This department intervenes immediately after the claims have been verified and supplemented if necessary by the agents in the administrative unit.
Claims are investigated according to four priorities defined as one of the basic principle of the CIVS. These are the age of the claimant or of the oldest person whom the claimant represents, their state of health, the degree of their financial uncertainty and the age of the case-file.
Depending on these priorities, the Control & Investigation Network plans the responses from the archive centers searched in order to limit the length of time required to process the claims.
Initially, the principal task of this service is to identify the multiple kinds of spoliation on the basis of reading the questionnaire filled in by the claimant and the various different documents contributed to the case-file. As a second stage, the case officers forwards copies of the documents contained in the claim to the different archive centers in order that they may carry out searches in the existing archive groups.
Depending on the information set out in the questionnaire on the elements of spoliation, carrying out searches can take different directions:
Looting of apartments
In the case of pillaged apartments, the questionnaire is sent to either the CIVS search team in the Paris archives if the apartment was in the Ile de France, or to its search team in the National Archives if the apartment was located in the provinces.
This procedure enables to check if the person spoliated was a property-owner and if compensation has already been made within the framework of the French law on War Damages.
Where the Control & Investigations Network identifies the existence of a business or a store, the claim is forwarded to the National Archives for research into possible economic Aryanization.
At the same time, the CIVS Paris archives search team carries out searches in the archived registers of commerce and companies registers and rolls of trades and craftsmen, and in particular in the Trade Registry, in order to ascertain the date the business was formed and when it was struck off the register.
Where there is a case of Aryanization, an application is made to the Deposits & Consignment Office (Caisse des dépôts et consignations), the CDC. If the corporation, the business or, more simply, the stock of merchandize, were sold off by the Temporary Administrator, some of the proceeds of this sale may have been paid into the CDC.
In the case of a business whose owner had a corporate account frozen by a Temporary Administrator, the case-file is forwarded to the bank-related claims team for processing.
Internment in the French camps
If a person was interned in a camp run by the French government, the case officer consults the CD-ROM produced by the Mattéoli Commission on the camps in the French provinces, based on archives consulted over the whole of the territory.
If a person was interned in the transit camp at Drancy, a distinction must be made between the period when the camp was under French control (from July 1941 through July 1943) and when it was under German control (from September 4, 1943 to August 8, 1944). The archives produced during the French period may be consulted at the Prefecture of Police in Paris; those for the German period are located in the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation (CDJC). The Control & Investigation Network searches either of these two archive centers, depending on the period during which internment took place; this period can be determined after consulting Serge Klarsfeld’s work Memorial to the Deportation.
A concurrent search is necessary at the CDC if the period in question is the French period. The CDC has preserved the means of tracking down monies deposited by Jewish internees in the various different French camps when they were deported. The money deposited on entering the camp did not follow the deported Jews as a matter of routine. Since they were treated as “bona vacantia” – i.e. goods without an owner, when the internment camps were wound up, these deposits were retained in the coffers of the CDC.
On the other hand, however, there is no way of checking what became of deposits made by Jewish internees in the Drancy transit camp during the German period.
Life assurance searches
It is possible to trace life assurance policies taken out before the war. Archives relating to other types of insurance policies have practically all been completely destroyed. If a claimant makes reference to life assurance, the questionnaire is forwarded to the CDC for policies taken out with the Caisse nationale retraite vieillesse (CNVR) (national old age pension fund) and the Caisse nationale de prévoyance (CNP) (national provident fund) and, concurrently, with the French Federation of Insurance Companies (FFSA) which centralizes requests from the CIVS to 19 identified insurance companies. Thus, searches cover practically all insurance companies from before the war.
Claims regarding “Movable Cultural Property” and “Works of Art”
By the term “Movable Cultural Property” we mean all personal property that is the expression of or a testimonial to human design or natural evolution and that has an archeological, historical, artistic, scientific or technical value or interest.
The role of the CIVS in the area of stolen works of art, albeit limited, is nevertheless not insignificant.
The expectations of claimants on Movable Cultural Property looted during the Occupation fall into two categories: either a claim for restitution of the works of arts, or compensation for those that cannot be retrieved.
For property of a certain value declared in the claim, the work of research consists of carrying out investigations at:
the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and in the archives of the Office for Personal Property & Interests (OBIP) and the Commission for the Recovery of Works of Art (CRA),
the Direction des Musées de France,
the Brüg law Archives in Berlin,
the Drouot Auction Rooms …
These searches are often made more difficult due to imprecise wording in the claim, the absence of photographic evidence, of properly certified lists or reliable expert appraisals. The Commission rules on the principle of fairness based on documents produced, testimony and statements dating from the time of the events and on the presence of the work in an annotated catalogue or inventory.
It issues four recommendations:
Restitution in the case of MNR works,
Additional compensation under the Brüg scheme,
Dismissal of the claim.
The activity of the CIVS is not a substitute for the ongoing action of the administrative authorities for restitution (Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Culture, Department of the Museums of France, etc.) and of the application of international standards (Washington Conference in 1999, UNESCO, ICOM, Council of Europe, etc.).
Once the archive material has all been assembled, the claim is forwarded to the Principal Rapporteur who assigns the case to a magistrate-rapporteur. He will take over and continue investigating the claim, and will make contact with the claimant with a view to possibly offering compensation.
For more information, consult the FAQs