BRUSSELS - An immense art theft occured during World War II. The Nazis dragged art from occupied countries to Germany and set up ambitious collections. For Belgium, that story has not yet been told. How could paintings of Memling, Van der Weyden, Brueghel, Jordaens and Cranach so easily leave the country? The Nazis emptied homes, stole art, forced owners to sell and spent millions of Reichsmarks on the art market.

After eight years of research, Geert Sels puts together the pieces he found in archives in Paris, The Hague, Koblenz and Belgium's largest cities. With thorough detective work, he charts the routes along which Belgian art was taken away. He finds that collectors, dealers and auction houses went along with the Nazi art acquisition without much restraint.

After the war, paintings from Belgium found their way to the Louvre, Tate Britain, the Getty Museum or the Yale Art Gallery. The Netherlands, France, Germany and even Russia still appear to have art that should have returned to Belgium. That makes this an international story. There are art works that did return and now hang in Belgian museums. The rightful owners were never tracked down.

Why didn't that happen? Unlike other countries, Belgium has remained painfully passive regarding Nazi looted art. Art for das Reich brings an uncomfortable truth and is a stress test for public policy. Forgotten files are exposed and the dark side of paintings in our museums is highlighted.


Missing file.


Team members

Geert Sels

Geert Sels (1965) is currently the cultural editor for De Standaard since 1996 (Belgium).

€ 9.000 allocated on 26/03/2021.


  • Pages: 432
  • Date of publication: 29/11/2022
  • EAN: 9789401428743
  • Editor: Lannoo
  • Print: 1



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