Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

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General questions about the German Lost Art Foundation

What is the German Lost Art Foundation and what is its mission?

In order to aid the search for cultural assets and especially those of Jewish provenance which were illegally obtained through Nazi persecution ("Nazi confiscated property"), the German federal and state governments and leading municipal associations established the "Deutsche Zentrum Kulturgutverluste" (the German Lost Art Foundation) on 1 January 2015 as a civil-law foundation with headquarters in Magdeburg, Germany. The Foundation is based on Washington Principles of 1998, which Germany pledged to implement in its Joint Declaration in 1999. The Foundation is responsible for continuing and expanding the activities of the former Magdeburg Coordination Office and the former Office of Provenance Research in Berlin. It sees itself as the national and international contact partner for matters related to the illegal confiscation of cultural assets in Germany in the 20th century. Locating and identifying cultural assets seized by the Nazi regime comprises the focus of its activities. The Foundation is also responsible for investigating the war-related removal or relocation of cultural assets (so-called “looted property”) as well as the loss of cultural assets under Soviet occupation and in the GDR.

What are the tasks of the German Lost Art Foundation?

Strengthening and expanding provenance research

By providing financial assistance to research projects, the Foundation contributes to advancing research into the history of cultural assets, the fates of the victims and the roles of all other associated individuals during the years of National Socialism. The Foundation is committed to establishing cooperative partnerships with university and non-university research institutions, training provenance researchers as an integral component of higher education, and supporting continuing education measures for employees of museums, libraries and archives.

Creating transparency

The German Lost Art Foundation strives to enhance transparency at the national and international level by documenting lost and found reports via the Lost Art Database, collecting, analysing and presenting research findings of projects funded by the Foundation, publishing academic and scientific works, organising conferences and events, and conducting press and public relations activities.

Advising and networking

In accordance with its funding policies, the German Lost Art Foundation provides advice and support to public and private institutions and – under certain circumstances – individuals as well. The projects, funded by the Foundation, generally strive to determine whether particular works should be classified as cultural assets illegally seized from Jewish owners as result of Nazi persecution ("Nazi confiscated property"). The Foundation mediates and forwards inquiries to the responsible federal, state and municipal authorities, and collaborates closely with non-profit provenance research associations.
It also serves as the head office of the independent "Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property".

What tasks are not the responsibility of the German Lost Art Foundation?

The German Lost Art Foundation is not responsible for conducting provenance research of its own. It provides advice and funding in accordance with its respective funding policies to public and private institutions, and – under certain circumstances – private individuals, so that they can conduct provenance research on their own collections.

The Foundation is not responsible for the restitution of works, nor is it active in any legal advisory function. The research findings, funded by the Foundation, may serve as the basis for making decisions on matters of restitution, on which the present owners have final say.

How long has the German Lost Art Foundation existed and where is it located?

The German Lost Art Foundation was established as a civil-law foundation by the German federal and state governments and leading municipal associations on 1 January 2015. Its headquarters are located in Magdeburg, Germany.

Contact:

Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste
Humboldtstraße 12
39112 Magdeburg
Telephone+49 (0)391 727 763 0
Telefax+49 (0)391 727 763 6
emailkontakt@kulturgutverluste.de
websitewww.kulturgutverluste.de

Who oversees and finances the German Lost Art Foundation?

The German federal and state governments and three leading municipal associations are responsible for overseeing the German Lost Art Foundation. On the basis of a financial agreement between the German federal government, represented by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, and the states of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Foundation receives a funding budget each year to cover its operating costs.

Who heads the German Lost Art Foundation?

The German Lost Art Foundation is headed by an executive board: Rüdiger Hütte (PDF, 43 KB) is the full-time chairman primarily responsible for the Foundation’s administrative affairs, while Prof. Dr. Gilbert Lupfer (PDF, 39 KB) is the honorary chairman, entrusted with overseeing academic and research-related matters. Up to the 31 March 2017, the art historian Prof. Dr. Uwe M. Schneede was the honorary executive board.

How is the Foundation structured and organised?

