Country Reports


Thanks to information of P. Grimsted, A. Grenzer and G. Boriak an important collection of documents concerning Belgium during the Second World War was discovered in the State Archives in Kiev (Ukraine). These German documents give an overview on the activities of the "Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg" in Belgium. After the Second World War Belgium had only a very speculative impression of the plundering actions undertaken by the ERR on its territory. This lack of documentary evidence led to unsystematic research.

The vast collection of documents in Kiev, more than 6,000 pages, gives a clear insight in the targeted cultural goods in Belgium and their concentration on the plundering of private libraries. From July 1940 onwords the ERR started in close collaboration with the "Sicherheitspolizei-Sicherheitsdienst" the spoils of freemason's cultural possessions. The SIPO-SD was only interested in the political information, the ERR undertook the selection of the larger historical material. A few months later they searched the houses of Belgian ministers and professors, who fled the country in 1940. Especially leading members of the Jewish community, socialist and liberal institutions and newspapers, later on communist organisations were robbed.

Firstly the documentation shows clearly the organisation of the ERR in Belgium and their employed staff. The well known archeologist R. Stampfuss worked for the ERR in Belgium, before he started to plunder archeological collections in the Ukraine. Secondly the archives give an insight in the close collaboration with other nazi organisations as the SIPO-SD and services of the "Militärverwaltung".

Jacques Lust, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Brussels


World War II affected also the cultural heritage of the Czech nation. The losses of national cultural institutions themselves were most significant at the places with important war operations. Among the most seriously affected was the Silesian Provincial Museum in Opava, the third biggest museum of the country (ranging after museums in Prague and in Brno), where some 5,000 collection objects of great artistic and/or monetary value were either lost or disappeared. Other losses occurred in buildings occupied by the German army or the SS.

A specific and very tragical chapter of German cultural policy were confiscations of artistic and religious objects belonging to the Jewish population in the Czech lands. Nowadays, these collections are under the care of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Jewish Museum in Prague.

Special attention should be paid to the depository established at the Mikulov castle. The Germans used it to store works of art seized during the war in Belgium and France. Unfortunately, at the end of the war the castle was set to fire by the Germans. A major part of the castle interiors and deposited works of art burned down. It is hardly possible to say what was preserved and taken over to Germany. After the fire only a small collection of objects was found at the castle but quite a detailed inventory of the remaining objects is available. However, a great majority of them are seriously damaged.

Other significant losses occurred in the post-war period, including another two waves of plundering cultural monuments. The first is dated to the period immediately after the year 1945, when much of what had been left over by the Germans in the historical objects occupied by the German army was destroyed by Soviet troups. The socially unadaptive part of the local population was plundering mainly buildings that had been occupied by the Germans during the war, or those whose owners had left or had been deported to Germany.

The second wave of plundering occurred after the communist Coup d'Etat in 1948, affecting mostly sacral buildings. It is estimated that in the post-war approximately 10-15 times more objects of cultural value disappeared than during war itself.

In 1994, the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic made a research in cultural institutions, concerning documentation of lost works of art. According to the data obtained, some 10,000 objects of cultural value were lost during World War II, which in any case does not represent a relevant part of the cultural heritage in this country, neither in quantity nor in quality. At present, a database of missing objects of cultural value has been elaborated by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior Affairs of the Czech Republic. The database includes information on all missing objects, irrespective of the date of their disappearance. This is the way which will be developed in the future as well. Any questions concerning the search for missing works of art should be addressed directly to the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.

Pavel Jirásek, Advisor on Security of Cultural Property,
Ministry of Culture, Prague


The country report of France wants to give an overview of the results on the restitution of former French goods. Firstly the Government of the Russian Federation agreed to create a French-Russian Commission to examine the cultural losses during the Second World War. This initiative led to the restitution of a large quantity of French archives, which were stolen by the nazis and stored in Moscow. The lost archives belong partly to the national patrimony (the Ministry of War, the State Security) and to private French citizens (L. Blum, M. Bloch). Secondly the German Chancellor H. Kohl restituted to the French Republic, during the French-German summit-meeting of the 30th and 31st of May 1994 in Mulhouse, one of the 28 paintings found in Berlin. The restitution of the other works of art officially took place by protocol on the 27th of June, signed for France by Mr. Renouard, Director of the Archives and Documentation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Head of the French delegation of the French-German Working Group on cultural goods.

