Part I

At the end of 1995, "Die Deutsche Bibliothek" (The German Library) received the news from the Ministry of the Interior that in the Georgian Republic so-called 'trophy books' had turned up, which had been taken by the Red Army in 1946. It was known to us from research that in the 50's and 60's these 'trophy books' had been distributed within the former Soviet Union to various cities and even various Soviet republics. This message from the Ministry of the Interior was accompanied by a request to send experts to Tbilisi to survey the collection. We were informed that the collection was held in the Academy of Sciences of the Georgian Republic and that the Georgian government intended to return the books to Germany.

On January 22nd, 1996 two library experts from Frankfurt a.M. travelled to Georgia. In the library we were received by the Director Nodar Gurgenidse and the Secretary of the Academy of Letters M. Zizeschwili. After a very warm welcome M. Zizeschwili gave an account of the circumstances under which the books arrived in the library of the Academy in the 50's. He told us that he was a young man at the time and that he can still recall the event. One morning some lorries sent by the State Fund for Literature had driven up. It was raining and the books had simply been thrown onto the load areas of the lorries; they were neither stacked nor protected by a hood and were in a most deplorable condition. M. Zizeschwili reassured us that nobody in Tbilisi had asked the State Fund for these books. Nodar Gurgenidse, the library director added: "We never have considered these books as our property: we could recognize their origin from the library stamps and always have been of the opinion that they should be returned to their owners. We then deposited the books in the cellars, even though there was very little space for them." In the course of the years, the books were re-stacked various times, but they did survive the years of the Cold War. Nodar Gurgenidse added: "When we then regained our independence we expressed our opinion that the moment had come to repatriate the books. Our government took up this idea and as a result we are meeting here".

The German experts inspected the collection. It soon became clear that it was a rather heterogeneous but interesting collection. The collection was examined on a random basis. It was estimated that it contained around 100,000 books. It became obvious that the books mainly came from the municipal libraries of Bremen, Magdeburg, Lübeck and Hamburg, the University Library Leipzig, the Prussian State Library, and some other libraries. The first assessment was that the books originated from the 17th to the 20th century and covered diverse areas of knowledge. The books still were in a satisfactory condition considering that they were stored in a cellar for half a century. Even through a random selection it was possible to discover some real treasures. A Luther print of the year 1523 originating from the Lübeck Library was found. The Georgian colleagues went through the greatest possible trouble to assist us in every way.

As the German Minister of Foreign Affairs was visiting Tbilisi at the same time the subject of the restitution of the books was touched at the negotiations with President Eduard Schewardnadse. Restitution to Germany was agreed upon as a matter of principle. The details were to be elaborated at a further meeting between Georgian and German library experts.

In May 1996 the restitution project entered a new phase. After concrete agreements had been achieved through the channels of foreign policy and the Federal Government and the States agreed upon the financial aspects of the restitution the Director-General of "Die Deutsche Bibliothek", Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, had travelled to Tbilisi to negotiate the procedures of the restitution with the Culture Department of the Georgian Foreign Ministry. The negotiations with the Culture Department and the Central Library of the Academy of Sciences took a successful course. The Director of the Culture Department Zviad Chamburidse and Klaus-Dieter Lehmann agreed upon the most important procedures and the framework for the restitution. Besides the collections in the library of the Academy, further 'trophy books' had now also turned up in the High School for Foreign Languages Ilia Tshavtshavadse. The director of the High School for Foreign Languages declared spontaneously his readiness to participate in the restitution of the collections in his library. In the face of the modest conditions in which we found the Georgian library system, this gesture of the Georgian librarians appeared to be more than generous to us. At our visit we became convinced that the Georgian libraries were struggling for their survival. Our experience has led us to campaign for solidarity and financial assistance in Germany for the Georgian library system.

