By 1949, the U.S. government had placed over 10,000 works of art that had been looted by the Nazis in the hands of the government of Bavaria, which had been given the task of returning the items to their rightful owners. Now an investigation has concluded that a significant number of these works found their way back into the hands of former high-ranking members of the Nazi party. Abigail Cain writes:
As the investigation details, the government officials responsible for returning the looted work were, in fact, a series of men with ties to the Nazi party. The Bavarian state secretary transferred the authority to distribute the art to the director of the Bavarian State Paintings Collections, Eberhard Hanfstaengl, a cousin of Hitler’s secretary of foreign affairs, Ernst Hanfstaengl.
Later, Ernst Buchner—the curator of the Bavarian State Paintings Collections between 1932 and 1945—took the reins. This went against the express orders of [U.S. officials], who said to “deny him any position in any art-collection point in Germany at any point.” Buchner staffed his department with men of similar Nazi-era backgrounds. . . .
[T]he Bormanns, Görings, von Schirachs, Franks, and Streichers—all former high-ranking Nazi families—successfully negotiated for the return of looted art they had obtained at the peak of the Reich, often directly with state officials. Jewish families, on the other hand, struggled against “impossible hurdles” that kept them from recovering their property.