Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

New edition of periodical "Provenienz & Forschung" (Provenance and research) published

Date 2019.05.15


The re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion in­clude sup­port­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to seizures of works of art and cul­tur­al goods in the So­vi­et Oc­cu­pa­tion Zone (SBZ) and the GDR. The le­gal con­di­tions for this re­search are very dif­fer­ent from those gov­ern­ing prove­nance re­search and resti­tu­tion re­lat­ed to con­fis­ca­tion of cul­tur­al goods un­der the Nazi regime. For in­stance, the "Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples" of 1998 and the "Joint Dec­la­ra­tion" of 1999 re­fer ex­plic­it­ly to the seizure con­text af­ter the end of World War II and the Nazi state. The pe­ri­ods of 1945 to 1949 and 1949 to 1990, how­ev­er, are sub­ject to sep­a­rate le­gal reg­u­la­tions like the In­dem­ni­fi­ca­tion and Com­pen­sa­tion Act (Entschädi­gungs- und Aus­gle­ich­sleis­tungs­ge­setz – EALG) or the Law on Un­re­solved Prop­er­ty Is­sues (Gesetz zur Regelung of­fen­er Ver­mö­gens­fra­gen).

To date, there is rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle con­firmed and even less pub­lished in­for­ma­tion avail­able about the seizure of works of art and oth­er cul­tur­al goods dur­ing that time. There is lots of spec­u­la­tion based on the fact that, in ad­di­tion to oth­er au­thor­i­ties, the Min­istry of State Se­cu­ri­ty played a ma­jor part, and that its head Alexan­der Schal­ck-Golod­kows­ki had been the “em­i­nence grise” pulling the strings since the 1970s. It was thus a log­i­cal step for the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion to ini­tial­ly fo­cus its work on ba­sic re­search in co­op­er­a­tion with com­pe­tent aca­dem­ic part­ners. Co­or­di­nat­ing these re­search projects for the cen­ter is aca­dem­ic ad­vi­sor Math­ias Dein­ert.

This book­let from the Prove­nienz & Forschung se­ries in­tro­duces some ini­tial re­sults from the pi­lot projects. These re­sults al­ready in­di­cate that our per­spec­tive of the seizure of cul­tur­al goods in the SBZ and the GDR will broad­en con­sid­er­ably. The pub­li­ca­tion al­so dis­cuss­es the archiv­ing sit­u­a­tion on this is­sue, for ex­am­ple, re­gard­ing the Fed­er­al Archive in Berlin and the of­fice of the Fed­er­al Com­mis­sion­er for Stasi Records, or some state archives.

Rel­e­vant ac­tiv­i­ties and ex­pe­ri­ences of oth­er in­sti­tu­tions, in­de­pen­dent­ly of any co­op­er­a­tion with the cen­ter, are in­tro­duced as well.

We would like to point out ex­plic­it­ly that the sup­port and ini­ti­a­tion of projects on the seizure of cul­tur­al goods in the SBZ and the GDR in no way com­petes with the cen­tral found­ing task of the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion, which is the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Nazi-loot­ed art. This will con­tin­ue to be the fo­cus of the foun­da­tion’s ac­tiv­i­ties. The two con­texts of in­jus­tice can­not be equat­ed with one an­oth­er, nor can they be com­pared in terms of im­por­tance. Al­so, the dif­fer­ences in the le­gal frame­works ap­ply­ing to both fields do not al­low for sim­ple trans­fers from one to the oth­er. There are, how­ev­er, syn­er­gies when it comes to ques­tions of method­ol­o­gy, and some­times cas­es where a seizure be­tween 1933 and 1945 was con­tin­ued af­ter the end of the Sec­ond World War.

Be­fore some read­ers be­tween Con­stance and Kiel, be­tween Krefeld and Kas­sel, put this book­let aside be­cause they as­sume it deals with a pure­ly "east­ern is­sue" of the new fed­er­al states, please al­low us the fol­low­ing re­mark: many state seizures in the GDR were con­duct­ed pure­ly for the pur­pose of ob­tain­ing cur­ren­cy. Works of art, an­tiques, books etc. were not meant to grace the lo­cal mu­se­ums and li­braries, but were sold to the Fed­er­al Re­pub­lic and oth­er west­ern states for cur­ren­cy – and many pieces are like­ly still found there in mu­se­ums, li­braries and pri­vate col­lec­tions.

Prof. Gilbert Lupfer

The new edi­tion of the pe­ri­od­i­cal is avail­able for pur­chase from Sand­stein Ver­lag.