Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Joint press release by the BKM, KMK and leading municipal associations

Federal, state and municipal authorities pass resolution to establish the “German Lost Art Foundation” – High-level meeting of cultural policymakers in Essen a success

Date 2014.10.10

At a top-lev­el cul­tur­al pol­i­cy meet­ing held in Es­sen to­day, the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion­er for Cul­ture and the Me­dia Moni­ka Grüt­ters, the state min­is­ters of cul­tur­al af­fairs and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the lead­ing Ger­man mu­nic­i­pal as­so­ci­a­tions agreed to joint­ly es­tab­lish the “Deutsches Zen­trum Kul­turgutver­luste” (Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion).

The plan calls to es­tab­lish the cen­tre in Magde­burg in the com­ing year as an in­cor­po­rat­ed foun­da­tion un­der civ­il law. The found­ing part­ners are the Ger­man fed­er­al and state gov­ern­ments and the lead­ing mu­nic­i­pal as­so­ci­a­tions. Fol­low­ing the ap­proval of the plan by the Ger­man fed­er­al cab­i­net on 8 Oc­to­ber 2014, the joint res­o­lu­tion by the Con­fer­ence of the Min­is­ters of Ed­u­ca­tion and Cul­tur­al Af­fairs (KMK) and mu­nic­i­pal rep­re­sen­ta­tives was a de­ci­sive step to­ward es­tab­lish­ing the foun­da­tion on the part of the states and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion­er Moni­ka Grüt­ters stat­ed: “Es­tab­lish­ing the ‘Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion’ one year af­ter the Gurlitt case is a ma­jor mile­stone on the way to in­ves­ti­gat­ing cas­es of Na­tion­al So­cial­ist art theft in Ger­many. It is sim­ply in­tol­er­a­ble that Nazi-loot­ed art­works are still held in Ger­man mu­se­ums al­most 70 years af­ter the Nazi ter­ror regime was van­quished. With the Foun­da­tion, we are send­ing a vis­i­ble sig­nal, a moral sig­nal, which is di­rect­ly linked to the per­son­al his­to­ries of the vic­tims re­flect­ed in the his­to­ry of stolen art­works. We must nev­er for­get them nor rel­a­tivise the suf­fer­ing which per­sists across gen­er­a­tions. The fact alone that the fed­er­al and state gov­ern­ments and lead­ing mu­nic­i­pal as­so­ci­a­tions were able to come to an agree­ment to es­tab­lish such a foun­da­tion with an ex­treme­ly com­plex set of tasks in just a few months demon­strates the im­por­tance Ger­many places on com­pli­ance with the ‘Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples’. It is al­so an ex­am­ple of ‘co­op­er­a­tive cul­tur­al fed­er­al­ism’ at work. With the “Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion’ we will joint­ly suc­ceed in bundling, strength­en­ing and ex­pand­ing prove­nance re­search on Nazi-loot­ed art, as well as sig­nif­i­cant­ly im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tion with and be­tween all par­tic­i­pants. The Foun­da­tion rep­re­sents Ger­many’s ef­forts to mod­ernise the prac­ti­cal search for loot­ed art in mu­se­ums, li­braries and archives in the long term.”

The pres­i­dent of the KMK, Min­is­ter Sylvia Löhrmann, em­pha­sised that the de­ci­sion to es­tab­lish the foun­da­tion by the fed­er­al and state gov­ern­ments and lead­ing mu­nic­i­pal as­so­ci­a­tions demon­strat­ed how strong­ly po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives at all lev­els wished to ad­dress the reper­cus­sions of the un­par­al­leled art theft per­pe­trat­ed by the Nazi dic­ta­tor­ship. “My thanks go to all who have worked with such ded­i­ca­tion and con­cen­tra­tion in the past months to get the ‘Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion’ up and run­ning. This joint project rep­re­sents an ac­tive part­ner­ship be­tween fed­er­al, state and mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­i­ties in this field. All sides stand to ben­e­fit from this col­lab­o­ra­tion. The po­lit­i­cal sphere and the in­sti­tu­tions it sup­ports have ac­com­plished a great deal in the past and will con­tin­ue, bun­dle and ex­pand their ef­forts in the fu­ture,” said KMK pres­i­dent and Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion for North Rhine-West­phalia Sylvia Löhrmann.

The “Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion” will serve as the cen­tral na­tion­al and in­ter­na­tion­al con­tact part­ner in Ger­many with re­gard to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the “Wash­ing­ton Con­fer­ence Prin­ci­ples on Nazi-Con­fis­cat­ed Art” (Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples) and the “Joint Dec­la­ra­tion” by the Ger­man fed­er­al and state gov­ern­ments and lead­ing mu­nic­i­pal as­so­ci­a­tions to com­ply with them.

