The Nazi regime was obsessed with art. Hitler, Göring and others built up their own “collections” and looted works of art they were interested in from everyone and everywhere, very often from persecuted persons, especially Jews. Many persecuted persons had to leave their property behind or had to sell it under duress. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of artworks in Europe were looted. Despite efforts for restitution after the war, up to an estimated 100.000 objects had remained in the hands of others than the original owners or their heirs.
On 3 December 1998, 44 States, including the Federal Republic of Germany, agreed on the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art. These principles are soft law, and they call on the participating states to identify works of art that were confiscated by the Nazi regime and to find “just and fair solutions” for them. In five of the 44 states, commissions such as the German Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property (Beratende Kommission im Zusammenhang mit der Rückgabe NS-verfolgungsbedingt entzogenen Kulturguts, insbesondere aus jüdischem Besitz) were established. Since 1998, thousands of recommendations and decisions on just and fair solutions were issued. Nevertheless, the entire process has remained strongly controversial. It is the thesis of the presentation that certain fundamentals are neglected in this process – fundamentals that must be observed in order to generate chances for “justice” and thus reconciliation. These fundamentals may form a basis of a “restitution culture” for artworks confiscated during Nazi persecution.
Tuesday, 13 April 2021, 6 p.m. (CEST)
Käte Hamburger Kolleg, Forum “Law as Culture”, Center for Advanced Studies, Bonn, Germany
Dial in details: Zoom link
Meeting-ID: 972 9673 5698
Please note that the event will be recorded for publication.
Prof. Dr. Matthias Weller studied Law at the Universities of Heidelberg and Cambridge (UK) from 1992 to 1998. From 1998 to 1999, he held the Joseph Story Fellowship for Private International Law at the Harvard Law School. In 2005, Matthias Weller received his PhD. From 2008 to 2009 he worked with an attorney admitted to the bar of the German Federal Court of Justice and was involved in more than 100 appeal cases. In 2011 he received his “Habilitation” from the University of Heidelberg. In 2018, he received the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Professorship for Civil Law, Art, and Cultural Property Law at the University of Bonn and became the Director of the Institute for German and International Civil Procedure Law. In April 2019, Matthias Weller started a five-year comparative law research project, the “Restatement of Restitution Rules for Nazi-Confiscated Art”, which is funded by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.