Report regarding cultural property stolen during World War II and Franco-German liaison prior to and since the formation of a working group in 1991.
30 November-2 December 1994
A Franco-German Working Group on Cultural Property was established following consultations between French and German authorities in 1991, after the reunification of Germany. Its task is to locate and work towards restitution of cultural property displaced during and after World War II. The Working Group includes French Foreign Ministry officials, art experts and archivists.
The Report announced a plan to digitise French archival records on stolen property and outlined the composition and management of the archives.
Cooperation already existed between France and Germany prior to the formation of the Working Group. In 1982 the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München returned to the City Library of Sens a fourteenth century breviary purchased at auction in 1974. The breviary had been stolen from Sens during World War II. Bas reliefs of the Triumphal Column in Berlin, stolen by French troops at the war's end found during reconstruction work at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris were restituted to Germany between 1984 and 1987.
In 1992 a French delegation requested the return of a list of looted cultural property looted from collections during the war. The list included twenty-eight pictures in the collection of the National Gallery in East Berlin which had been exhibited in Berlin the previous year (a catalogue of the exhibition was published: Bilder aus Frankreich, by Lothar Brauner, curator of the formerNational Gallery in Berlin). The art objects were for the most part nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings and drawings by Corot, Cross, Delacroix, Gaughin, Harpignies, Manet, Millet, Monet, Renoir and Seurat.
Some of them had been looted by a German officer stationed in Paris during
the war, others confiscated from a hotel by the Gestapo. After the war the
pictures reached Germany where they were handed over by a former Wehrmacht
soldier to a priest under confessional secrecy, so that they would be returned
to their rightful owners. In 1972 Heinrich Solbach from the Archbishopric of
Magdeburg delivered the artworks to an official of the National Gallery in East
Berlin. Between 1974 and 1988 the negotiations conducted by the French Foreign
Ministry with East German authorities of the GDR for the return of these
pictures had failed.
But in 1992 an agreement was reached for their restitution (in the meantime seven of the owners had been traced). In 1994 Route de Louveciennes by Monet was returned and a formal agreement was signed by German and French authorities to secure the return of the remaining twenty-seven pictures.
Marie Hamon, The Working Group on Cultural Property in Jost Hansen and Doris Lemmermeier, (eds.) Country Report for the Bremen Conference: Cultural Treasures Moved Because of the War: A Cultural Legacy of the Second World War Documentation and Research on Losses. Documentation of the International Meeting in Bremen 30 November-2 December 1994.
<http://www.dhh-3.de/biblio/bremen/treasures/contents.html>, accessed 31 December 2002.