The short history of these paintings merits interest: in 1972 monsignor H. Solbach, archbishop of Magdeburg gave to a representative of the State Museums of Berlin a total of 28 paintings, essentially paintings and drawings from the 19th and beginning of the 20th century (Delacroix, Corot, Millet, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Seurat etc.), which were deposited in the National Gallery of East-Berlin. The works of art were given back by a German officer posted in Paris, who passed them on to a soldier of the Wehrmacht with the mission to bring them to Germany where the officer would collect them after the war. The last thing never happened, so that the ex-soldier found it important to ask under the secret of the confession the restitution of the paintings to the real proprietors. Between 1974 and 1988 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs started up negotiations with the German Federal Republic on different matters. The goal of the French negotiators was to regulate simultaneously the compensation of owners of their lost real estates, the restitution of cultural goods, etc. The restitution of these paintings were the result of negotiations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The reunification of Germany opened the possibilities of new research on the former territority of the German Federal Republic, re-opened the dossiers of spoiled works of art during the Second World War and led to the institution of a French-German Working Group on cultural goods, of which the first meeting was held in March 1992. The research undertaken by the Direction of Archives and Documentation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within the framework of the Working group could identify the owners of 7 of the 28 paintings (2 works of Corot, 2 works of Cross, 2 of Harpignies, 1 Gauguin belonging to two families). These works were immediately restituted. The other ones the Ministry of Foreign Affairs entrusted to the Direction of the Museums of France under the heading of M. N. R. ("Musée nationaux récupération"), awaiting the results of the researches undertaken by the Direction of Archives and Documentation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to identify the other ownerships. An exhibition of the works of art was organised in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris from the 17th of October until the 19th of December 1994, on which thirty articles were published and broadcasted by the written press, radio and television.

Secondly a private person from Leipzig restituted a vane, taken on the battlefield of 1940. He had conserved it at home for more than fifty years to preserve it from profanation. After the reunification of Germany he came in contact with a French liaison officer at the WASt with the demand to restitute this flag. This object was given from the Direction of Archives and Documentation to the Army Museum in Paris. Thirdly the Direction of Archives and Documentation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was contacted by an inhabitant of Lübeck with the proposal of restitution of the bronze grips of the Armistice-wagon of Rethondes, saved from a fire in 1945 by his father. These grips are about 136cm long, weight 10kg and are fixed on wooden pieces of 2m long, which bare the traces of fire. This wagon was conducted on the order of Hitler during the last months of the war to Crawinkel, near Ohrdruf (Thüringen), left on a siding in a munition depot in a forest, which was set to explosion when the allies were nearing the site. These grips were recuperated by the father of Mr. X who let them be repatriated by the French Embassy in Germany in April 1994 and deposited in the Army Museum in Paris. An anonymous German soldier, more then 90 years of age has restituted, more then 54 years later to the Castle of Nogent-Le-Rotrou (Eure-et-Loire) a bowl of Chinese porcelain and a Japanese cup, which he had taken during the occupation. The restitution took place by an intermediary of the German community to the municipality of Nogent-le-Rotrou, who bought the castle in 1950.

Marie Hamon, Conservateur en chef du Patrimoine,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris


The interest in the lost cultural treasures in Germany is still very intense. The research of the losses continues. New documentations of various institutions were published recently (see bibliography). The official negotiations Germany is leading with Russia, Poland and Ukraine have different results.

The last meeting of the joint German-Russian restitution commission took place in June 1994. The meeting originally planned for 1995 was postponed until next year. In Berlin the exhibition "Berlin-Moskau, Moskau-Berlin" was opened on September 3rd and will go on until January 7th, 1996. The exhibition which is located in the Martin-Gropius-Bau gives an interesting and varied overview of the cultural relations between Berlin and Moscow from 1900 until 1950. In the catalogue of the exhibition the director of the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, Irina Antonowa, once again expressed her personal and strict view on the German cultural treasures now in Russia.

During the last negotiations between Germany and Poland in April 1995 the Polish side handed over a list of 114 objects lost during World War II and now suspected in German institutions. As a result of that the federal states carried out a survey in the cultural institutions. The findings will be presented to the Polish side at the next meeting of the delegations, which probably will take place at the beginning of next year.

In November 1994, Ukraine and Germany agreed that experts of each side will be granted access to their cultural treasures. In Germany there are only some Ukrainian objects left. The head of the National Commission on the Restitution of Cultural Treasures to Ukraine, A. Fedoruk, visited Germany in August this year. He had the opportunity to see some of the Ukrainian cultural treasures in Munich and to work in the Federal Archive in Koblenz. German experts will be in Kiev in December for the second time, and they hope to be able to see German objects kept there. The next meeting of the joint commission will take place in Ukraine in December or January next year. In the meantime some private initiatives lead to the restitution of Ukrainian and German cultural treasures (more information see section "restitutions").