It will con­sol­i­date the ac­tiv­i­ties of the Magde­burg Co­or­di­na­tion Of­fice and the Of­fice of Prove­nance Re­search un­der one roof and pro­vide di­rect sup­port to the in­de­pen­dent “Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mis­sion” head­ed by the for­mer pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­al Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court Prof. Jut­ta Lim­bach, as well as lead­ing fig­ures in prove­nance re­search (e.g. re­searchers at non-prof­it prove­nance re­search or­gan­i­sa­tions or short-term projects like the “Task­force Schwabinger Kun­st­fund”).

The Foun­da­tion’s pri­ma­ry task, how­ev­er, is to con­sult and fi­nan­cial­ly sup­port pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions in their ef­forts to search for Nazi-loot­ed art­works. In ad­di­tion, it will cre­ate a new fund­ing pro­gramme tar­get­ed at pri­vate col­lec­tors and pri­vate mu­se­ums who vol­un­tary com­ply with the “Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples”. The Foun­da­tion will pro­mote fur­ther net­work­ing in the field of prove­nance re­search, ini­ti­ate and sup­port na­tion­al and in­ter­na­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tions, and co­op­er­ate with uni­ver­si­ty and non-uni­ver­si­ty re­search in­sti­tutes. As per the coali­tion agree­ment which par­tic­u­lar­ly em­pha­sised sup­port­ing prove­nance re­search to in­ves­ti­gate the loss of cul­tur­al as­sets un­der So­vi­et oc­cu­pa­tion and for­mer East Ger­many, the Foun­da­tion will al­so be re­spon­si­ble for this area of ac­tiv­i­ty. The doc­u­men­ta­tion and con­sul­ta­tion ac­tiv­i­ties with re­spect to the war-re­lat­ed re­lo­ca­tion of cul­tur­al as­sets will con­tin­ue to be con­duct­ed at the Magde­burg Co­or­di­na­tion Of­fice. As stip­u­lat­ed in the Foun­da­tion’s char­ter, fed­er­al and state au­thor­i­ties will con­tin­ue fund­ing the web­site project “Pro­tec­tion of Cul­tur­al As­sets in Ger­many” and the “Na­tion­al Cul­tur­al Trea­sures” database.

The Foun­da­tion will be­gin op­er­at­ing with a 20-per­son staff, which will in­clude the for­mer em­ploy­ees from the Of­fice of Prove­nance Re­search and the Magde­burg Co­or­di­na­tion Of­fice. The over­all num­ber of em­ploy­ees was in­creased to take in­to ac­count that the new Foun­da­tion will not on­ly be re­spon­si­ble for con­tin­u­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties of its pre­de­ces­sor in­sti­tu­tions, but al­so to ful­fil new tasks, such as de­vel­op­ing new fund­ing mea­sures and ac­tive­ly en­gag­ing in press and pub­lic re­la­tions.

In ad­di­tion to the base cap­i­tal pro­vid­ed by its found­ing mem­bers, the “Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion” will re­ceive an­nu­al fi­nanc­ing by the fed­er­al and state gov­ern­ments. The Foun­da­tion will be al­lo­cat­ed at least four mil­lion eu­ros in 2014 from the bud­get of the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion­er of Cul­ture and the Me­dia. Start­ing in 2015, the Ger­man fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will in­crease fund­ing for prove­nance re­search to a to­tal of six mil­lion eu­ros. The Ger­man states, which had pre­vi­ous­ly fi­nanced the Magde­burg Co­or­di­na­tion Of­fice and the Of­fice of Prove­nance Re­search with 608,000 eu­ros per year, will con­tin­ue con­tribut­ing this amount to the new foun­da­tion.

The sub­jects dis­cussed at the top-lev­el cul­tur­al pol­i­cy meet­ing in­clud­ed the up­com­ing amend­ment to the Cul­tur­al As­set Pro­tec­tion Law, so-called “dig­i­tal div­i­dends” and a project for a “Eu­ro­pean Year of Cul­tur­al Her­itage”. Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion­er Grüt­ters al­so re­port­ed on the cur­rent state of ne­go­ti­a­tions with re­gard to the pro­posed free trade agree­ment be­tween the EU and the USA (TTIP). The top-lev­el cul­tur­al pol­i­cy meet­ing ful­filled one of the goals of the coali­tion agree­ment. The fed­er­al and state gov­ern­ments are now col­lab­o­rat­ing more in­ten­sive­ly and sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly in plan­ning and fi­nanc­ing mat­ters (co­op­er­a­tive cul­tur­al fed­er­al­ism). In March 2014, the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion for Cul­ture and the Me­dia called the first meet­ing in Berlin, to which the Ger­man Fed­er­al Cul­tur­al Foun­da­tion and the Cul­tur­al Foun­da­tion of Ger­man States were al­so in­vit­ed, in or­der to es­tab­lish reg­u­lar di­a­logue be­tween fed­er­al, state and mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­i­ties.