from 1943 until the end of the war - yet a cursory Internet search reveals nothing of this. [edit: see my next post]

It also seems incredible that the same person(s) wold hold title to this property since WWII; also that they would not find a more profitable use for it in the intervening years.

Nevertheless, any piano sitting untouched in a non-climate-controlled room for nearly seventy years would require extensive rebuilding. The largest value these instruments might have (which could be considerable indeed), would be the sentimental value to the heirs.

Perri/piqué, are you game for writing a historical thriller? \:\) It is a story begging to be told!
_________________________
Grotrian 225
S&S Hamburg-C
M&H "A" at home

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#208500 - 05/02/08 11:34 PM Re: Looted pianos still in Paris warehouse?
whippen boy Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
A disturbing yet fascinating subject. Here is an article about some of the priceless violins that were siezed.

And here is a link (*) to a book called Verdict on Vichy[/b], which states that during the Liberation of 1944 over 2,000 pianos were found at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. I wonder that this might be the same thing?

*(I cannot embed this link - if it doesn't work you will have to paste it into your browser): http://books.google.com/books?id=LPV14lG...XWfqEl1mk&hl=en

This seems to be a definitive book on the subject: Sonderstab Musik, by Willem de Vries.
_________________________
Grotrian 225
S&S Hamburg-C
M&H "A" at home

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#208501 - 05/03/08 10:22 AM Re: Looted pianos still in Paris warehouse?
Steve Cohen Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 10528
Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
Wow!

This IS the stuff book are written about.

Anybody who lurks or posts from France?
_________________________
Piano Industry Consultant- http://www.linkedin.com/pub/steve-cohen/6/b92/b80

Consultant & Contributing Editor - Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer

Jasons Music
Maryland/DC/No. VA
Since 1937.

www.jasonsmusic.com
My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.

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#208502 - 05/03/08 02:20 PM Re: Looted pianos still in Paris warehouse?
hotkeys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/07
Posts: 788
Loc: Massapequa, NY
I knew of similar types of actions taken by the German government for other possessions at that time in history. I knew of piano factories destroyed during the war, but not this. Yikes!

- Mark
_________________________
...The ultimate joy in music is the joy of playing the piano...

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#208503 - 05/04/08 08:50 AM Re: Looted pianos still in Paris warehouse?
JeromeF Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/04/08
Posts: 3
Loc: France
 Quote:
Originally posted by Steve Cohen:
Wow!

This IS the stuff book are written about.

Anybody who lurks or posts from France? [/b]
May I help you? I've been lurking around...

According to a governmental report to the Prime Minister published by a special commission in 2000 and titled “Mission d'étude sur la spoliation des Juifs de France” (Study Mission about the looting of Jews of France, composed of officials, historians and representatives of Jews associations) - that you can download at http://lesrapports.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/BRP/004000897/0000.pdf- the pianos which were not returned to their owner at the end of the war, or lent to musicians who themselves were looted during the Occupation, were sold by the French administration in the late 1940s.

Here are a few excerpts from this report (with the original pagination of the rapport for those who read french) :

- Pages 92 and s. : The action in France of a “Sonderstab Musik” (based on the study published by Willem de Vries, “Sonderstabmusik”, Amsterdam U.P. 1996):

Page 93 :
Example of Wanda Landowska (1879-1950), pianist and harpsichord player (“claveciniste”), founder of a world famous School of ancien music in Saint-Leu-la-Forêt, whose belongings were amid the firsts to be seized by the Sonderstab Musik – she managed to reach the United Sates. In september 1940, her library and musical instruments were sent to Germany, in spite of French protestations. Only a part of them were discovered and returned at the end of the war.
The action of the Sonderstab Musik was demultiplicated by the “Action meubles” (Furniture Action). It's a flood of pianos that were seized by the Nazis. Willem de Vries renounced to count the number of musical instruments seized in 1940 and 1941, or in the hands of the Sonderstab Musik in the context of “l'Action meubles” between may 1942 and august 1944, but he quoted some documents about the transport in Germany of a great number of pianos. The 21.07.1944, two wagons with 43 pianos left Paris in direction of the Silésie and Francfort-on-Oder. It seemed to be the last one.

