The art market in France was surprisingly flourishing under the Occupation. Almost two million works of art changed hands between 1940 and 1944. Over 35,000 trains left Paris loaded with artwork and spoliated objects, in particular those belonging to Jewish families. What practices and what networks did those in the art market put in place during this five-year period? Who were they? What role did the French national museums play in this market?

The film offers a historical investigation into the massive transfer of artwork organised from Paris. It is a unique investigation, and the fruit of 7 years of work by historian Emmanuelle Polack, which brings together gallery owners, collectors, art dealers, Nazi dignitaries, auctioneers, unscrupulous curators, or simple intermediaries against a background of antisemitic occupation laws corroborated by the anti-Jewish legislation implemented by the Vichy government.

It's a blind spot in collective memory that echoes the current debate on the restitution of artworks, as in January 2020, two very special events occurred. In France, the Louvre Museum undertook a mission to restore to their rightful owners the works acquired by the Museum during the Occupation. In Germany, three works from the Dorville Collection, found at the home of the son of German art dealer H. Gurlitt (charged by Hitler with expanding his museum in Lintz) were returned to the family.

A film by Vassili Silovic
Written in collaboration with Emmanuelle Polack
Based on the book by Emmanuelle Polack published by Tallandier
Produced by Christilla Huillard-Kann and Corinne Delpech
Edited by Gordana Othnin-Girard

Produced by ELDA Productions
In co-production with Arte and RTS
With the participation of Histoire TV
With the support of the Centre National du Cinéma et de l'Image Animée, the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, the French Ministry of Defence and PROCIREP-ANGOA
International sales: CLPB Rights

© Elda productions 2021, ARTE France


Montreal International History Film Festival (FIFHM) - Official selection