Help Desk for Enquiries about Nazi-looted Cultural Property
Since 1 January 2020 the German Lost Art Foundation includes a contact and information point (Help Desk) for enquiries about the looting of cultural assets in the Nazi era, based in the Berlin office. It was set up in particular with regard to victims of the seizure of cultural assets under the National Socialist regime and their descendants.
The Help Desk offers general advice and assistance on questions of seizure, provenance research, and fair and just solutions. It is an accessible point of contact – the first and only one in Germany – especially for those who live and work in other countries and require support, be it with regard to language or to navigating the structures of cultural institutions. The Help Desk provides assistance in first steps, establishes further contacts, and gives information. In addition, it offers general and impartial advice on options for resolution to institutions, current holders of potential Nazi-looted objects, and the art trade. The Help Desk does not offer legal advice.
Questions about the Help Desk for Enquiries about Nazi-looted Cultural Property
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.
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 Soviet Occupation Zone / 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.
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?
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.