Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Conclusions of the Specialist Conference “20 Years of Washington Principles: Roadmap for the Future”

Date 2018.11.29

An in­ter­na­tion­al con­fer­ence ded­i­cat­ed to as­sess­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples on Nazi-Con­fis­cat­ed Art since their adop­tion in 1998 was held in Berlin, Ger­many on Novem­ber 26-28, 2018. The ap­prox­i­mate­ly 800 par­tic­i­pants in­clud­ed lead­ing in­ter­na­tion­al spe­cial­ists, in­sti­tu­tions, Holo­caust sur­vivors, and their de­scen­dants. They ex­am­ined the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the prin­ci­ples, which have played a cen­tral role in resti­tut­ing Nazi stolen prop­er­ty world­wide. Or­ga­nized by the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion, the Stiftung Preußis­ch­er Kul­turbe­sitz (Prus­sian Cul­tur­al Her­itage Foun­da­tion) and Kul­turs­tiftung der Län­der, the cul­tur­al foun­da­tion of the Ger­man states, the con­fer­ence fo­cused on the fu­ture, fur­ther de­vel­op­ment, and mea­sures for im­prove­ment.

 il­bert Lupfer, the ex­ec­u­tive board mem­ber for re­search at the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion, is con­vinced: “Prove­nance re­search is an im­por­tant part of our his­toric re­spon­si­bil­i­ty and a nat­u­ral com­po­nent of mu­se­um, li­brary, and archive work on col­lec­tions, out­reach, and ed­u­ca­tion. This re­search helps in­sti­tu­tions hon­or their com­mit­ment to pass­ing on the resti­tu­tion of Nazi in­jus­tice to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

Her­mann Parzinger, pres­i­dent of the Stiftung Preussis­ch­er Kul­turbe­sitz, em­pha­sized that a large num­ber of cas­es have been pro­cessed in the past 20 years – each one with its own back­ground. “We have a re­spon­si­bil­i­ty to ex­am­ine our col­lec­tions sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly. At the same time, we are ob­li­gat­ed to take a de­tailed look at each in­di­vid­u­al case. Each one teach­es us some­thing dif­fer­ent about our his­to­ry – and this opens new ap­proach­es to re­search. But above all, we are learn­ing about the fates of the peo­ple who were dis­en­fran­chised dur­ing the Nazi regime and the lives of their de­scen­dants. Each new con­ver­sa­tion in­creas­es our un­der­stand­ing of the fate of these fam­i­lies,” he said

As Markus Hilgert, Sgen­er­al sec­re­tary of the Kul­turs­tiftung der Län­der, said: “To rec­ti­fy and ac­knowl­edge the in­jus­tice that was per­pe­trat­ed against Jew­ish cit­i­zens by forcibly con­fis­cat­ing their cul­tur­al prop­er­ty dur­ing the Na­tion­al So­cial­ist dic­ta­tor­ship, the col­lec­tions need to be made trans­par­ent and com­plete­ly dig­i­tized. Prove­nance must be com­pre­hen­sive­ly and care­ful­ly re­searched. This in­cludes hold­ing di­alogs among equals with the vic­tims’ de­scen­dants, and a will­ing­ness to resti­tute un­just­ly dis­pos­sessed cul­tur­al goods.”

As a re­sult of the con­fer­ence, the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion will pro­vide fi­nan­cial sup­port for search­es for pre­vi­ous own­ers or their heirs. And to make it eas­i­er for de­scen­dants to search for lost cul­tur­al goods, they will be com­pe­tent­ly ad­vised and men­tored. In re­sponse to con­fer­ence feed­back, the foun­da­tion will de­vel­op a re­search database to im­prove the doc­u­men­ta­tion of re­search re­sults. It will al­so help stan­dard­ize ter­mi­nol­o­gy (e.g., NS-Raubgut = Nazi plun­der) and in­ter­con­nect the ac­tors in­volved in in­ter­na­tion­al prove­nance re­search.

To im­ple­ment the ad­di­tion­al ef­fort called for by the con­fer­ence par­tic­i­pants, it will be nec­es­sary to in­crease the num­ber of per­ma­nent po­si­tions in in­sti­tu­tions that pre­serve cul­ture: mu­se­ums, li­braries, and archives. This will guar­an­tee the sus­tain­abil­i­ty of prove­nance re­search in those in­sti­tu­tions. Pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions must im­prove trans­paren­cy and ac­ces­si­bil­i­ty by com­plete­ly dig­i­tiz­ing their col­lec­tions. And in turn, pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions were urged to in­te­grate the re­sults of their prove­nance re­search in­to the out­reach and ed­u­ca­tion­al work of mu­se­ums, li­braries, and archives. 