The German Lost Art Foundation is a civil-law foundation with a legal capacity. It is headed and publicly represented by the executive board. The highest decision-making committee is the Foundation board which is chaired by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Prof. Monika Grütters. The position of chairperson alternates between federal and state oversight every three years. An international board of trustees, chaired by the Secretary General of the Cultural Foundation of German States, Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen, advises and supports the activities of the executive and Foundation board. The funding committee, chaired by Dr. Hermann Simon, founding director of the Stiftung Neue Synagoge Berlin – Centrum Judaicum, is responsible for recommending funding to research proposals.

The Foundation is comprised of four separate departments. View the organigram below (PDF, 237 KB) for more details.

How much funding did the German Lost Art Foundation receive in 2016?

In the 2016 financial year, the Foundation received 4.28 million euros from the German federal government (represented by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media) and another 608,000 euros from the German states. Most of this funding is allocated to finance decentralised provenance research. The Foundation possesses capital assets totalling 50,000 euros.

Whatever became of the Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg (Magdeburg Coordination Office) and the Bureau for Provenance Research in Berlin?

As soon as it was established, the German Lost Art Foundation took over the tasks of the Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg (Magdeburg Coordination Office) and the Bureau for Provenance Research in Berlin. Both organisations, along with their staff, were integrated into the Foundation.

Questions about project funding at the German Lost Art Foundation

If you have any further questions regarding project funding, please contact the Provenance Research Department at the German Lost Art Foundation.

What kind of projects does the German Lost Art Foundation fund?

All publicly financed institutions in Germany may apply to the German Lost Art Foundation for funding. Funding can be awarded to privately funded institutions and individuals, provided their search for Nazi confiscated property seeks a just and fair solution in accordance with the Washington Principles and the Joint Declaration, as well as serves the public interest.

What kind of funding does the German Lost Art Foundation provide?

The Foundation only offers project-related funding lasting no longer than 36 months. It is not possible to receive institutional funding through the German Lost Art Foundation.

What thematic areas must be addressed by the projects to be eligible for funding through the German Lost Art Foundation?

The German Lost Art Foundation supports projects which investigate collections in order to determine whether they contain cultural assets seized as a result of Nazi persecution, in particular, those of Jewish ownership. In the future, funding may also be granted to projects which investigate whether certain collections contain cultural assets that were looted or relocated during Soviet occupation and in the GDR.

What are the funding requirements?

To be eligible for funding, applicants must provide evidence that their institution and its collections may possibly possess works that were illegally seized through persecution during the National Socialist regime. Click here for further information. Funding is provided to finance research activities. This means that allocated funding can be used to pay for temporary positions, work contracts, travel expenses and material expenditures. Specific requirements are provided in the Funding guidelines (PDF, 100 KB) (only German version) of the German Lost Art Foundation.

What types of projects are funded?

The German Lost Art Foundation funds

  • the systematic investigation of collections (long-term application):
    Applicants may apply for long-term research funding of up to two years with an option to extend. The maximum funding duration is 36 months.
  • Short-term investigation or research activities:
    Applicants may apply for short-term investigation or research funding lasting up to six months. Such projects may request up to 15,000 euros in funding.

What are the application deadlines for the different types of projects?

The application deadline for long-term research projects is 1 April and 1 October of every year. Applications for short-term investigation and research activities can be submitted at any time.

Do the applying institutions have to report on the progress of their projects?

For projects awarded 24 months of funding, the Foundation requires applicants to submit an interim report after twelve months. Furthermore, all applicants are obliged to submit a final report on their projects. The final report enables the Foundation to evaluate the project findings and provide the results to other public institutions in Germany to support their provenance research efforts. Applicants must submit the final report no later than three months after the end of the funding period in both digital and printed form. For projects awarded funding for less than or exactly twelve months, applicants need only submit a final report.

What would happen if a project revealed that the collection did indeed contain cultural assets that had been illegally seized – particularly from former Jewish owners – as as result of Nazi persecution, or if such a suspicion could not be ruled out?