The painting "The Holy Family with the Holy Johannes, the Holy Elizabeth and angels" by Joachim Wtewael of the Schloßmuseum Gotha was stolen by Russian soldiers and appeared in 1992 at Sotheby's in London. The city of Gotha went to court. The question of financial resources, however, was a difficult one. The federal state Thuringia together with the Ministry of the Interior and the city of Gotha now came to an agreement on the financing of the trial in London. All sides stated that it is of special importance to take legal action as an important signal for the black and grey art market.

Doris Lemmermeier, Koordinierungsstelle der Länder
für die Rückführung von Kulturgütern, Bremen


On June 28th-29th, 1995, members of the Hungarian and the Russian Restitution Committee met to discuss the current state of possible solutions to issues of restitution between the two countries. The Russian party has undertaken to locate the gobelins from Hungarian collections, and also to prepare a list of the Hungarian paintings in the Grabar Conservation Institute, as well as of the Hungarian books in Nizhni Novgorod.

On November 1st-4th, 1995, a group of senior librarians visited Nizhni Novgorod to locate and identify the books taken by the Soviet Army from various Hungarian librairies during World War II. They were able to identify the majority of books and incunabula that disappeared from the Reformed Library of Sárospatak and from various private collections.

István Fodor, Director of the Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum, Budapest


In Luxembourg the problem of spoils of war was no longer in public discussion when the events in eastern Europe showed that the restitutions directly after the Second World War had not returned all the works of art to their rightful owners. Luxembourg officials thought then that this did not directly concern their country. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Culture responsible for all questions pertaining to the arts thought that Luxembourg should be present at the international meetings and undergo a regional collaboration in this field with Belgium and the Netherlands (Benelux). After the conference in Bremen (Nov./Dec. 1994) the representatives of the Benelux-countries met twice in Brussels to coordinate their research and exchange information.

When research in the field of restitution of works of art began in Luxembourg, it appeared that immediately after the war an "Office de Récupération Economique Luxembourgeois" (O.R.E.L.) had been created. The mission of the O.R.E.L. was defined as to search for all wares and other movable property mainly in Germany, to identify these goods and to bring them back to their rightful owners. No word was said about works of art in special. The documentation pertaining to the O.R.E.L. apparently has not yet been transmitted to the "Archives Nationales" in Luxembourg. At the same time, the "Office Belge de l'Economie et de l'Agriculture" (O.B.E.A.) discovered that the Belgian "Office de Récupération Economique" had done the research work and had led the restitution mission for Luxembourg after the War. So Luxembourg was informed of the documentation available in Brussels. Information on archives in Germany, Austria and the Ukraine was transmitted to Luxembourg, so that the creation of a Luxembourg documentation on the spoils of war can start in fall this year on a very positive basis.

A recent interview in the German paper "Die Zeit" gave indications as to works of art from Luxembourg having stranded in Moscow. The same seems to have happened with archival documents pertaining to freemasonry in Luxembourg and documents of the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This has still to be confirmed.

Paul Dostert, Representative of the Ministry of Culture


On October 2nd, 1995, the Moscow Pushkin museum opened the exhibition "Five centuries of European Drawings - old master drawings from the former Franz Koenigs collection". The exhibition will run until January 21, 1996. The opening ceremony included speeches by Russian Minister of Culture Sidorov, the director of the Pushkin Museum Mrs. Antonova and the Netherlands ambassador Baron De Vos van Steenwijk.

The Pushkin Museum holds 307 drawings from the Koenigs collection which are claimed by the State of the Netherlands. Since 1945, there have been efforts to locate these drawings which were illegally taken out of the country and were missing since the war. In 1992, their presence in Moscow was officially acknowledged.

The title of the exhibition is incorrect in so far as there is no 'former' Koenigs collection. The collection formed by the German-born Franz Koenigs, who lived in the Netherlands from 1922 and became a Dutch citizen, comprized 2671 drawings by old masters from all schools. During the occupation of the Netherlands, in 1941, a quarter of these drawings illegally left the country and eventually ended up in Russia. The rest of the drawings was donated to museum Boymans in Rotterdam and is kept there as the Koenigs collection, of which the 307 drawings in the Pushkin Museum are a part. Negotiations about their return continue.

The exhibition in the Pushkin Museum is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue in a Russian and an English version (Five centuries of European Drawings. The former collection of Franz Koenigs, published by Leonardo arte, Milan 1995, ISBN: 88-7813 547 X.).

