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Last Updated: Friday, 21 October 2005, 18:33 GMT 19:33 UK
In pictures: Lost German art

Painting of Minerva, Frankfurt (destroyed 1944)

Thousands of colour photographs of art treasures, commissioned by Hitler at the height of World War II, have been published on the internet (all photos courtesy of the Zentralinstitut fur Kunstgeschichte).

Painting of Jupiter passing Cupid to Venus and Mercury, Dresden (destroyed 1945)

As the Allies bombarded Germany, Hitler ordered photos to be taken of the greatest artworks before they were lost forever. Many were subsequently destroyed.

Prometheus stealing fire, Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin (destroyed 1943)

The works were selected by experts, then photographers fanned out across Germany, Austria, Poland, Russia and Czechoslovakia.

Painting of Mars from palace stable in Dresden (destroyed 1944)

Photographs were taken in churches, monasteries, convents, palaces and other important buildings.

Painting of the Virtues of Frankfurt, House of the Golden Swan, Frankfurt, extolling the virtues of the city (destroyed 1944)

The photographers, working between 1943 and 1945, used the most up to date technology available to take more than 60,000 photographs.

Painting of Latona turning peasants into frogs, Schloss Nymphenburg, Munich

The images were taken on slides using Agfacolour, an innovation of the Nazi era, but after six decades the colour was beginning to fade.

Image of Theodosius the Great, New Museum, Berlin (destroyed 1945)

The slides were passed to the Central Institute for Art History in Munich and the Marburg Photographic Archive, and in 2002 the archivists began to digitize the pictures.

Cherub from the Convent Church of St Anne in Lehen (destroyed 1944)

About 60% of the church art shown has been lost forever, including this cherub from a convent church in Lehen.

Fresco by Friedrich Geselchap, entitled The War, Berlin

Secular buildings fared no better. This fresco by Friedrich Geselchap, entitled The War, had adorned the Hall of Fame in Berlin's Zeughaus until it was destroyed by bombs.

Fresco showing Thurn and Taxis in an allegory on fame, Frankfurt (destroyed 1944)

It is hoped that the quality of the photos will allow paintings, like this 18th century fresco showing Thurn and Taxis in an allegory on fame from Frankfurt, to be recreated.

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