If during the course of a funded project, researchers should find evidence indicating that a piece was confiscated from its previous owner as a result of Nazi persecution, the project administrator must notify the German Lost Art Foundation as directed by the Guidelines for implementing the Statement by the Federal Government, the Länder and the national associations of local authorities on the tracing and return of Nazi-confiscated art (PDF, 297 KB) and publicly announce the find on the Lost Art Database.

How many projects has the German Lost Art Foundation funded so far?

You can view the project funding statistics of the German Lost Art Foundation here.

Questions about the Lost Art Database operated by the German Lost Art Foundation

What is the Lost Art Database, and what are its tasks and goals?

The Lost Art Database serves as a tool for registering cultural assets seized from their former owners by the Nazi regime, as well as those that were removed or relocated due to the events of the Second World War. The database also includes entries of missing cultural assets which could have been lost under such circumstances.

The Lost Art Database is divided into two sections, one for reports of lost works and one for found works:

1. Reports of lost works

This section is comprised of cultural assets which public organisations, private individuals or institutions have lost and have reported missing via the Lost Art Database. Owners or trustees of cultural assets with uncertain or incomplete provenance can search this database to determine whether these pieces have been reported missing somewhere else.

2. Reports of found works

This section is comprised of items which are known to have been seized as a result of Nazi persecution, or removed or relocated as a result of war, or those which might have been lost under such circumstances. Private individuals and institutions who have suffered losses of this kind can search the database to determine whether the cultural assets they are seeking have been reported as found.

When and why was the Lost Art Database set up?

The Lost Art Database operated by the German Lost Art Foundation was launched in 2000 by the Foundation’s predecessor, Magdeburg Coordination Office.

The Lost Art Database records lost and found reports on cultural assets that were seized through Nazi persecution (“Nazi-confiscated property”) and cultural assets displaced as a result of war (“looted property”). This process enhances transparency with regard to the items and the circumstances of their loss, and enables the respective cultural assets to be identified. The aim is to bring together those seeking lost items and the current owners of items in an effort to reach fair and just solutions in line with the Washington Principles and the German Joint Declaration.

The Washington Principles of 1998 called for the establishment of a central registry with the aim of publicizing art that had been confiscated by the Nazis and not subsequently restituted, in order to locate its pre-war owners or their heirs. Germany has committed itself to implementing the Washington Principles together with the Joint Declaration (1999). The agreed establishment of an online platform, the Lost Art Database, goes beyond the registry called for in the Washington Principles.

With the launch of the Lost Art Database in 2000, the requirement stipulated in the Washington Principles and the Joint Declaration was implemented, and a “Provenance research” module was added in 2005. This module provides more detailed information, e.g. on persecuted collectors. The Foundation is continuously developing the website and database and will expand the range of information available.

Does an entry in the Lost Art Database have any legal impact or substantiate a claim of entitlement?

The documentation of an item on www.lostart.de does not have any legal impact in terms of determining, substantiating or deciding ownership for the benefit of the respective reporting party or at the expense of a third-party. The current status of ownership of a former owner can be disputed today. In line with the Washington Principles and the Joint Declaration, an entry in the Lost Art Database serves to enhance transparency, identify items as extensively as possible and subsequently establish contact between the parties who have lost and found the respective item.

What are the registration and deletion criteria of the Lost Art Database?

If an item is not reported as lost on the Lost Art Database, can it be regarded as free of suspicion of confiscation through Nazi persecution?

No. The Lost Art Database contains reports provided by those who are seeking lost items and only reflects their current state of knowledge. It is difficult to precisely determine the amount, location or even the name of the confiscated cultural asset, and many heirs have no knowledge of the possessions seized from their persecuted relatives. Therefore, all cultural assets with an incomplete provenance history between 1933 and 1945 deserve to be evaluated with regard to possible confiscation through Nazi persecution. If suspicion is confirmed or cannot be ruled out, the item can be reported as found on the Lost Art Database. The Guidelines for Implementing the Joint Declaration (PDF, 297 KB) provide assistance for evaluating whether cultural assets have been seized as a result of Nazi persecution.

Questions about the Advisory Commission

What is the Advisory Commission and what are its tasks?

The "Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property" (for short: "Advisory Commission" or the "Limbach Commission") was constituted in Berlin on 14 July 2003. This commission was formed in agreement between the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) and the leading municipal associations. It can be called upon in cases of dispute involving the restitution of cultural assets which were seized during the Third Reich, especially from persecuted Jewish citizens, and which are now held by museums, libraries, archives or other public institutions in the Federal Republic of Germany. The commission can mediate between the institutions which manage the collections and the former owners or heirs of the cultural assets, if desired by both sides. It can also offer recommendations for settling differences of opinion. A petition for mediation is granted on the condition that the parties have attempted to settle their conflict on their own. Only then, if their negotiations fail, can they call upon the Commission to mediate. Furthermore, both sides must express their mutual agreement to have the Commission address the dispute.

Who are the members of the Advisory Commission?

In 2003, the following persons have agreed to volunteer their time and effort for this purpose: the former Federal President Dr. Richard von Weizsäcker, the former president of the German Bundestag Prof. Dr. Rita Süssmuth, the former president of the Federal Constitutional Court Prof. Dr. Jutta Limbach, the art historian Prof. Dr. Thomas Gaethgens, the philosopher Dr. Günter Patzig, the philosopher of jurisprudence Prof. Dr. Dietmar von der Pfordten, the historian Prof. Dr. Reinhard Rürup and the philosopher Prof. Dr. Ursula Wolf. In 2008, the art historian Prof. Dr. Wolf Tegethoff was appointed as Prof. Gaethgens' successor; in 2011 the Commission nominated the former diplomat and attorney Dr. Hans-Otto Bräutigam as the successor of Prof. Patzig and at the beginning of 2016 the former head of the Federal Constitutional Court Dr. Hans-Jürgen Papier as the successor of Dr. von Weizsäcker. At the end of 2016, the former president of The Federal Administrative Court Marion Eckertz-Höfer Prof. Limbach's successor. Furthermore, the historian Prof. Dr. Raphael Gross and the former director of the American Academy Berlin Dr. Gary Smith were newly appointed.

Are the recommendations of the Advisory Commission legally binding and where can I find the recommendations?

The recommendations of the Advisory Commission are not legally binding. You can read all the previous recommendations issued by the Advisory Commission here.

What does the German Lost Art Foundation do for the Advisory Commission?

The German Lost Art Foundation serves as the administrative headquarters of the Commission. In this function, it is responsible for preparing, conducting and following up the sessions of the Advisory Commission. It also serves as the contact partner for petitioners.


Kontakt zur Beratenden Kommission



German Lost Art Foundation Dr. Michael Franz Geschäftsstelle Humboldtstraße 12 39112 Magdeburg Telephone: +49 (0) 391 727 763 12 Telefax: +49 (0)391 727 763 6 email: michael.franz@kulturgutverluste.de

Questions about the “Gurlitt Provenance Research” project

What is the "Gurlitt Provenance Research" project”?

The German Lost Art Foundation launched the "Gurlitt Provenance Research" project in January 2016 to continue the research of the Gurlitt art trove. In this exceptional case, the project administrator is the Foundation itself. The research efforts focus on those works which the taskforce "Schwabing Art Trove" had not been able to conclusively investigate. Priority is given to artworks, for which there is reason to believe they were seized as a result of Nazi persecution, or for which restitution claims have been made.

Where can I find more information about the "Gurlitt Provenance Research" project?

You can obtain extensive information about the project, its financing and organisation here.

Other questions

What classifies as cultural assets seized through Nazi persecution (“Nazi confiscated property”)?

Here you will find a definition.

Why do some German archives, libraries and museums (or organisations devoted to cultural preservation) still hold cultural assets that were seized from those persecuted by the National Socialist regime?