On November 30th, the State Secretary for Culture of the Netherlands opened the exhibition's counterpart: old master drawings from the Koenigs Collection in the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam. This exhibition in the Library for Foreign Literature presents 30 masterpieces from the Koenigs Collection, which have been chosen for their quality and their art historical relationship to the drawings now on view at the Pushkin Museum. The exhibition will run until January 21st, 1996 and is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue in Russian, with English summary (ISBN 90-6918-1764-9).

Josefine Leistra, Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst, The Hague


Being well experienced during the First World War, Polish intellectuals started to collect information on the destruction and looting of the national cultural heritage from the early days after the outbreak of war in September 1939. Their task was especially complicated because they faced the losses resulting from two occupations, Nazi in the Western, and Soviet in the Eastern part of Poland (after 17th September). At the beginning, the work was undertaken by the commission spontaneously organised in November 1939 in Warsaw. Then, the Government of Poland in Exile (in London) created the Delegation for Home Affaires which worked in secret on occupied territories. This commission was incorporated as one of the sections of the delegation's Department of the Liquidation of the Effects of War. The section was assisted by a well developed network of specialists who covered the entire country and were able to collect evidence of the occupant's activities in the field of culture and art.

The results of this work elaborated in form of monographic reports were secretly sent to London where they could be further processed and published by the Ministry of Information and Documentation of the Government of Poland in Exile. The first of such reports was ready in March 1940 and contained a list of losses suffered during the military operations and the beginning of occupation.1 In effect of this cooperation two documentary books were issued in London: a catalogue in 1944, "Cultural losses of Poland. Index of Polish cultural losses during the German occupation 1939-1943", and secondly a comprehensive study in 1945 entitled "The Nazi-Kultur in Poland by several Authors of necessity temporarily anonymous (written in Warsaw under the German occupation)".2

Information received from occupied Poland was also presented to the Commission for Protection and Restitution of Cultural Material (chaired by Professor Paul Vaucher) organised in London by Conference of Allied Ministers of Education. One of the most important tasks of this body was to establish a systematic database containing information on cultural losses of all Allied countries.3

In fact, almost all material collected in the way described above has never been used in practice as a source of information for restitutional purposes. Works in Poland were stopped by the Warsaw uprising in 1944. Documentation of losses already collected was in majority confiscated by new authorities and closed in communist party archives as a product of enemy regime. Also Vaucher's Commission database was in 1945 taken over by the British Council and then, according to my knowledge, deposited in the Public Record Office in London.

For these reasons, the Polish Ministry of Culture established in Warsaw in 1945 had to begin its restitutional action once again with the collection of information. The official Bureau for the Revindication and Reparations was formed to identify cultural losses and prepare restitution claims as well as reparation postulates. Methods used by the Bureau in fulfilling these tasks were in general similar to works carried out by its predecessors. Based on the material available 14 volumes dealing with different kinds of missing works of art (e. g. paintings, sculptures etc.) were published.4 About 200 important works of art returned to Poland mostly due to the activity of Charles Estreicher in the American Zone of Occupation in Germany.

Because of political atmosphere, the Bureau and with it the whole problem of cultural restitution and reparations were closed in 1951. No other institution was systematically collecting information on cultural losses nor was working in the field in any other way. For a moment, this issue came up again in 1956 when the Soviet Union decided to return 835 paintings and circa 4,000 other works of art to Poland. That was the definite end of war in the field of culture and put the problem on ice for nearly 40 years.

It was only "perestroika" which has brought the first signal of a coming new era. In 1989, the Royal Castle in Warsaw recovered four paintings by Pillement that had been looted by the Nazis and surfaced unexpectedly in storerooms of Tsarskoe Selo. The Renaissance bronze tomb plates from the Poznan cathedral, for which a search had been conducted for a long time in Germany, were found a year later in St. Petersburg's Hermitage and restored to their rightful place.5

Taking into account the importance and the complexity of the problem, the Polish Government decided in 1990 to create the post of Commissioner for Cultural Heritage Abroad, whose main purpose is to collect all documents related to cultural losses and to draw up the final account of the outstanding war debts. After two years of intensive work it was possible to publish a comprehensive study of losses in books and libraries, although it is still only an introduction to the problem.6 Other catalogues are in preparation.

Poland has also begun bilateral negotiations on the question of restitution of still missing cultural property which can be located and identified. The basis of the talks with the Federal Republic of Germany is the article 28.3 of the Polish-German treaty on the good neighbourhood policy and friendly cooperation signed on June 17th, 1991. The said provision reads as follows:

"The pacting sides will strive to resolve in this spirit (of concord and reconciliation - W.K.) the problems related to the cultural goods and archives starting with individual cases."7

The first result of these negotiations was the return in the summer of 1992 of circa 30 pieces of ancient gold jewellery and of over 1,700 silver and a few gold coins removed from the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw and from the prehistoric collection of the former Wielkopolska Museum in Poznan during the occupation.8 The talks are continuing.

