“Key instrument for addressing the consequences of Nazi crimes”

German Lost Art Foundation marks 25 years of the Washington Principles.

+++++ PLEASE NOTE EMBARGO: THURSDAY, 7 December, 6:45 p.m. +++++


The Washington Principles on how to deal with Nazi-looted art were adopted 25 years ago. They express a commitment on the part of more than 40 states and 13 non-governmental organisations to identifying works of art looted by the National Socialists and arriving at just and fair solutions with the rightful owners or their descendants.

At a festive event in Berlin on Thursday (7 December 2023), the Executive Chairman of the German Lost Art Foundation Gilbert Lupfer praised the Washington Principles as an epoch-making document: “The Washington Principles were and continue to be a key instrument for addressing the consequences of Nazi crimes,” said Lupfer, according to the transcript of his speech. He noted that unlike many other crimes committed against Jewish people, it was at least possible to compensate for the material loss of works of art.

Lupfer said that one of the most important consequences of the voluntary commitment established in 1998 was the provision of funding for provenance research, something that the German Lost Art Foundation had significantly supported since 2015. Such research also had a crucial role to play in arriving at just and fair solutions, said Lupfer, adding that there had been many more restitutions made than there were cases that had been dealt with by the Advisory Commission on Nazi-Looted Property, with numbers of the latter actually being very low. Intense research had been carried out in public museums, libraries and archives for several years, said Lupfer, but there was still plenty to be done: “There can and must be no question of calling it a day – despite the disconcerting calls for such closure.”

The Washington Principles do not apply to private individuals, for example: “We’re not yet satisfied with the status regarding private collections. There’s still very little progress being made here, and we continue to lack sound ideas that go beyond moral appeals,” stressed Lupfer. He also said he feared that the current budget crisis could have an impact on financial support for provenance research.

The German Lost Art Foundation in Magdeburg, founded on 1 January 2015 by the Federal Government, the German federal states and the leading municipal associations, 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. Since 2008, the Federal Government and the German federal states have provided funding totalling approximately 50.8 million euros for provenance research on the subject of Nazi-looted cultural property.

The event starts at 6:00 p.m. today, 7 December. It will be recorded and subsequently posted as a video on the Foundation’s YouTube channel and on its website kulturgutverluste.de

For full details of the evening’s programme, see https://kulturgutverluste.de/en/news/just-fair-date.


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Claudia Roth, Staatsministerin für Kultur und Medien