In the first round of funding in 2023, the German Lost Art Foundation has granted some 1.76 million euros for 17 provenance research projects on the subject of Nazi-looted cultural property

In the first round of funding in 2023, the German Lost Art Foundation has granted a total of some 1.76 million euros for provenance research into Nazi-looted cultural property.

As a result, 16 research projects at museums, libraries and academic institutions and one private applicant will receive financial support to carry out research in this field, for example to investigate a collection for cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution. The decision on funding is made by the Foundation’s Executive Chairman at the recommendation of its funding advisory board.

Funding will be provided for the Museum of Art and Cultural History at the University Marburg, for example, which has a number of works of unclear provenance, including paintings by Alexej von Jawlensky, Paul Klee, Lovis Corinth, Gustave Courbet and Carl Spitzweg. Research will initially focus on 150 paintings from the collection. Some of these were acquired during the National Socialist era via art dealers who are regarded by provenance researchers as “red flag names”, i.e. as being particularly suspected of having traded in Nazi-looted art.

The Topography of Terror Foundation in Berlin will also receive funding for provenance research. Here, the documentation centre’s library is to be examined for Nazi-looted cultural property. The establishment of the library did not start until the late 1980s and its holdings include some 8,000 volumes published up to 1945, most of which came into the collection through exchange, donation or antiquarian purchase. Initial suspicious indications have already been identified, including a stamp referring to confiscation by the Gestapo. The library also has one set of items which is particularly suspicious: this is part of a collection that belonged to Alexander Dolezalek (1914-1999), who worked during the Nazi era as a Volkstumsspezialist (“specialist in folklore/national traditions”) for the Reich Security Main Office, the Race and Settlement Main Office of the SS and the SS Main Office, among others. He was entrusted with the development of the Nazis’ vast-scale ethnic cleansing plan, the Generalplan Ost, as well as being commissioned to create a blueprint for a future Europe according to the ideas of the National Socialists.

The new projects to emerge from this round of funding also include another library: the historical academic library Oberlausitzische Bibliothek der Wissenschaften Görlitz. This institution looks after the book collections of what used to be the Oberlausitzische Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, a scholars’ association that existed from the Enlightenment up until 1945. Almost 7,000 items are now to be investigated here. In addition, systematic research will be undertaken of the holdings of a pietistic group known as the Engelsbrüder which was confiscated by the Gestapo and handed over to the municipal authorities of Görlitz in 1943.

Since 2008, the Federal Government and the German federal states have funded provenance research on the subject of Nazi-looted cultural property with a total of approximately 48.8 million euros, enabling 433 projects to be realised to date. Founded on 1 January 2015 by the Federal Government, the federal states and the leading municipal associations, the German Lost Art Foundation in Magdeburg is the central point of contact in Germany for questions concerning unlawfully seized cultural property. The Foundation receives institutional funding from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media; this is also the source of funding for its projects. Proposals for longer-term projects can be submitted by 1 January and 1 June each year.

The German Lost Art Foundation not only supports research projects, it also documents cultural property losses in its publicly accessible database Lost Art in the form of search reports and found-object reports. The Foundation presents the results of its funded research projects in its research database Proveana.

The promotion of provenance research in the area of Nazi-looted cultural property is intended to help bring about just and fair solutions in accordance with the “Washington Principles”, which Germany has voluntarily committed itself to implementing in the spirit of historical and moral self-obligation.