Before their departure for Germany, the pianos were stocked in several places where a part of them were discovered at the Liberation. Some of those warehouses were specifically reserved to musical instruments : the one at the Palais de Tokyo is for grand and upright pianos. In november 1942, a lot of instruments coming from l'Action meubles were brought in a wing of the National Museum of Beaux Arts, rue de la Manutention. And also in a garage rue de Richelieu, mainly destinated to books and scores. In fine, they were also piano at the camps of Bassano and Austerlitz . The Austerlitz one had a reparation workshop, financed by the nazi leisure organization KraftdurchFreude (“strenght throught joy”) who bought some 500 pianos (seized by the Sonderstab Musik). They employed French workers, and even Jews placed in deportation camps with abilities in these field.

- Pages 143-148 : “The question of pianos” :

At the end of the war, 2000 pianos were found in the basement of the Palais de Tokyo. Others were also discovered in other places, where german forces used to live and entertain. A census was completed in April 1945, and until May 1947 they were exposed in public places to be returned to their owners. A list of those who found their piano is in the archives. Some of them were claimed by various people. At the end of March 1946, a report stated that from the 2073 pianos found, some 900 were returned or at the point of being returned. 1200 pianos remained which were to be sold by the french administration - according to the 11.04.1945 law - two years after the official end of the war.

A special offer was reserved to musicians whose pianos were looted and which were not found. They were allowed to lend one of the instruments not reclaimed for a maximum of two years. And in1949, the administration proposed them to buy the pianos lent.

In a partial report made in january 1948, 8000 pianos were presented to be seized by the nazis according to their owners, and 2221 were found in the only department of Paris. 1356 pianos were returned, 134 lent, and 443 given to the administration (to be sold). 288 were still in the warehouse.

The report (the 2000 one) didn't say where and why those pianos remained there. Did they need some work?
The law passed in 1945 made their sale by the french administration in the next months compulsory.
The 2000 report evaluated the money of the sales.

Of course, sorry for my mistakes in English...

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#208504 - 05/04/08 12:49 PM Re: Looted pianos still in Paris warehouse?
d4 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 28
Loc: seattle
Thanks for the information, JeromeF. Very interesting. So, according to the 2000 governmental report, there is still a warehouse containing no more than 288 pianos. Is there any way to find out where this warehouse is? What a fascinating photographic story that would be!

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#208505 - 05/04/08 01:26 PM Re: Looted pianos still in Paris warehouse?
Steve Cohen Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 10528
Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
JeromeF,

Thank you for your work.

How can we follow up on the 288?
_________________________
Piano Industry Consultant- http://www.linkedin.com/pub/steve-cohen/6/b92/b80

Consultant & Contributing Editor - Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer

Jasons Music
Maryland/DC/No. VA
Since 1937.

www.jasonsmusic.com
My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.

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#208506 - 05/04/08 02:01 PM Re: Looted pianos still in Paris warehouse?
Wim Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/25/04
Posts: 196
Loc: Belgium
May be this is a good try ? Got it from here :

http://64.233.183.104/search?q=cache:Lxy...lient=firefox-a

 Quote:
L'indemnisation des victimes de la spoliation
La Commission Mattéoli a constaté que 90 % des biens juifs spoliés en valeur ont été restitués ou indemnisés après la 2ème guerre mondiale et que la partie d'entre eux qui restait à indemniser correspondait à un montant d'environ 1,5 milliards de francs actuels.
C'est pourquoi elle a recommandé la création d'une Commission pour l'indemnisation des victimes de spoliation intervenues du fait des législations antisémites en vigueur pendant l'Occupation ( CIVS ).
CIVS - Ministère de la Défense
Direction des statuts, des pensions
et de la réinsertion sociale
Quartier Lorge
Rue Neuve de Bourg l'Abbé
BP 6140 -
14064 CAEN CEDEX
FRANCE
Tél. :(33).2.31.38.45.21
http://www.civs.gouv.fr/
Wim

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#208507 - 05/04/08 02:15 PM Re: Looted pianos still in Paris warehouse?
d4 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 28
Loc: seattle
Thanks Wim. My French is a lot rusty, though. Could you give an approximate translation?