On Novem­ber 28, ex­act­ly five days af­ter the day in 1998 on which the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples were adopt­ed, the 20 Years Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples: Roadmap for the Fu­ture con­fer­ence in Berlin’s Haus der Kul­turen der Welt with 800 par­tic­i­pants end­ed.

A video of the en­tire con­fer­ence will soon be up­load­ed to the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion web­site. Se­lect­ed in­ter­views with par­tic­i­pants are avail­able on the Stiftung Preussis­ch­er Kul­turbe­sitz web­site.


At­tached: Con­clu­sions of the 20 Years of Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples: Roadmap for the Fu­ture con­fer­ence.




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Re­sults of the Spe­cial­ist Con­fer­ence

“20 Years of Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples: Roadmap for the Fu­ture”

 held on Novem­ber 26 to 28, 2018 in Berlin

 Since the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples were adopt­ed in 1998, many coun­tries have suc­cess­ful­ly im­ple­ment­ed a num­ber of dif­fer­ent mea­sures to trace and resti­tute prop­er­ty con­fis­cat­ed by the Nazis. Due to the com­plex­i­ty and dy­nam­ics of the sub­ject mat­ter and as a re­sult of the “20 Years of Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples: Roadmap for the Fu­ture” con­fer­ence, a lot re­mains to be done. In de­tail:

 1. What has al­ready been ac­com­plished?

 Fo­cus­ing on Ger­man ac­tiv­i­ties, the mea­sures in­clude adopt­ing the “Joint Dec­la­ra­tion with the Län­der and the na­tion­al as­so­ci­a­tions of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties re­gard­ing the trac­ing and re­turn of Nazi-con­fis­cat­ed art, es­pe­cial­ly Jew­ish prop­er­ty” re­lat­ed to im­ple­ment­ing the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples in Ger­many one year af­ter their adop­tion, launch­ing the Lost Art Database (2000) on­line, and cre­at­ing the guide­lines on how to pro­ceed (Han­dre­ichung) (2001). The fol­low­ing ac­tiv­i­ties must al­so be men­tioned with re­gard to struc­tural op­ti­miza­tion: ex­pan­sion of the man­date of the of­fice co­or­di­nat­ing lost art (2002), es­tab­lish­ment of the in­de­pen­dent ad­vi­so­ry com­mis­sion on re­turn­ing cul­tur­al prop­er­ty seized as a re­sult of Nazi per­se­cu­tion, es­pe­cial­ly Jew­ish prop­er­ty (2003), the Co­or­di­na­tion Of­fice for Prove­nance Re­search (2008), the Schwabing Art Trove task­force as a re­sult of the Gurlitt case (2013), and the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion (2015).

 State­ments on the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion’s work:

 ·       The foun­da­tion fund­ed a to­tal of 273 projects with around 24.5 mil­lion eu­ros from 2008 to spring 2018 as part of the fi­nan­cial sup­port of projects re­lat­ed to prove­nance re­search. More than 113,000 cul­tur­al items from mu­se­ums and over 785,000 books and his­toric prints were ex­am­ined as part of these projects. Nu­mer­ous mu­se­ums, li­braries, and archives car­ry out prove­nance re­search on their own hold­ings with­out sup­port from the foun­da­tion.

 ·       Since 2015, the foun­da­tion has al­so sup­port­ed pri­vate ap­pli­cants.

 ·       The Lost Art Database cur­rent­ly con­tains more than 169,000 ob­jects de­scribed in de­tail and sev­er­al mil­lion ob­jects en­tered in lost and found an­nounce­ments from over 1,950 do­mes­tic and for­eign in­sti­tu­tions and peo­ple. It in­cludes en­tries of “flight as­sets” reg­is­tered as Nazi-con­fis­cat­ed prop­er­ty.

 ·       The foun­da­tion is work­ing on a re­search database that will make all rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion (for ex­am­ple, from the sup­port­ed projects or about the Schwabing Art Trove) avail­able and re­search­able from a cen­tral lo­ca­tion, in­clud­ing the op­tion to con­nect to oth­er databas­es.