As a consequence of new Polish-Russian relations, the treaty on the friendly and good neighbourly cooperation signed by both States on May 22, 1992 contains the following general clause related to the problem discussed:

"Sides will cooperate in order to reveal and unify, to introduce to the cultural currency and to insure the necessary legal material and other protection regarding the assets, historical monuments and objects found in their territories that are related to the historic and cultural heritage of the nations of the other side". (art. 13.3)

"In accord with the international standards and agreements the sides will regard with favor the mutual efforts to reveal and return the cultural and historical goods, including archive material which had been seized and unlawfully removed or that by some other unlawfully manner had come to be found in the territories of the other side" (art. 13.4).9

According to the Declaration on cultural, scientific and educational cooperation signed the same day as a treaty, Poland and Russia decided to establish Government Commissioners who are in charge of the execution of these provisions. The Commissioners have been appointed and negotiations have begun.

Wojciech Kowalski, Expert,
Professor at the University of Silesia, Katowice

1. For the comprehensive list of reports and work on them see: W. Kowalski: Liquidation of the Effects of World War II in the Area of Culture. Warsaw 1994, p. 16 and subs.
2. Cultural losses of Poland. Index of Polish cultural losses during the German occupation 1939-1943. Ed. Charles Estreicher, London 1944. The Nazi-Kultur in Poland, by several authors temporarily anonymous out of necessity (written in Warsaw under the German occupation). London, HMSO, 1945. Further publications were issued by Polish authorities in USA, e.g.: German Destruction of Cultural Life in Poland Documents Relating to the Administration of Occupied Countries in Eastern Europe. No 2, New York.
3. The Commission produced three important documents which had to lay down the basic rules of the post-war restitution. They had the following, self-explaining titles: "Recommendation as to the Methods of Arranging and Pooling Information", "Memorandum Upon the Measures to be Taken Immediately Upon the Occupation of Germany" and "Scheme for the Restitution of Objects d'Art, Books and Archives". These documents have never been applied in practice by any State. For more information see: W. Kowalski, op. cit., p. 54 and subs.
4. Two of these catalogues were published in English: W. Tomkiewicz: Catalogue of Paintings Removed from Poland by the German Occupation Authorities during the Years 1939-1945. Vol. I. Foreign paintings. Warsaw 1950. Vol. II. Polish Paintings. Warsaw 1953.
5. See photographs of painting and tomb plate: W. Kowalski, op. cit., fig. 44 and 45.
6. Résumé of this comprehensive study was published in English: B. Bienkowska: Losses of Polish Libraries During World War II. Warsaw 1994.
7. Vertrag zwischen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und der Republik Polen über gute Nachbarschaft und freundschaftliche Zusammenarbeit vom 17.6.1991. Die deutsch-polnischen Verträge vom 14.11.1990 und 17.6.1991. Bonn 1991.
8. For more information and photographs of returned objects see: W. Kowalski, op. cit., p. 98 and subs.
9. Treaty between the Republic of Poland and the Russian Federation on Friendship and Good Neighbourly Cooperation of May 22, 1992. Official Journal 1993, No 61, item 291.


The war losses incurred by Poland in the area of objects of art are immense and, at the same time, difficult to assess. Responsible for this fact are, on the one hand, the lack of complete archival materials and, on the other, a random data derived from different years which were used as a basis for the records and listings drawn up at later date. Superimposed on this has been additionally the fact of the changed frontiers as a result of which Poland lost over 40% of its former territory. Considering all the facts, Poland's losses in the domain of culture came to be assumed at some 43% of the total possession in 1939.1 It is noteworthy that scores of museums or private collections have altogether disappeared during the hostilities.

Other archival sources report Poland to have lost over 516 thousand single works of art.2 However, the number is clearly too low considering that it accounts merely for the losses claimed by former owners after the end of the war. It will be noted that it encompasses both the objects derived from provincial ethnographic collections and outstanding masterpieces owned by the most celebrated museums or private collections of museum character, like the Prince Czartoryski Collection in Goluchów and Cracow.