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#208508 - 05/04/08 02:17 PM Re: Looted pianos still in Paris warehouse?
JeromeF Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/04/08
Posts: 3
Loc: France
The warehouse existed in 1948, but with no so many pianos... and was surely closed at the end of the 1940s.

In fact, if you adopt a strict juridical point of view, the last 288 pianos which were in a warehouse (certainly one of those used during the war, may be at the Palais de Tokyo basement) were sold the next months following the partial report made in january 1948. It was the law. I imagine that pianoshops and tuners were interested in those pieces, even if they needed some work. The years following the war were years of restrictions, the plants of german piano makers destroyed, and as the report stated it, it was a time when the piano business was facing trouble to satisfy customers.

Above all, it's impossible that they were kept in a warehouse for years, and even for decades. At least, If at the time of the study - 1999 and 2000 - the warehouse was still in use, the report would have to mention it (don't forget that the purpose of the work was to list all the looting pieces and calculate a way to compensate for the looting). You know, you can follow the traces of public warehouses in the public accountancy (you need to pay people to control the stock, justify the use of the building, several departments were concerned about, etc...).

French newspapers since the beginning of the 1980s are very concerned about the question of Vichy, antisemitism and looting. Every aspect of this tragedy is well known. Or I don't find a mention of this hypothetical warehouse in serious newspapers, like "Le Monde". I think it's a partial information, right at a certain time (i.e. the last years of the 1940s), and used here in a detective(?) novel with some anachronism. I remember an american novel mentioned in this forum about an American in Paris falling in love with a piano, presented to be a contemporary story, and describing in fact the Paris of the 1950s and 1960s...

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#208509 - 05/04/08 02:23 PM Re: Looted pianos still in Paris warehouse?
JeromeF Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/04/08
Posts: 3
Loc: France
 Quote:
Originally posted by Wim:
May be this is a good try ? Got it from here :

[url= [url= http://64.233.183.104/search?q=cache:Lxy...s+de+France&hl ]http://64.233.183.104/search?q=cache:LxyuLp8zIKwJ:www.crdp-reims.fr/memoire/enseigner/memoire_vichy/11spoliation.htm+Mission+d%27%C3%A9tude+sur+la+spoliation+des+Juifs+de+France&h l [/url] =nl&ct=clnk&cd=9&gl=be&client=firefox-a]http://64.233.183.104/search?q=cache:LxyuLp8zIKwJ:www.crdp-reims.fr/memoire/enseigner/memoire_vichy/11spoliation.htm+Mission+d%27%C3%A9tude+ sur+la+spoliation+des+Juifs+de+France&hl =nl&ct=clnk&cd=9&gl=be&client=firefox-a[/url]

 Quote:
L'indemnisation des victimes de la spoliation
La Commission Mattéoli a constaté que 90 % des biens juifs spoliés en valeur ont été restitués ou indemnisés après la 2ème guerre mondiale et que la partie d'entre eux qui restait à indemniser correspondait à un montant d'environ 1,5 milliards de francs actuels.
C'est pourquoi elle a recommandé la création d'une Commission pour l'indemnisation des victimes de spoliation intervenues du fait des législations antisémites en vigueur pendant l'Occupation ( CIVS ).
CIVS - Ministère de la Défense
Direction des statuts, des pensions
et de la réinsertion sociale
Quartier Lorge
Rue Neuve de Bourg l'Abbé
BP 6140 -
14064 CAEN CEDEX
FRANCE
Tél. :(33).2.31.38.45.21
http://www.civs.gouv.fr/
Wim [/b]
The report that I mentioned in my very first post is the one made by Jean Mattéoli. The remaining pieces of the looting which were not returned to the victims were paintings - not pianos.
The CIVS site is only at destination of the families looted during the war to reclaim their belongings. The word "piano" is quoted only one time in the site, with mention to one of the census given in the main study. But you may also ask about it at the Memorial de la Shoah Center of Documentation - www.memorialdelashoah.org

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