Archive of artworks stolen by Nazis goes online

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Catalogue launched to help historians and families trace art looted during Hitler era.

Despite a reputation for reaching for their revolvers at the merest mention of culture, the Nazis were among the most ruthless, avaricious and methodical art collectors ever to cast a greedy eye and thieving hand over other people's property.

"Use every means of transport to get all works of art out of Florence … [save] works of art from English and Americans," ran one of Heinrich Himmler's orders. "In fine get anything away that you can get hold of. Heil Hitler."

That appetite for the most beautiful and precious works of European art saw thousands of pieces stolen from their owners between 1933 and 1945 and entire collections raided, scattered and lost.

The quest to recover them and, where possible, return them to their rightful places has been under way for almost seven decades.

Now, thanks to a deal between some of the world's leading archives and museums, an online catalogue of documents has been created to help families, historians and researchers track down the missing artworks....

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