Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Press release by the Press and Information Office of the German Federal Government

Further development of the Advisory Commission

Date 2016.11.10

With the agree­ment of the fed­er­al states and the lead­ing mu­nic­i­pal as­so­ci­a­tions, the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion­er for Cul­ture and the Me­dia, Moni­ka Grüt­ters, has pre­sent­ed key points for the fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of the “Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mis­sion on the re­turn of cul­tur­al prop­er­ty seized as a re­sult of Nazi per­se­cu­tion, es­pe­cial­ly Jew­ish prop­er­ty”, which was es­tab­lished in 2003.

These are:

  • the op­tion for the Com­mis­sion to be called up­on by pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als in fu­ture, on the side of the hold­er of the cul­tur­al prop­er­ty,
  • greater trans­paren­cy, es­pe­cial­ly through pub­li­ca­tion of the Com­mis­sion’s Rules of Pro­ce­dure,
  • ex­pan­sion of the Com­mis­sion from eight to ten mem­bers, in­clud­ing at least one Jew­ish mem­ber who can make a more di­rect con­tri­bu­tion from the per­spec­tive of vic­tims,
  • pub­lic jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of rec­om­men­da­tions.

Moni­ka Grüt­ters, Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion­er for Cul­ture and the Me­dia, said: “The thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Na­tion­al So­cial­ist art theft is an on­go­ing com­mit­ment for Ger­many. It was there­fore ex­treme­ly im­por­tant for me to de­vel­op the Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mis­sion in this way in or­der to en­sure it is able to con­tin­ue per­form­ing its sen­si­tive and chal­leng­ing du­ties suc­cess­ful­ly in the fu­ture, with recog­ni­tion from all sides. The Com­mis­sion serves to en­sure that Ger­many deals hon­est­ly and as­sertive­ly with its past. These pro­posed re­forms are an im­por­tant step to­wards achiev­ing ev­er-bet­ter im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples – in the in­ter­ests of the vic­tims of Nazi art theft and their de­scen­dants, and al­so of mu­se­ums in Ger­many.”

The Fed­er­al Cab­i­net ap­proved the fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of the Com­mis­sion this week. The Chiefs of Staff Con­fer­ence has to­day unan­i­mous­ly agreed the pro­pos­als and re­ferred the key points to the KMK Plenum of Min­is­ters for the fi­nal de­ci­sion to be tak­en.

The fol­low­ing new mem­bers were ap­point­ed to the Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mis­sion: Pro­fes­sor Raphael Gross, di­rec­tor of the Si­mon Dub­now In­sti­tute for Jew­ish His­to­ry and Cul­ture; Gary Smith, philoso­pher and for­mer di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Acade­my in Berlin; and Mar­i­on Eck­ertz-Höfer, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­al Ad­min­is­tra­tive Court.
Oth­er changes at the Com­mis­sion con­cern the ten-year lim­it on the term of of­fice for new­ly ap­point­ed mem­bers and the op­tion for the Com­mis­sion to or­der ex­pert re­ports if nec­es­sary in fu­ture. The Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion­er for Cul­ture and the Me­dia will cov­er the costs as­so­ci­at­ed with the prepa­ra­tion of these ex­pert re­ports.

Prof. Moni­ka Grüt­ters said: “I an­tic­i­pate that all Ger­man mu­se­ums with­out ex­cep­tion are, of course, pre­pared for pro­ceed­ings be­fore the Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mis­sion. This is made nec­es­sary by the moral and his­tor­i­cal du­ty to­wards the vic­tims of Nazi per­se­cu­tion. It is al­so in the in­sti­tu­tions’ own in­ter­ests. Should the par­ties not come to an agree­ment on an ap­peal to the Com­mis­sion, I urge the bod­ies re­spon­si­ble for the in­sti­tu­tions to work to­wards an ap­peal in ac­cor­dance with the agreed and ef­fec­tive Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples. Per­son­al­ly I shall con­tin­ue to pro­vide strong sup­port for the in­sti­tu­tions fund­ed by my de­part­ment.”

The Com­mis­sion was formed in 2003 by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, the fed­er­al states and the lead­ing mu­nic­i­pal as­so­ci­a­tions to me­di­ate in cas­es of dis­pute in­volv­ing the resti­tu­tion of cul­tur­al as­sets that were con­fis­cat­ed dur­ing the “Third Re­ich”, es­pe­cial­ly from per­se­cut­ed Jew­ish cit­i­zens, and which are now held by mu­se­ums, li­braries, archives and oth­er pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions in the Fed­er­al Re­pub­lic of Ger­many. The Com­mis­sion acts as a me­di­a­tor be­tween the or­ga­ni­za­tions in pos­ses­sion of the col­lec­tions and the for­mer own­ers of the cul­tur­al as­sets or their heirs, if de­sired by both par­ties. It can al­so make rec­om­men­da­tions for set­tling dis­putes.

Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion­er for Cul­ture and the Me­dia, Moni­ka Grüt­ters, once again ex­pressed her deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the out­stand­ing work car­ried out to date by the Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mis­sion and for the enor­mous vol­un­tary com­mit­ment of its mem­bers. This was es­pe­cial­ly true for Prof. Jut­ta Lim­bach, the for­mer pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­al Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court who re­cent­ly passed away. Prof Lim­bach had been the chair of the Com­mis­sion since its in­cep­tion.