It will be of interest to recall the art work classification system adopted by the Germans in Poland for the purpose of their sequestering, as it was of some importance both during the revindications carried out as the War ended and today in the search for the materials related to war losses. The system was applicable to the entire area of Poland (being the most pronounced over the territory of the General Government established by the Germans with the capital in Cracow). The system adopted subdivision into three categories. The first category comprised pieces of art of supreme artistic value or those which could substantiate the influence of German art on the works created over Poland's territory. There were 521 pieces that were described in "Sichergestellte Kunstwerke im Generalgouvernement" published in 19403 and were designed for their shipment to the Reich, among others to the Hitler's museum planned in Linz. Another group were the works of art of no less value which remained at the disposal of superior German officers. The third and largest group comprised the pieces of art created after 1850, thus, as believed at that time, of mediocre value, including the works of Polish artists which were readily "borrowed" by German officers of various ranks. The latter pieces of art were usually taken away to Germany in private luggage. The least data are available on these works of art, as they were not included in any German inventory or shipping document, which is not the case with the first and second group of items.

The recording of war losses in respect of culture in a broader sense was conducted virtually from the first day of the war. Though, the relevant data were sent to London - even in the time of the fiercest German terror - to the Bureau of Revindication of Cultural Losses of the Ministry of Congress Affaires of the Polish Government in Exile. The result of these actions was, among others, the publication of the Loss Catalogue in 1944 which comprises all the arts, including architecture.4 Unfortunately the catalogue fails to account for the immense devastation Warsaw suffered after the fall of the Rising in 1944, when the city virtually ceased to exist. However, before the outbreak and during the war thousands of works of art were brought into the capital from all over Poland - both from the eastern borderland and from the western territory where they were hoped to be safe from hostilities.

Since we embarked upon the recording of the losses of objects of art that Poland suffered 50 years after the end of the war, we are faced with serious problems relating to nearly all aspects of the assignment, from issues based on their merits to some purely technical matters: the lack of verified (following the revindication action conducted in the years 1945-1958) catalogues of losses, archival records partly being damaged or lost, thousands of linear meters of records requiring careful study (including the German ones), and last but not least, the lack of an adequate bibliography on the subject. All these aspects were extremely discouraging and deterring factors.

The work commenced in 1991 at the Office of the Commissioner for the Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad with the collection of records by the Ministry of Congress Affaires mentioned above and the Bureau of War Revindication and Reparations at the Ministry of Culture and Art in the years 1945-1951. The result of the work of the Bureau has been the publication of five catalogues covering individual fields of art5 and several relevant post-war publications. The authors of the material based their work on the inquiry forms distributed both to museums and to private individuals which were objects-of-art owners as well as to religious denominations. As early as 1945, a total of 10,000 of such forms were distributed6 while their overall number is estimated at about 30,000. Unfortunately, only a few thousands of these are preserved until today. A second action aimed at the evaluation of losses in the area of culture, launched in the early 1970s and classified as "confidential matter", failed to provide many elements of significance to the issue, being based largely on the archival material and on the records of cross-examinations of the Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg Trial.7 It has merely contributed to a systematic order that could be effected in relation to certain questions connected with this issue.

As mentioned earlier, all this was concerned with the aspects of the issue as judged by their merits, primarily the information sources. For the sources to be properly used, organisational framework had to be developed for verification and elaboration of the material. The first principle adopted was that the museums which have been in operation continuously since the prewar times prepare the listing of their own losses. Those museums which ceased to exist after the war as well as private collections, on the other hand, will be included in the work of thirteen regional Centres for Documentation of Objects of Historical Value. A much more serious problem was the acquisition of the data on the losses inflicted upon religious denominations primarily the Catholic Church and Jewish communities. The latter losses have been extremely difficult to follow up because of the complete annihilation of the Jewish community by the Germans and the destruction of all the signs related to its presence on the Polish lands. As to the losses sustained by the Catholic Church, the Diocesan Chancelleries volunteered to take their records, often in collaboration with the regional Centres for Documentation of Objects of Historial Value.8

To give a uniform appearance to the material provided, on consultations with the historians of art, archivists and information science specialists the Office of the Commissioner has worked out a special computer program that permits not only the entering of just any item of information, with it's subsequent retrieval, but also the preparation of the whole portion of the data for subsequent use in preparation of the catalogue of the lost objects of art. The program has been modified and supplemented as the new material was coming in and was prepared on the basis of the surveys previously worked out by the office.

More than three years have passed since the recording of war losses was started. Since then searches in nearly all the archives in Poland have been made, including church records, and a collaboration has been commenced with the museums and individuals who lost their collections during the war. The materials thus obtained were used to enter the data into the computer program for over 41,000 lost pieces of art most of which are identifiable on the basis of a photograph attached. In that number are included about 3,550 paintings of Polish painters and 3,870 paintings of foreign schools. Catalogues of losses in Polish archeology, in the Mediterranean Basin archeology, and paintings are being compiled on the basis of the data.

