Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

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

Date 2020.06.19

The Wash­ing­ton Con­fer­ence of 1998 and the hence adopt­ed “Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples” laid the foun­da­tion for prove­nance re­search re­gard­ing Nazi-con­fis­cat­ed cul­tur­al prop­er­ty in Ger­many. On the an­niver­sary of this mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion, the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion host­ed the in­ter­na­tion­al con­fer­ence “20 Years Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples: Roadmap for the Fu­ture” in Berlin in Novem­ber 2018. This is­sue il­lus­trates high­lights of the pro­gram: var­i­ous stake­hold­ers take stock of what has been achieved over the past twen­ty years,cur­rent de­vel­op­ments and fu­ture chal­lenges are be­ing dis­cussed and the re­sults of prac­tice-ori­ent­ed work­shops are sum­ma­rized.

Look­ing back, the Wash­ing­ton Con­fer­ence of 1998 and the “Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples” adopt­ed as a re­sult may be called the birth place of prove­nance re­search in to­day’s sense of the word. The sup­pres­sion and dis­re­gard of the Nazi’s ex­pro­pri­a­tion of cul­tur­al prop­er­ty that had been prac­ticed for decades was no longer pos­si­ble there­after, even though it took a few years for this re­al­iza­tion to reach ev­ery­where.

Re­mind­ing the world of this mo­men­tous event in late 2018 was both a great hon­or and an enor­mous chal­lenge for the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion. Dur­ing the many pre­lim­i­nary dis­cus­sions — for in­stance with the Min­is­ter of State for Cul­ture and the Me­dia, with co­op­er­at­ing part­ners such as the Prus­sian Cul­tur­al Her­itage Foun­da­tion, the Cul­tur­al Foun­da­tion of the Ger­man Fed­er­al States and the Kör­ber Foun­da­tion, but al­so with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Jew­ish Claims Con­fer­ence or the Ar­beit­skreis Prove­nien­z­forschung e. V. — it be­came clear that the con­fer­ence need­ed to be much more than a ret­ro­spec­tive look at the past. Rather, the sta­tus of im­ple­men­ta­tion of the “Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples” was to be a fo­cal point as well as iden­ti­fy­ing those ar­eas where there re­mains an ur­gent need for ac­tion. Be­yond that, how­ev­er, the Berlin con­fer­ence was to look un­daunt­ed­ly for­ward and dis­cuss how prove­nance re­search should be in­te­grat­ed in­to the ed­u­ca­tion­al pro­gram­ming of cul­tur­al in­sti­tu­tions and in­to Erin­nerungskul­tur (cul­ture of re­mem­brance) in gen­er­al. How may cul­tur­al prop­er­ty bear wit­ness to the past when there are very few Holo­caust sur­vivors left?

The three-day event at Haus der Kul­turen der Welt in Berlin was a mix of lec­tures, pan­el dis­cus­sions and work­shops. The va­ri­ety of for­mats and the sheer vol­ume of con­tri­bu­tions could not have been ad­e­quate­ly il­lus­trat­ed in a cus­tom­ary con­fer­ence vol­ume. In­stead, this is­sue of our pe­ri­od­i­cal as­sem­bles some of the sem­i­nal con­tri­bu­tions as well as im­pres­sions from the work­shops. The events held in the run-up to the con­fer­ence, where young peo­ple from all over Eu­rope came to­geth­er, are al­so rep­re­sent­ed.

It thus con­veys an au­then­tic im­pres­sion of this in­ten­sive event, its key in­sights and new im­pe­tus for the fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of prove­nance re­search, for im­proved prac­tices in the ne­go­ti­a­tion of “just and fair so­lu­tions” and for fu­ture ed­u­ca­tion­al ef­forts.

Many par­tic­i­pants part­ed un­der the im­pres­sion that an­oth­er“ Wash­ing­ton Fol­low-up Con­fer­ence” will take place in 2028 — hop­ing that this one will then fo­cus on the progress made over the pre­vi­ous years and on­ly marginal­ly on pos­si­ble short­com­ings.

We would like to ex­press our thanks to the speak­ers in­volved in the Berlin con­fer­ence who took on the ar­du­ous task of putting the top­ics,propo­si­tions and per­spec­tives in­to writ­ing, as well as the work­shop hosts who sum­ma­rized their re­sults for this pub­li­ca­tion. We al­so thank all co­op­er­at­ing part­ners for the pro­duc­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion, Haus der Kul­turen der Welt for its hos­pi­tal­i­ty, and last but not least the Min­is­ter of State for Cul­ture and the Me­dia for her gen­er­ous sup­port. The same ap­plies, fi­nal­ly, to all em­ploy­ees of the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion for their out­stand­ing com­mit­ment in plan­ning and or­ga­niz­ing the con­fer­ence.

Or­der­ing op­tion