Working Paper 5/2023
Soviet zone / GDR

Working paper published on the expropriation of cultural property in the GDR

The German Lost Art Foundation has published an analysis of the activities undertaken by Rostock City Parliament’s committee of enquiry on lost cultural assets.

For the first time, a paper on the subject of the expropriation of cultural property in the GDR has been published in the German Lost Art Foundation’s Working Paper series: “‘Die Zustände […] sind als katastrophal zu beschreiben.’ Der Untersuchungsausschuss ‘Verschwundene Kulturgüter’ der Rostocker Bürgerschaft [‘The conditions [...] can be described as catastrophic.’ The Rostock City Parliament committee of enquiry on lost cultural assets] is the fifth issue of the online publication series.

In almost 150 pages, the author, former director of the German Maritime Museum in Rostock Peter Danker-Carstensen, comprehensively describes and analyses the history, activities and consequences of the committee of enquiry on lost cultural assets that was commissioned by Rostock City Parliament in 1991-1992. The committee of enquiry was tasked with tracing the art treasures that had disappeared from Rostock’s museums during the GDR era. It was also to identify all those responsible and draw conclusions from interviews conducted with them.

Although the committee’s work did not lead to any consequences at the time, its processing of individual cases now provides us with valuable information about the management of key sites where GDR museum property was held prior to the fall of communism and German reunification – as well as shedding light on the momentum of historical reappraisal during the 1990s.

In his study, Peter Danker-Carstensen draws on extensive source material from the Rostock City Archives and from the (Eastern German) Ministry for State Security (MfS). He takes a critical look at the role of all those involved in the so-called Rostock culture scandal, ranging from the police criminal investigation department, the public prosecutor’s office and the MfS through to individual cultural functionaries, the collection managers and the local press.

The publication appears in the series Working Paper Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste on the Max Weber Foundation publication platform Perspectivia and can be downloaded from there free of charge under DOI 10.25360/01-2023-00037.

Published online at irregular intervals, the series Working Paper Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste comprises texts on current research topics from all areas of activity funded by the Foundation: these include dossiers, guidelines, research aids, research reports and overviews of cultural property expropriated as a result of Nazi persecution or due to armed conflict, cultural property seizures in the Soviet zone of occupation/GDR, and Cultural Goods and Collections from Colonial Contexts.