 ·       As of 2019, the foun­da­tion will al­so pro­vide fi­nan­cial sup­port for the search for heirs. 

 ·       It will al­so es­tab­lish a help desk as the first point of con­tact for af­fect­ed par­ties in resti­tu­tion cas­es.

 2. What still needs to be done?

  Mu­se­ums, li­braries and archives

 ·       Spon­sors of mu­se­ums, li­braries, and archives should ac­tive­ly live up to their re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for the fur­ther and con­tin­u­ous im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples.

·       The spon­sors of cul­tur­al in­sti­tu­tions should cre­ate new per­ma­nent po­si­tions to safe­guard prove­nance re­search for the long term.

 Dig­i­tal­iza­tion/ Trans­paren­cy

 To cre­ate trans­paren­cy, in­sti­tu­tions ded­i­cat­ed to pre­serv­ing cul­ture should dig­i­tal­ize all of their col­lec­tions and make them avail­able through gen­er­al­ly ac­ces­si­ble databas­es and their own web­sites.

 Pro­cess men­tor­ship

 ·       Po­ten­tial claimants must re­ceive com­pe­tent ad­vice and men­tor­ship from the mo­ment they reg­is­ter their claim to the point when a fair and just so­lu­tion is ne­go­ti­at­ed.

 ·       In­sti­tu­tions must re­ceive sup­port in their search for right­ful own­ers or their heirs.

 Ter­mi­nol­o­gy and net­work­ing

 ·       Ter­mi­nol­o­gy (e.g., NS-Raubgut = Nazi-con­fis­cat­ed prop­er­ty) must be stan­dard­ized.

 ·       The in­sti­tu­tions in­volved in prove­nance re­search and resti­tu­tions and their databas­es in in­di­vid­u­al coun­tries must be bet­ter in­ter­con­nect­ed us­ing the lat­est tech­nol­o­gy.

·       Best prac­tice ex­am­ples must be com­piled on a na­tion­al and in­ter­na­tion­al lev­el and com­mu­ni­cat­ed to the pub­lic.

 Fair and just so­lu­tions

 ·       Fair and just so­lu­tions in the spir­it of the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples can al­so be found for ob­jects whose prove­nance is not com­plete.

 ·       A suit­able sta­tis­ti­cal overview of all mea­sures to iden­ti­fy Nazi-con­fis­cat­ed prop­er­ty and the suc­cess­ful ne­go­ti­a­tion of fair and just so­lu­tions must be de­vel­oped and pub­lished.

 ·       Clear­ly iden­ti­fied, un­claimed Nazi-con­fis­cat­ed prop­er­ty, es­pe­cial­ly from Jew­ish own­ers, should not re­main in pub­lic or oth­er pri­vate hands. Its spe­cial role in the his­to­ry of the Holo­caust must be tak­en in­to ac­count.


 ·       Ex­ist­ing me­di­a­tion com­mis­sions whose goal it is to find fair and just so­lu­tions quick­ly must be con­tin­u­ous­ly adapt­ed to take fur­ther de­vel­op­ments in­to ac­count.


 ·       Fu­ture sci­en­tists in the area of prove­nance re­search must be sup­port­ed more in­ten­sive­ly and specif­i­cal­ly.

 ·       The Nazi con­fis­ca­tion of art and cul­tur­al prop­er­ty must be re­searched and doc­u­ment­ed fur­ther and more in­ten­sive­ly; find­ings should be com­mu­ni­cat­ed to a broad au­di­ence in or­der to guar­an­tee the trans­fer of knowl­edge to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

 ·       Mu­se­ums and oth­er in­sti­tu­tions ded­i­cat­ed to pre­serv­ing cul­ture must fo­cus more on in­te­grat­ing the sub­ject of Nazi-con­fis­cat­ed prop­er­ty in their ex­hi­bi­tions and ed­u­ca­tion­al pro­grams.

 Pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als

 ·       The moral obli­ga­tions set out in the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples should be ac­cept­ed by pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als and the art trade as the cen­tral in­ter­face of trad­ing art, in­clud­ing pos­si­ble Nazi-con­fis­cat­ed prop­er­ty.


 ·       Leg­is­la­tors must ver­i­fy whether and, if nec­es­sary, how the con­cerns of the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples can be­come even more en­shrined through suit­able le­gal mea­sures.


 ·       Progress in im­ple­ment­ing the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples should con­tin­ue to be mon­i­tored at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals as part of in­ter­na­tion­al con­fer­ences.