FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
Is the German Lost Art Foundation a state institution?
The German Lost Art Foundation was founded in 2015 by the Federal Government, the Länder and leading municipal associations, but it is a foundation under civil law and so it is not a state institution or authority. However, the Foundation does receive institutional funding from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media; this is also the source of funding for its projects.
What is the Foundation responsible for?
The German Lost Art Foundation promotes provenance research, i.e. research into the origin of cultural property and other collection items. Its focus is on so-called cultural property seized as a result of persecution. The provenance research supported by the Foundation aims to clarify whether objects were looted from Jewish citizens under National Socialism, for example. This clarification is the prerequisite for restitution or other just and fair solutions. In colonial contexts, funding is also provided for projects that are dedicated to investigating the origin of human remains in German collections. All in all, the Foundation is concerned with four major thematic complexes: the investigation of Nazi-looted cultural property, the origin of Cultural Goods and Collections from Colonial Contexts, expropriation of cultural property in the Soviet occupation zone and the GDR and cultural property displaced as a result of war in the Second World War.
Does the Foundation carry out its own research?
The German Lost Art Foundation is a funding institution. As such, it finances, facilitates, supports and networks research projects, stimulates basic research, publishes papers, organises conferences and is involved in continuing education.
However, it does not conduct provenance research of its own.
What kind of research is funded?
The Foundation promotes provenance research in the area of “cultural property expropriated as a result of (Nazi) persecution” conducted by public and privately funded institutions as well as private individuals, and also in the area of “Cultural Goods and Collections from Colonial Contexts”, where the research is conducted by public and privately funded non-profit institutions. It is possible to submit proposals for long-term and short-term projects, as well as for so-called Initial Checks.
In the area of “expropriation of cultural property in the Soviet occupation zone and the GDR”, the Foundation funds basic research projects; it is not possible to provide funding for systematic inventory research in collections at the present time.
No funding is currently provided in the area of cultural property displaced as a result of war; however, support for basic research projects is planned here as well.
Is the Foundation responsible for restitutions?
The German Lost Art Foundation promotes provenance research in order to clarify the origin of cultural assets and other collection items. This lays the groundwork for the return of looted cultural property – and of human remains in colonial contexts. In this respect, the Foundation’s research funding is not neutral. However, the decision as to whether restitution ultimately takes place or some other just and fair solution is found lies with the owners of the objects or collection holdings, i.e. the respective bodies sponsoring the institutions concerned or else the private individuals involved. As a funding institution, the German Lost Art Foundation is not able or permitted to make any decisions regarding restitution.
In the event of differences of opinion on the return of cultural property, it is possible to appeal to the independent “Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property”.
What is the Lost Art Database?
The Lost Art Database documents cultural assets that were seized from those persecuted under the Nazi dictatorship, especially Jewish owners, between 1933 and 1945 (“Cultural goods confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution”), or for those items for which such seizure cannot be ruled out. By publishing found-object reports, the aim is to bring together former owners or their heirs with current owners and provide support in arriving at a just and fair solution.
The Lost Art Database also contains reports on cultural assets displaced as a result of the Second World War (“wartime losses”). Publication of this information aims to support solutions that comply with international legislation.
If institutions and private individuals come across an item in their collections that can potentially or definitely be identified as Nazi-looted cultural property, they can post this as a Found-Object Report. The same applies to wartime losses. By the same token, institutions or private individuals can publish Search Requests for Nazi-looted cultural property or wartime losses in Lost Art.
What is Proveana?
Proveana is the German Lost Art Foundation’s research database: it documents in particular the results of research projects funded by the Foundation. The database comprises the four research contexts to which the Foundation is dedicated: cultural property expropriated as a result of (Nazi) persecution ("Nazi -looted cultural property”), cultural property displaced as a result of war (“wartime losses”), expropriation of cultural property in the Soviet occupation zone and the GDR and Cultural Goods and Collections from Colonial Contexts. Proveana is aimed at individuals who suffered losses and their descendants, as well as scholars, members of the art trade and the media, and those with political responsibility.
What is the Help Desk?
The Help Desk for enquiries about Nazi-looted cultural property is a point of contact and information for enquiries on the subject of the looting of cultural property during the National Socialist era. It was set up in particular for the victims of National Socialist rule and their descendants. It offers general advice and assistance on issues relating to confiscation, provenance research, and just and fair solutions. The Help Desk is located in the Foundation’s branch office in Berlin. It is primarily aimed at those whose place of residence is outside Germany and who would like to receive support.