(Preliminary note: The term is neither nationally nor internationally defined in a legally binding sense.)
1. A cultural asset is usually an item of historic, artistic or other cultural or identity-building significance, such as an artwork or book. Even (former) articles of daily use (e.g. tableware sets) may be considered cultural assets several decades later. The term is broadly defined with regard to items seized as a result of Nazi persecution. In this case, the origin and fate of the divested owner are significant, not the material or (art-) historical value of the item.
2. With respect to defining “confiscation through Nazi persecution”, the Guidelines (PDF, 543 KB) provide assistance on aspects to be considered when examining whether an item has been confiscated under persecution, as follows: (1.)Was the claimant or his/her legal predecessor persecuted on racial, political, religious or ideological grounds between January 30, 1933, and May 8, 1945? (2.)Was a loss of assets suffered during the relevant period as a result of forced sale, expropriation or other means, and how is the burden of proof allocated with regard to determining the loss as a result of persecution? (3.)Can the presumption of losses through legal transactions be refuted with proof that the seller received a reasonable purchase price and that he/she could dispose of the item freely, and (with respect to sales after September 15, 1935—the date on which the so-called Nuremberg Race Laws were introduced, which led to a further increase in the actual, political and legal persecution of Jewish citizens, and others) that the legal transaction, in terms of substantive content, could also have taken place had the National Socialists not been in power, or the financial interests of the persecuted individual were safeguarded in a particular way with significant success, e.g. through a transfer of assets abroad?The term “confiscated through Nazi persecution” also covers works of art that were sold out of necessity during times of economic hardship, without physical coercion, either in Germany or abroad (known as “flight assets”).
We talk of "looted property" in connection with World War II when a cultural asset was illegally seized, removed or relocated during wartime or as a result of military conflict. The item is considered a cultural asset if it possesses historic, artistic or otherwise cultural or identity-building significance, such as an artwork or book. Even articles of daily use (e.g. cutlery) can be regarded as cultural assets several decades later. The legal provisions of Article 56 of the Hague Convention on land warfare of 1907 apply in this context.
The word "provenance" comes from the Latin word provenire, meaning “to come forth”. Provenance research investigates the origin and history of ownership of a cultural asset. It is most commonly known as a sub-discipline of art history, but provenance research is conducted in other scientific fields as well. Provenance research is one of the core tasks of every institution devoted to preserving cultural assets.
The necessity of provenance research, particularly in connection to the area of "Nazi confiscated property" was nationally and internationally emphasised in the Washington Principles and the Joint Declaration.