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Re-Evaluating Justice: Comparing Allied Restitution Operations in Post-World War II Europe and Asia

In recent years there has been surge in popularity of Nazi art looting in Europe and the Monuments Men and Women who worked to recover and return said art. There have been a number of popular books on the topic as well as several star-studded films. However, far less attention is paid to Germany’s ally Japan, which also engaged in the looting of art and cultural artifacts from occupied territory in Asia. The Monuments Men and Women sent to Japan following the war to aid in the restitution process were faced with many of the same problems their comrades in Europe did as well as obstacles unique to Asia.
This paper looks at both the Nazi art looting mechanism in Europe and that of their Japanese counterpart in Asia. It argues that, just like Nazi art looting goes hand in hand with the Holocaust, Japanese art looting goes hand in hand with colonialism and imperialism. It also compares the Monuments Men’s restitution efforts in Europe to those in Asia. This paper tries to explain exactly why there was such a difference in the amount of restitution between Europe and Asia and how the Monuments Men and Women’s experiences differed in the two theaters.
This paper attempts to connect a cultural aspect of World War Two in art plunder and restitution with military experience of Monuments Men and Women actually on the ground. There has been very limited scholarship on the Allied art restitution efforts in Asia and equally limited focus on the Monuments Men and Women stationed in Asia. This paper will bring a new and comparative lens to the World War Two art looting and Monuments Men conversation. Thank you for listening to my proposal.