Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Fair and just solutions

1. Back­ground

In the con­text of ef­forts to re­turn cul­tur­al as­sets con­fis­cat­ed as a re­sult of Nazi per­se­cu­tion (known as Nazi-con­fis­cat­ed art), the in­ter­na­tion­al “Wash­ing­ton Con­fer­ence Prin­ci­ples on Nazi-Con­fis­cat­ed Art” of 1998 and the Ger­man “Joint dec­la­ra­tion of the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment, the fed­er­al states and the lo­cal au­thor­i­ty as­so­ci­a­tions on find­ing and re­turn­ing Nazi-con­fis­cat­ed cul­tur­al as­sets, in par­tic­u­lar those for­mer­ly in Jew­ish pos­ses­sion” of 1999 stip­u­late that “fair and just so­lu­tions” should be found be­tween the in­volved par­ties in or­der to bring clo­sure to open ques­tions and dis­agree­ments.

2. Find­ing a fair and just so­lu­tion

In light of this re­quire­ment, in prac­tice the ques­tion of­ten aris­es of what form a fair and just so­lu­tion might take.

First the as­pects of the case in ques­tion must be con­sid­ered. For ex­am­ple, the ob­ject un­der dis­cus­sion may have been pre­served, main­tained or pub­licly ex­hib­it­ed over a long pe­ri­od of time by a cul­tur­al her­itage in­sti­tu­tion.

Once the cir­cum­stances have been es­tab­lished, the next ques­tion is which type of fair and just so­lu­tion would be ap­pro­pri­ate in the spe­cif­ic case. There ex­ists a broad range of “fair and just” so­lu­tions in ad­di­tion to resti­tu­tion. The ob­ject un­der dis­cus­sion could, for ex­am­ple, be re­turned and then bought back by the pre­vi­ous own­er or pos­ses­sor in or­der to e.g. con­tin­ue to store and pub­licly present it with­in a col­lec­tion. Al­ter­na­tive­ly, the ob­ject un­der dis­cus­sion could be resti­tut­ed sub­ject to spe­cif­ic agree­ments (for ex­am­ple that it be made avail­able for a par­tic­u­lar ex­hi­bi­tion). An­oth­er op­tion is that the cul­tur­al as­set re­mains with the cur­rent pos­ses­sor or present own­er and the right­ful own­er re­ceives com­pen­sa­tion for it. Fur­ther­more, the par­ties might con­sid­er con­clud­ing a loan agree­ment—par­tic­u­lar­ly for a longer pe­ri­od of time—re­gard­ing the resti­tut­ed item. A fur­ther pos­si­bil­i­ty is that the ob­ject re­mains with the present own­er sub­ject to a re­quire­ment to ex­plain/trans­par­ent­ly present its prove­nance, par­tic­u­lar­ly the in­jus­tice of its con­fis­ca­tion and the fate of its for­mer own­er. De­pend­ing on the spe­cif­ic cir­cum­stances of the re­spec­tive case, oth­er com­pro­mis­es be­yond the afore­men­tioned mod­els may al­so con­sti­tute a “fair and just so­lu­tion”.

3. Sources

A num­ber of dif­fer­ent sources can help the in­volved par­ties find a fair and just so­lu­tion. Of note is for ex­am­ple the pub­li­ca­tion se­ries by the for­mer Magde­burg Co­or­di­na­tion Of­fice, which lists a wide range of prac­ti­cal case stud­ies out­lin­ing fair and just so­lu­tions im­ple­ment­ed in the past. The database “Prove­nien­z­doku­men­ta­tion” of the Fed­er­al Of­fice of Ad­min­is­tra­tion more­over con­tains de­ci­sions on in­di­vid­u­al resti­tu­tion re­quests re­lat­ing to art­works be­long­ing to the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment. Fur­ther ref­er­ences to case stud­ies, pub­li­ca­tions etc. can be re­quest­ed from the Lost Art Foun­da­tion or are made avail­able by the Foun­da­tion in an ap­pro­pri­ate man­ner.

Ex­am­ple of a fair and just so­lu­tion: