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 is a central point of contact in Germany for all matters pertaining to the unlawful seizure of cultural assets. Cultural assets expropriated as a result of Nazi persecution remains the main focus of its work. In addition, the Foundation’s areas of activity cover cultural assets displaced as a result of war (“looted property”), cultural assets lost during the Soviet Occupation and in the GDR, and cultural assets and collections from colonial contexts.

What are the tasks of the German Lost Art Foundation?

Strengthening and expanding provenance research

By providing financial support for research projects, the Foundation enables investigations to be carried out into the history of cultural assets, the fates of persecuted individuals, and the roles of stakeholders, particularly during the National Socialist era. In addition, the Foundation’s areas of activity cover cultural assets displaced as a result of war (“looted property”), cultural assets lost during the Soviet Occupation and in the GDR, and cultural assets and collections from colonial contexts. 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 the field of cultural property expropriated as a result of Nazi persecution, the German Lost Art Foundation provides advice and support based on relevant funding guidelines to public, charitable, and private institutions and, under certain circumstances, individuals to enable them to conduct research into their own collections (provenance research). In the field of colonial contexts, support is directed at public and charitable institutions. The German Lost Art Foundation brings together the stakeholders involved in provenance research, nationally and internationally, and promotes scientific exchange in this area.

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. In the field of cultural property expropriated as a result of Nazi persecution, it provides advice and support to public, charitable, and private institutions and, under certain circumstances, individuals to enable them to conduct research into their own collections (provenance research). In the field of colonial contexts, support is directed at public and charitable institutions.

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?

Since May 15, 2020, the German Lost Art Foundation is headed by the executive board, Prof. Dr. Gilbert Lupfer (PDF, 62 KB) who already has been the honorary chairman since April 1, 2017. Up to May 14, 2020 Rüdiger Hütte was the full-time chairman.

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 Dr. Günter Winands, Head of department in the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. An international board of trustees advises and supports the activities of the executive and Foundation board. The funding committees are responsible for recommending funding to research proposals.

The Foundation is comprised of five separate departments. View the organigram below (PDF, 7 MB) for more details.

How much funding did the German Lost Art Foundation receive in 2021?

According to its business plan, the Foundation receives 11.2 million euros from the German federal government (represented by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media) and another restricted grant amounting to 62,000 euros from the Land Saxony-Anhalt in the 2021 financial year. 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 in the field of Nazi-looted cultural property

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, 1 MB) (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 25,000 euros in funding.

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

The application deadline for long-term research projects is 1 January and 1 June 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, 2 MB) 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, 2 MB) provide assistance for evaluating whether cultural assets have been seized as a result of Nazi persecution.

Questions about the Help Desk for enquiries about cultural assets seized in the National Socialist era

Will the Help Desk do archival research on claimants' behalf?

The Help Desk can assist with initial online research as well as small archival research tasks centred around Berlin. For more extensive research and archival holdings further afield, the Help Desk can assist with finding a specialist researcher.

Will the Help Desk provide just an initial introduction or will it intervene on behalf of the claimant if, for example, a museum does not engage with the claimant’s enquiry?

The Help Desk will identify stakeholders, decision-makers and contacts relevant to a claim. If discussions stall, the Help Desk will work constructively with everybody involved to encourage further discussions leading towards fair and just solutions.

Does the Help Desk deal only with property lost in Germany or will it assist with claims for property lost in other countries?

The main focus of the Help Desk is on property currently held in German institutions that may be subject to restitution claims. However, above and beyond this remit the Help Desk can be consulted on general enquiries around matters of cultural assets seized by the National Socialists in their sphere of influence between 1933 and 1945.

Does the Help Desk provide legal advice?

No.

What kind of cultural goods does the Help Desk assist with? Are there types of property claims where it cannot assist?

Cultural assets include items of fine and decorative arts, household items and books, but also other types of seized object held by institutions. The Help Desk cannot assist with real estate, livestock, matters relating to citizenship and social security, insurance, or company assets.

Can the Help Desk assist with claims for property appropriated by the Soviets/GDR?

The Help Desk is tasked with assisting victims of National Socialist seizures and their descendants. However, the German Lost Art Foundation has a department dealing with assets lost under the Soviet occupation and the GDR.

Further information

What financial assistance is available to claimants to cover their research costs?

Claimants can apply for funding from the German Lost Art Foundation for research into their looted assets. For those who are not resident in Germany, this can be done in partnership with a Germany-based researcher, representative, or institution.

Can the Help Desk recommend a provenance researcher for hire?

The Help Desk can supply a list of free-lance provenance researchers who are member of the Provenance Research Association (https://www.arbeitskreis-provenienzforschung.org/).

Besides working with a professional researcher, how can families get started on tracing looted assets?

National Socialist seizures covered everything from the most basic household items to unique and high-profile work of art. A unique item is easier to trace than an object of which several or even many were made. Documentation relating to objects can comprise photographs of interiors, letters referring to specific objects, paperwork from post-war claims correspondence, press cuttings etc. Together with genealogical information and addresses of former residences, these can form a useful basis for further research.

Is there a value threshold that needs to be reached before the Help Desk will assist a claim or will it help with a claim for goods worth a few hundred euros or less?

The Help Desk will provide assistance regardless of property value.

Is there a directory of museums in Germany, especially smaller ones, that would have received goods seized from local families?

The German museum landscape is extensive and varies widely in its administrative structure due to the cultural sovereignty of the Federal States. Museums of all types and sizes received objects through a multitude of channels from 1933 until today. Tracing the path of seized assets can be a complex undertaking and often requires specialist knowledge.

Will the Help Desk provide translation services?

The Help Desk can supply a limited extent of translations, subject to availability of time. It cannot supply certified translations. However, it can assist with finding a translator for more extensive or specialist tasks.

Questions about project funding for research on objects and collections from colonial contexts

Can only museums submit applications?

No. Applications may be submitted by all publicly funded institutions based in Germany that collect, hold or research cultural goods from colonial contexts. These include museums, libraries, universities, and other research institutions. Since January 1, 2021, organizations and institutions based in Germany that are recognized as serving public-benefit purposes under Section 59 in conjunction with Section 52 of the German Fiscal Code have also been allowed to submit applications for provenance research. If your institution is not entitled to apply—perhaps because it is not based in Germany—you can cooperate with an institution that is entitled to do so.

Can individuals or institutions outside Germany, e.g. in the countries of origin, apply?

As a general rule, individuals or institutions based outside Germany may not apply. However, they may develop a cooperation project with a German partner in which the German partner is responsible for submitting the application and managing the funds. In order to facilitate the joint development of an application, the application may also be submitted in English (see below). The project should focus on collections held in German institutions, even if the research initiative comes from abroad.

What sort of cooperative partnership with experts, interest groups and institutions in/from the countries and communities of origin is desirable? How do I initiate such a cooperative partnership?

Where possible, cooperation partners from the countries and communities of origin of the collections should be involved on equal terms from as early on as the application stage and the research concept should be developed jointly. In particular, potential claimants or possible descendants should be included, where appropriate. If this is not possible, you should at least identify and contact potential cooperation partners prior to submitting the application. Should this also not be possible for you, please give reasons for this in the application, and explain how you plan to initiate and conduct a cooperative partnership within the project. Possible initial points of contact may be embassies, national museums, and thematically related museums in the countries concerned.

Can I submit an application jointly with other institutions? Will joint projects also be funded?

Yes, that is possible and even encouraged. You are advised to involve the German Lost Art Foundation in the project conception at an early stage.

Do I have to be an owner of a collection myself in order to research it?

As a rule that is the case, but you may, for instance, investigate a museum’s collection as a member of a university, e.g. as part of a project on basic and context research, with the consent of the collection's owner. For the application, it is then necessary to provide an informal and non-binding declaration of intent on cooperation from the owner or person with the authority to possess the objects to be investigated.

Can an institution submit a further application if it has already received funding for a project? Does the project that has already been approved need to be completed beforehand?

According to the funding guideline (PDF, 116 KB), funding from the Foundation is awarded solely for “individual projects”; conversely, “institutional or permanent funding” cannot be granted. In principle, it is possible for an institution to submit several applications and have them all approved, but these should differ significantly in terms of their content and objectives. However, one institution may not submit two applications within one funding round and funding line. The preceding project should also be completed before a new application is submitted.

What exactly does the term “colonial contexts” mean? The German colonial era?

Essentially, the term “colonial contexts” describes much more than just the formal colonial rule, such as German, French, British, Dutch or Belgian colonial rule. It also includes the circumstances, structures and processes that accompanied European colonial expansion overall, i.e. those that preceded formal colonization or can be considered the consequence of it. Therefore, colonial contexts did not come into existence when German colonies were established in 1884, but, instead, developed steadily from the 15th century onwards—around the time the Spanish started to colonize the Americas. In particular, these contexts are characterized by structures with great imbalances of political power, which gave rise to collection and procurement practices that would not be legally or ethically justifiable today. Equally, colonial contexts did not inevitably end in 1918/19 when the German Empire lost its colonies, nor did they end in the 1950s and 1960s when many African countries gained their independence. Colonial contexts thus existed and exist in different regions and countries at different times. The “Guidelines for German Museums. Care of Collections from Colonial Contexts” (2019) published by the German Museums Association describes and explains these different dimensions of the term “colonial contexts” and suggests useful priorities for work and research in this area.

What is basic and context research?

Similar to the interpretation explained above, basic and context research also relates to the collection and acquisition circumstances of cultural goods and collections. It concerns issues that are of fundamental importance for provenance research into colonial contexts, beyond individual objects and object groups. These include, for example, the reconstruction and analysis of networks, structures, processes, and events that were significant for the appropriation of objects and their transfer to German collections (e.g. “research expeditions”). Consider whether, in fact, this overarching meaning applies to your project. This is the case if, for example, your research findings are relevant for a large group of institutions that hold collections, for provenance researchers, and/or for interest groups from the countries of origin.

Can I also propose a digitization, cataloging or indexing project?

No, the Foundation does not fund projects that focus solely on digitization, cataloging or indexing. The digitization of project findings can be supported only as part of a provenance research project.

Should projects deal only with ethnographic objects or can other object categories be the subject of an application? Does the Foundation have specific priorities?

In principle, all objects from colonial contexts can be the subject of an application, i.e. besides ethnographic objects also archeological, geological or scientific objects.
Where prioritization is necessary in the context of extensive collections, assistance may be provided by the funding guideline itself (Section IV (2) “Object of Funding”), the recommendations from the “Care of Collections from Colonial Contexts” guideline published by the German Museums Association (2019), and the “Framework Principles for dealing with collections from colonial contexts” published by representatives of the German government, the Cultural Affairs Ministers of the Länder, and the municipal umbrella organizations (2019).

Can a museum investigate the provenance of its entire holdings?

As a rule, this is not possible. A systematic overall review of holdings can only be funded for small establishments with a limited number of objects. Please seek advice on this from the department.

Is there a minimum or maximum number of objects/human remains that should be dealt with in an application?

No, there are no particular specifications here. However, please try to make a realistic assessment of what can be dealt with in the time period you have proposed. The focus is on the quality of the research project, not the number of objects dealt with.

Is a consultation mandatory prior to the submission of an application?

A consultation is mandatory as stipulated in the funding guideline (Section V (5)). A consultation on form and content is also recommended so that we can ensure your application fully complies with the specifications in the funding guideline in terms of scope and objectives.

Can an application be rejected for formal reasons?

Errors of form may lead to disqualification of the application. Please read the Department’s comments and recommendations and use them as an aid. They will allow your application to be accepted for assessment, but this does not mean that it will be successful.

What preliminary work should an applicant have already done? How specific does the project planning have to be?

Please refer to the section “Antrag vorbereiten und Beratung nutzen” (Preparing an application and taking advice) in the information on project funding (German only).

What should the duration of my project be?

For long-term projects, an application can be submitted for a period of up to 24 months with the option to extend by a maximum of 12 months. However, it may also make sense to propose a project with a shorter term initially (e.g. 12 months), and then submit an extension request of up to 24 months later on. This could be the case, for example, if you are planning to do basic preliminary work first as part of the project, such as determining the regional origin of objects, and then establish the relevant international cooperative partnerships in a second stage.

What is the applicant’s own financial contribution? How big does it need to be?

Grants such as those awarded by the German Lost Art Foundation are intended as partial financing, i.e. the grant recipient is also required to make their own financial contribution. Under German funding legislation, the applicant’s own contribution is all the cash resources that the applicant brings to the project. The following are examples of items that can be included as the applicant’s own resources: staff costs, workplace costs, office materials, travel costs, restoration support for provenance research, procurement of equipment/items required for the project (subject to depreciation), exhibition costs, and publication costs. Proof is required of the resources spent; the grant recipient must provide evidence of all this expenditure when the use of funds is checked.
If you have any further questions on this subject, please contact the Department directly for individually tailored advice.

Are there any requirements for the payment of foreign cooperation partners?

For information on payment amounts, we recommend referring to the “Aufenthaltskosten für Deutsche im Ausland” (Living expenses for Germans abroad, German only) which is regularly published and updated by the DAAD. Staff costs are normally paid in the form of fees. To simplify the procedure, we advise you to include the travel costs incurred for project partners in the fee and estimate a total amount. Please remember to take any sales tax into account in your calculations.

Who decides whether to approve my application?

The Funding Committee checks all long-term funding applications that are received and then makes a funding recommendation, i.e. a recommendation for the approval (with or without conditions) or the rejection of the application. The Executive Board makes the final, legally binding decision. For short-term applications, only the Executive Board is involved in the decision.

What happens to the results of my research project? Are they also made available in the German Lost Art Foundation’s Proveana research database?

Yes. Upon completion of the project, you are contractually obliged to submit a detailed research report to us. The Foundation will incorporate the results contained therein into the research database; the full report will also be accessible via Proveana. It is usually necessary to blank out some parts of the text for ethical or legal reasons.

What is an Initial Check?

An Initial Check is intended to enable institutions that collect or hold cultural goods to carry out an initial, basic examination of their collection if they do not have the necessary staff capacity to do so themselves. At least some evidence to indicate a link to colonial contexts should exist, however, it is not necessary to know any concrete or detailed information. An Initial Check can be proposed for all types of objects. One possible result of an Initial Check is the identification of objects or groups of objects that require more extensive provenance research. Upon completion of the project, a short-term or long-term research application can be submitted after consultation with the department.

Who can apply for an Initial Check?

The Initial Check is primarily intended for collections that are not in a position to carry out such a basic examination of their holdings due to their staff resources. It thus refers to smaller institutions in particular. Evaluation criteria are the staffing or financial resources, the (un)availability of specialist expertise, and the size of the collection itself. It is possible for several small institutions to form a consortium. In specific individual cases, abandoned collections or those outside the subject area represented by the museum can undergo an Initial Check in larger institutions. In such cases, it is necessary to contact the department for individually tailored advice.

In what language can applications be submitted?

Applications must generally be submitted in German. However, it is possible to submit an application in English with the agreement of the Department if this facilitates the involvement of institutions, communities, and experts from the countries and communities of origin. The short description and the financing plan must be submitted in German, even where the application is in English. In the event that the project is funded, the other parts of the application must also be provided in German. Translation costs can be specified and applied for in the financing plan.

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



Office of the Advisory Commission Dr. Benjamin Lahusen Leiter der Geschäftsstelle der Beratenden Kommission Seydelstraße  18 10117 Berlin Telephone: +49 (0) 30 233 8493 87 Telefax: +49 (0)391 727 763 6 email: Benjamin.Lahusen@beratende-kommission.de

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, 2 MB)

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.