The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany

By Jonathan Petropoulos | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Art Dealers

The world of art dealers has long been characterized by secrecy. It has been a business where knowledge means both power and profit. As a result, a great deal of activity in this area was concealed in the Third Reich and especially during World War II, when the business had such high political and financial stakes.

Art dealer Karl Haberstock appreciated this quality of his trade. Early in the war, he wrote to the Reich Ministry of Finance concerning regulations about the import of artworks from the occupied western lands, bemoaning the new procedures for securing export licenses: "German buyers are very much interested in purchasing paintings and works of art, most of which are in the hands of private persons who do not wish to publicize such sales; not with any intent to evade French law but simply out of consideration of their official standing in public life." 1 True to form, Haberstock was not entirely forthright about the reasons for the sellers' wish for anonymity--most wanted to avoid being identified as collaborators--but he was correct about the wish for secrecy. Due not only to politics, but also to taxes, export restrictions, and a variety of

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