In the founding year of the German Lost Art Foundation, a brainstorming meeting took place on 28 October 2015 on the topic of cultural property expropriations in the Soviet Occupation Zone/GDR. For the first time, there was a discussion of the requirements for research funding in the area of cultural property expropriations in the Soviet Occupation Zone and the GDR. The brainstorming meeting involved the following participants: representatives of the Ministries of Culture of all the new German states, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the Dresden State Art Collections, the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg, the Saxony-Anhalt State Archives, the Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues, and the Berlin lawyer Dr. Ulf Bischof, who specialises in this field.
On 21 November 2016, the Foundation hosted a public conference in Berlin on the subject of expropriations of cultural property in the Soviet Occupation Zone and the GDR (“Entziehungen von Kulturgütern in SBZ und DDR. Der Stand der Forschung und die Perspektiven”) with the aim of presenting newly acquired insights. This conference led to initial explorations of possible basic studies and subsequently to the recognition of a financial need for such pilot projects by the Foundation Board of the German Lost Art Foundation in 2017.
After three years of basic research, the Foundation organised a digital conference on 30 November 2020 on the subject of the state-ordered expropriation and trading of cultural assets in the GDR (“VEB Kunst – Kulturgutentzug und Handel in der GDR”) – starting with a panel discussion the evening before the conference itself which was broadcast by MDR shortly afterwards – to present the results of research to date and discuss the need for further action. The conference involved some 170 scholars, experts and interested parties. Full documentation of this conference is available. In addition, all contributions to the conference appeared in volume 3 of the series “Provenire”.
In addition, the discussion series Kolloquium Provenienzforschung organised by the Foundation regularly features contributions from the field of cultural property expropriations in the Soviet Occupation Zone and the GDR. These have included the presentation of research findings on the secret Stasi operation “Aktion Licht” in 1962, given by Thomas Widera of the Hannah Arendt Institute for Totalitarian Studies at TU Dresden, and a talk on the subject of the demolition of castles, palaces and manor houses according to Order No. 209 issued by the Soviet Military Administration in 1947, which was given by Thomas Bienert, historian in the Department of Building, Urban Development and Preservation of Monuments by order of the Thuringian State Parliament.