The work is going on uninterruptedly. Taking the amount of the incoming information into account, the work will be continued for several years. The result will be a document which visualises the huge losses inflicted upon Polish culture as the result of the hostilities.

Monika Kuhnke, Office of the Commissioner for the Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad, Warsaw

1. Archiwum Ministerstwa Spraw Zagranicznych, zespól 10, wiazka 23, teczka 207, s. 44 (Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affaires. Section 10, file 23, folder 207, p. 44).
2. Archiwum Akt Nowych w Warszawie, zespól Ministerstwa Kultury i Sztuki, Biuro Rewindykacjii Odszkodowan Wojennych, sygn. 387/187, s. 242 (Archives of New Records in Warsaw, Section, Ministry of Culture and Art. Bureau of Revindication and Reparations, sig. 387/187, p. 242.
3. Der Generalgouverneur, Der Sonderbeauftragte für die Sicherung der Kunst und Kulturgüter, Sichergestellte Kunstwerke im Generalgouvernement, Breslau (1940).
4. Estreicher, Ed. Ch.: Cultural Losses of Poland. Index of Polish Losses During the German Occupation 1939-1944, London 1944.
5. Tomkiewicz, W.: Katalog obrazów wywiezionych z Polski przez okupantów niemieckich w latach 1939-1945. Tom I. Malarstwo obce. (Catalogue of Paintings Removed from Poland by the German Occupation Authorities During the Years 1939-1945. Vol. I. Foreign Paintings). Prace i materialy Wydzialu Rewindykacji i Odszkodowan Ministerstwa Kultury i Sztuki Nr. 9, (Papers and materials of the Department of Revindication and Reparations of the Ministry of Culture and Art no. 9) Warszawa 1949, 1950.
Tomkiewiez W.: Katalog obrazów wywiezionych z Polski przez okupantów niemieckich w latach 1939-1945. Tom II. Malarstwo polskie. (Catalogue of paintings removed from Poland by the German occupation authorities during the years 1939-1945. Vol. 2. Polish Paintings). Prace i materialy Wydzialu Rewindykacji i Odszkodowan Ministerstwa Kultury i Sztuki Nr. 11, (Papers and materials of the Department of Revindication and Reparations of the Ministry of Culture and Art no. 11) Warszawa 1951. Straty wojenne zbiorów polskich w dziedzinie rzemiosla artystycznego. Tom 1, II. Red. S.E. Nahlik, K. Sroczynska, W. Tomkiewicz. (War Losses of Polish Collections in the Area of Arts and Crafts. Vol. 1, 2, ed. S. E. Nahlik, K. Sroczynska, W. Tomkiewicz). Prace i materialy Wydzialu Rewindykacji i Odszkodowan Ministerstwa Kultury i Sztuki Nr. 12, (Papers and Materials of the Department of Revindication and Reparations of the Ministry of Culture and Art no. 12) Warszawa 1953. Kaczmarzyk, D.: Straty wojenne Polski w dziedzinie rzezby (Poland's War Losses in Sculpture). Prace i materialy Wydziahu Rewindykacji i Odszkodowan Ministerstwa Kultury i Sztuki Nr. 14, (Papers and Materials of the Department of Revindication and Reparations of the Ministry of Culture and Art no. 14) Warszawa 1958.
6. Sroczynska, K.: Rewindykacja dziel sztuki (Revindication of Works of Art). Biblioteka Muzealnictwa i Ochrony Zabytków, T. 23, 1968, seria B, s. 48 (Library of Museum Studies and Protection of Historical Monuments, series B, vol. 23, 1968, p. 48).
7. Archiwum Glównej Komisji Badania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu. Instytut Pamieci Narodowej (d. Glówna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskiej w Polsce) Komisja d/s Opracowan Problemów Odszkodowan Niemickich, Zespól D/s kultury, nauki i oswiaty, sygn. 664-713 (Archive of the Main Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against The Polish Nation Institut of National Memory / former: The Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland, German Reparations Committee. Section: The Culture, Science and Education, sign. 664-713.
8. Boncza-Bystrzycki I., Father: Grabiez mienia zwiazków wyznaniowych na ziemiach polskich "wcielonych do Rzeszy" w okresie hitlerowskiej okupacji 1939-1945 (The Plunder of Property of Religious Denomonations on the Poland's Territory "Incorporated into the Reich" During the Nazi Occupation 1939-1945), Poznan 1976.
Stopniak, F. Father: Polskie Swiatynie Katolickie podezas II wojny swiatowej. (w:) Kosciól Katolicki na ziemiach polskich w czasie II wojny swiatowej. Tom XII (The Polish Catholic Churches during World War II, (in) The Catholic Churches in the Polish Lands During World War II, vol. XII), Warszawa 1982.


