Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Advisory Commission

The “Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mis­sion on the re­turn of cul­tur­al prop­er­ty seized as a re­sult of Nazi per­se­cu­tion, es­pe­cial­ly Jew­ish prop­er­ty” was formed in 2003 on the ba­sis of an agree­ment be­tween the Ger­man fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, the fed­er­al states and the lead­ing mu­nic­i­pal as­so­ci­a­tions. The Com­mis­sion’s ac­tiv­i­ties are based on the Wash­ing­ton Con­fer­ence Prin­ci­ples of 1998 and the 1999 Joint Dec­la­ra­tion of the Ger­man fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, the fed­er­al states and the lead­ing mu­nic­i­pal as­so­ci­a­tions to lo­cate and re­turn cul­tur­al as­sets con­fis­cat­ed as a re­sult of Nazi per­se­cu­tion.

The Com­mis­sion orig­i­nal­ly con­sist­ed of eight mem­bers. Since the agree­ment be­tween the Ger­man fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, the fed­er­al states and the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties was re­vised at the end of 2016, it may now in­clude up to ten mem­bers. In­de­pen­dent per­sons with le­gal, eth­i­cal, cul­tur­al or his­tor­i­cal ex­per­tise who do not hold promi­nent po­lit­i­cal of­fice may be ap­point­ed to the Com­mis­sion. The mem­bers of the Com­mis­sion act in a vol­un­tary ca­pac­i­ty. They are ap­point­ed by the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion­er for Cul­ture and the Me­dia in agree­ment with the Stand­ing Con­fer­ence of Min­is­ters of Ed­u­ca­tion and Cul­tur­al Af­fairs (KMK) and the lead­ing mu­nic­i­pal as­so­ci­a­tions. Ini­tial­ly, mem­bers were ap­point­ed for an un­lim­it­ed pe­ri­od, but new ap­point­ments made since 2016 are now lim­it­ed to a max­i­mum pe­ri­od of ten years.

The Com­mis­sion may be called up­on in the event of dis­putes con­cern­ing the re­turn of cul­tur­al as­sets seized from their own­ers as a re­sult of Nazi per­se­cu­tion dur­ing the Na­tion­al So­cial­ist regime from 30 Jan­uary 1933 to 8 May 1945, in par­tic­u­lar from Jew­ish vic­tims of Nazi op­pres­sion. The re­quest for in­ter­ven­tion may be lodged by the for­mer own­er or their heirs, or by in­sti­tu­tions or per­sons cur­rent­ly in pos­ses­sion of the cul­tur­al as­set. The hold­ers of the cul­tur­al as­set are pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions to which the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples and the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion di­rect­ly ap­ply, as well as pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions hold­ing cul­tur­al prop­er­ty in Ger­many who are bound by these Prin­ci­ples. Fur­ther­more, pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als who hold cul­tur­al prop­er­ty may al­so lodge a re­quest with the Com­mis­sion pro­vid­ed they al­so make a bind­ing dec­la­ra­tion in line with the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples and the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion. The pre­req­ui­site for in­ter­ven­tion by the Com­mis­sion is the agree­ment of both sides to en­ter in­to me­di­a­tion with the Com­mis­sion which, where ap­pro­pri­ate, re­sults in a rec­om­men­da­tion by the Com­mis­sion, and to act on this.

At ev­ery stage of the pro­cess, the Com­mis­sion works to­wards an am­i­ca­ble set­tle­ment be­tween the par­ties. It may make rec­om­men­da­tions to set­tle dis­putes. When is­su­ing ad­vice and rec­om­men­da­tions, the Com­mis­sion takes in­to ac­count in par­tic­u­lar the cir­cum­stances lead­ing to the loss of own­er­ship of the cul­tur­al prop­er­ty and the cir­cum­stances in which the cul­tur­al prop­er­ty was ac­quired by the present own­er, as well as any in­ves­ti­ga­tions un­der­tak­en in­to the prove­nance of the cul­tur­al prop­er­ty. The par­ties re­ceive a writ­ten ver­sion of the Com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tion and the rea­sons sup­port­ing it. Both of these are al­so pub­lished on the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion’s web­site.

In 2003, the fol­low­ing per­sons were ap­point­ed to the Com­mis­sion: for­mer Fed­er­al Pres­i­dent Dr. Richard von Weizsäck­er, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Ger­man Bun­destag Prof. Ri­ta Süss­muth, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­al Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court Prof. Jut­ta Lim­bach, art his­to­ri­an Prof. Thomas Gaeth­gens, philoso­pher Prof. Gün­ter Patzig, law and so­cial philoso­pher Prof. Di­et­mar von der Pfordten, his­to­ri­an Prof. Rein­hard Rürup (mem­ber un­til April 2018) and philoso­pher Prof. Ur­su­la Wolf (mem­ber un­til Febru­ary 2018). In 2008, the art his­to­ri­an Prof. Wolf Tegeth­off was ap­point­ed as Prof. Gaeth­gens’ suc­ces­sor; in 2011, the diplo­mat and for­mer Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Dr. Hans-Ot­to Bräutigam (mem­ber un­til 2017) was ap­point­ed as the suc­ces­sor of Prof. Patzig and at the be­gin­ning of 2016 the for­mer pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­al Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court, Prof. Hans-Jür­gen Pa­pi­er, was ap­point­ed as the suc­ces­sor of Dr. von Weizsäck­er. At the end of 2016, Mar­i­on Eck­ertz-Höfer, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­al Ad­min­is­tra­tive Court, was ap­point­ed as Prof. Lim­bach’s suc­ces­sor. His­to­ri­an Prof. Raphael Gross and the for­mer di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Acade­my Berlin, Dr. Gary Smith, were ap­point­ed as new mem­bers. On Au­gust 1st, 2018, the for­mer Mem­ber of the Bun­destag Marieluise Beck, the for­mer Lord May­or Dr. Eva Lohse, and the di­rec­tor of the Mu­se­um für Kun­st und Gewerbe Ham­burg Prof. Dr. Sabine Schulze were ap­point­ed as new mem­bers of the Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mis­sion.

Prof. Lim­bach was the elect­ed chair­wom­an of the Com­mis­sion from 2003 un­til her death in Septem­ber 2016. Prof. Gaeth­gens was deputy chair­man un­til 2008; he was then suc­ceed­ed in the post in 2008 by Prof. Rürup, who has act­ed as chair­man since the end of 2015 due to the ill­ness and death of Prof. Lim­bach. On Novem­ber, 9th, 2017, Prof. Pa­pi­er has been elect­ed as new chair­man; Prof. Tegeth­off has been elect­ed as deputy chair­man.

The Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mis­sion has its own sec­re­tari­at. The sec­re­tary (Dr. Ben­jamin Lahusen) is re­spon­si­ble for the prepa­ra­tion, im­ple­men­ta­tion and fol­low-up of Com­mis­sion meet­in­gs. He is al­so the con­tact per­son for the par­ties of the pro­ceed­ings.