Even after 71 years since the end of World War II, it is quite possible that cultural assets seized as a result of Nazi persecution are still in the holdings of various German cultural institutions and organisations. The items most likely to arouse suspicion are those that were created prior to 1945 and/or were acquired by the respective institution after 1933. Until the Washington Conference and the Joint Declaration, it appeared that the Allied regulations for restitution, the West German reparation laws and the Property Act of 1990 had settled the pecuniary repercussions of Nazi persecution – including the confiscation of cultural assets. However, since the Washington Conference, these issues were taken up again with respect to ethical considerations.

What classifies as cultural assets removed or relocated as a result of war ("looted property")

Here you will find a definition.

What is provenance research?

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.

What are the Washington Principles?

On the occasion of the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets in 1998, 44 countries including the Federal Republic of Germany adopted the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-confiscated art (more commonly referred to as the “Washington Principles”). The participating countries pledged to search for further Nazi-confiscated cultural assets, establish corresponding registries, and if necessary, take the required steps to reach just and fair solutions. The Washington Principles represent a moral and ethical, but non-binding declaration.

Washington Principles

What is the Joint Declaration?

On 9 December 1999 Germany implemented the Washington Principles of 1998 with the “Declaration of the German Federal Government, German states and leading municipal associations to locate and return cultural assets confiscated through Nazi persecution, especially those of Jewish ownership”.
In this document, commonly referred to as the “Joint Declaration”, German federal, state and municipal authorities expressed their resolve to “locate and return cultural assets confiscated through Nazi persecution, especially those of Jewish ownership”. In the spirit of the Washington Principles, the parties pledged by way of the responsible committees of relevant public funding organisations to work toward “identifying cultural assets which were confiscated through Nazi persecution, ascribing them to their respective victims, and returning them to the legitimate former owners or heirs upon individual assessment”. Furthermore, they agreed to establish an online platform, on which cultural assets of undetermined provenance could be published. This was launched in the year 2000 as the Lost Art Database. Similar to the Washington Principles, the Joint Declaration also stresses the intention to reach fair and just solutions.

Joint Declaration

What are the Guidelines for implementing the Statement by the Federal Government, the Länder and the national associations of local authorities on the tracing and return of Nazi-confiscated art, especially Jewish property?

In order to facilitate compliance with the Washington Principles and the Joint Declaration, guidelines were created, containing legally non-binding guidelines to help museums, libraries and archives conduct independent investigation and provenance research. The guidelines represent a manual with which users can determine the provenance of cultural assets that were confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution. The manual also includes several examples of how institutions can respond to claims of restitution, although a case-by-case assessment is indispensable due to the complex circumstances involved.

Guidelines for implementing the Statement by the Federal Government, the Länder and the national associations of local authorities on the tracing and return of Nazi-confiscated art, especially Jewish property (PDF, 297 KB)

What are "fair and just" solutions?

As part of the efforts to locate and return cultural assets seized as a result of Nazi persecution, the Washington Principles of 1998, the German Joint Declaration of 1999 and the Terezin Declaration (PDF, 86 KB) called on negotiating parties to arrive at fair and just solutions. In practice, however, there is often a question of what such a solution should look like. The experience of past years has shown that – in addition to the return (restitution) of cultural assets – other solutions are possible, such as payment of indemnification, return with subsequent purchase, or return with the permission to keep the piece as a permanent loan. You can find selected examples of possible solutions here (only German version).

Are institutions legally obliged to return "Nazi confiscated property"?

Institutions are not (or no longer) legally obliged to return such assets. The basis for restitutions are put forth in the Washington Principles and the Joint Declaration. These are legally non-binding provisions, or more specifically, voluntary commitments. With the ratification of the Washington Principles in 1998, a total of 44 countries pledged to seek fair and just solutions. The Joint Declaration of 1999 specified these points for publicly funded German institutions and called on them, "on the basis of the ratified principles and in accordance with their legal and factual possibilities, to continue their search for cultural assets seized as a result of Nazi persecution and, where applicable, undertake the necessary steps to achieve a just and fair solution."

Where can I obtain publications from the former Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg (Magdeburg Coordination Office)?

You can order the publications here.