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