740.00119 (Potsdam)/7–3145

No. 973
The Secretary of State to the Soviet Foreign Commissar (Molotov)1

My Dear Mr. Molotov: The United States Zone Commander has informed me that he now holds in the United States zone large amounts of art objects which may be considered in three classes:

Works of art taken from the countries overrun by Germany and readily identifiable as publicly owned, and works of art taken from private owners in the overrun countries by seizure and without compensation.
Works of art taken from private collectors in the overrun countries for which some compensation is alleged to have been made to the owners.
Works of art which were bona fide property of German citizens or institutions.

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Instructions have been issued to the Zone Commander to return the works of art of the first two categories to the governments of the countries of origin as rapidly as arrangements can be effected. With respect to the second category, receipts will be taken indicating the amount of compensation alleged to have been paid by the Germans.

It is contemplated that the third category of works of art will be shipped as rapidly as arrangements can be effected to the United States for care and safekeeping, for which adequate facilities do not exist in Germany. Their eventual disposition will be subject to future decisions.

Very sincerely yours,

[James F. Byrnes]
  1. An identical letter was sent on the same date to Bevin.