Ukraine being on the stage of its formation and moulding of its statehood declared to all the world that the fate of its national relics and cultural values was tragic. Under different circumstances a considerable part of it was either lost or discovered outside its own territory. Exactly for these reasons the National Commission on the Restitution of Cultural Treasures to Ukraine under the Cabinet of Ministers was established.

The main objectives of the Commission are the following:

  • investigation and promotion of the restitution of cultural treasures to Ukraine which for various reasons and in various historical periods were displaced beyond its territorial borders,
  • protection of the national interests of Ukraine with regard to the cultural treasures of its people that are located beyond its borders,
  • prevention of the loss of cultural property and taking measures to obtain compensation for losses due to destruction, deterioration and damage to cultural treasures,
  • development and accomplishment of national and international programs for the discovery, exchange, study and recovery of cultural treasures along with other Ukrainian and foreign organisations,
  • coordination of the work of Ukrainian agencies, institutions, and organizations to restitute cultural treasures to Ukraine, as well as the provision of reasearch, methodological and informational resources,
  • creation of information banks and data bases on missing treasures of Ukraine and foreign Ucrainica.
The Commission has begun working on the creation of the national information system for monitoring missing cultural treasures that should ensure the accumulation of information on missing cultural treasures. Work is also underway on the publication of thematic catalogues.

As part of the USSR, Ukraine was not able to bring to life its sovereign right for the return of cultural values although formally it was subject to international law. Now, as a member of the Helsinki process, Ukraine has ratified the respective conventions which confirm the importance of the cultural values to the countries of their origin and to their people.

It was purely by chance that in September 1994 in the Ukrainian town of Chernigiv, which was leveled to the ground by the Hytlerites, an international conference took place under the auspices of the UNESCO on the subject: the problem of returning cultural relics of the nation lost or replaced during the Second World War. In his address to the participants of the conference L. Kuchma, President of Ukraine, underlined that the problem of the return of cultural values is an integral part of the cultural policy and of agreements on cultural cooperation, and it should be regarded in the context of international relations.

According to very low estimates, Ukrainian cities and villages lost about one thousand monuments of architecture due to damage and destruction of which 347 were lost irrevocably. The losses of the state archive fund amount to 46 million files including the unique documents of the Ukrainian history from the 12th to the 20th centuries which were excluded from the scientific and cultural circulation. The Ukrainian libraries lost over 51 million books during the Second World War. The facts about the war of Ukrainian museums are being defined more precisely. According to the first official post-war data the German occupational army and its allies took over 40 thousand exhibits from the museums of Ukraine. New data were published in 1987. 151 museums were robbed and 300 thousand exhibits were either destroyed or taken to the West. For example, in the museums of Ukrainian art invaders destroyed and robbed 55,875 exhibits (which was 90 % of its funds), 4,873 exhibits were moved about and destroyed in the Museum of Russian Art in the Ukrainian capital. 1,348 paintings and sketches, and 332 articles of decorative and applied art were sent to Germany from the Kharkiv Picture Gallery. Everything left behind was burnt. According to the latest data, about 75 thousand works of art which were collected in the exhibits the Nazis took away from the Kharkiv Museum of History. The remaining pieces were burnt. The Lviv Picture Gallery lost 229 most valuable articles.

Considerable losses were also suffered by the museums of Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Lutsk, Odessa, Poltava, Rovno, Sumy, Kherson, Chernigiv, Yalta and other cities of Ukraine. This is only a small part of the sorrowfull list.

The question about the evacuation of the cultural values from Ukraine to the Eastern areas of the USSR is quite pressing. The objects were not returned to the place of their origin. The same applies to those which were robbed by the Nazis and their allies in Ukraine and were sent to the Soviet Union after the war but were not returned to the Ukrainian people. Together with Belarus the Ukraine suffered most of the robbery of the German army, and its allies never recovered an adequate part of this property to compensate the terrible losses. The first experience in the identification and return of the cultural values lost during the war shows the urgence of a fundamental development of the international legal aspects of the problem.

We would like to mark the positive character of our dialogue with the authorities of Germany, Poland, Hungary, and a number of other countries. We consider that the direct contacts of the archivists, librarians, museum workers and scientists of the different countries are the most productive. It is obvious that we should continue the practice of organizing joint conferences, seminars, round table meetings, and other measures directed to increase the international cooperation and wide exchange of information.

Alexander Fedoruk, Head of the National Commission
if the Restitution of Cultural Treasures to Ukraine, Kiev