Back in Germany we immediately worked out the technical details of the restitution. We achieved the participation of two colleagues from the "Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin" (State Library of Berlin) for the instruction and coordination of packaging and transportation on the spot. The actual transportation of the books was to be carried out by ship in 40-feet-containers. Transport by land was rejected due to the various crossings of borders and the customs problems that might be encountered. For the transportation we found a Frankfurt haulage contractor. At the beginning of July the two librarians from Berlin and the haulage contractor travelled to Georgia in order to put the restitution plans into effect.

First a container with packaging material was sent to Tbilisi. Under extremely unfavourable conditions - such as heat of 40°C - our two German colleagues worked with around twenty Georgian librarians and managed to pack 96,000 volumes into 1,274 boxes and stack them into three 40-feet-containers. On the last day of the stay of our German colleagues a third Georgian library, the Education Science Library handed over 'trophy books' for restitution, too.

Our colleagues received all support possible from the Georgian side, but they had to cope with many difficulties from language problems to negotiations with the local customs authorities. It was a big challenge for librarians who are normally occupied with classifying and cataloguing books. Our colleagues managed this task with a lot of tact, sensitivity, and high personal commitment.

The containers reached the State Library Berlin at the end of August 1996. The Federation and the States, i.e. the libraries involved, agreed to first take the books to Berlin to be cleaned and sorted there, before they could be returned to their original owners. In a reserve depot of the library the books have been subjected to a thorough processing, cleansing, sorting out and repackaging. As agreed upon a copy of every title page will be handed over to the Georgian side.

At the same time the "Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen" (State and University Library Bremen) initiated a large solidarity campaign for the Georgian libraries. German libraries were asked for specific equipment for libraries in Georgia. This campaign received good response. At the beginning of December two 40-feet-containers departed for Georgia, loaded with equipment from catalogue cabinets to microfiche-reading-machines. In the beginning of 1997 a second consignment will follow.

The first inspection of the collection undertaken in Germany not only confirmed the first evaluation of the books found in Tbilisi but also surpassed expectations. The main beneficiaries of the restitution are the "Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen" and the "Stadtbibliothek Magdeburg" (Town Library Magdeburg), with lesser shares for the Library of the Hanseatic town Lübeck, the University Library Leipzig, the "Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina" (German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina) in Halle, the State and University Library Hamburg, the State Library Berlin and the Gleimhaus (Gleimhouse) in Halberstadt. Furthermore, there are more than 100 other provenances indicated for small shares. Numerous private provenances are also part of the collection, and clarifying their ownership will surely raise some problems. Among the already assorted collections some real treasures were found, for instance two Luther prints belonging to Lübeck, a music incunabula belonging to Hamburg, and books from Schiller's reference library.

All these treasures were presented at a ceremony in the State Library Berlin in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Klaus Kinkel, the Georgian Ambassador Konstantin Gabaschwili, and the State Secretary Klaus Faber, representative of the German states, at the occasion of the restitution. Representatives of the Federal Government, the States and especially of the libraries expressed their profound gratitude for this splendid altruistic gesture. The Georgian Ambassador emphasized again the attitude of the Georgian Republic to the so-called "trophy art". Konstantin Gabaschwili declared that the cultural goods should be returned to the places from which they were taken - without stipulating any conditions. He again emphasized the position of the Georgian government which had already been established in the Bilateral Cultural Treaty between Germany and Georgia.

The three Georgian colleagues, among them Nodar Gurgenidse and Juri Mosidse, who had been especially committed to the restitution, had the opportunity to convince themselves personally of the sincere gratitude of the German library world, when they went on a two week working trip through Germany. They were able to make some professional friendships and to conclude some bilateral agreements with German libraries. We will endeavour to bring Georgia's libraries closer to Europe and go through the greatest possible trouble to give assistance to them. The Federal Republic will not forget Georgia's splendid gesture.

Despite of the great delight about the successful restitution there also remains a bitter aftertaste. In our research into the destiny of the German 'trophy books' we always assumed that only those books which were not part of the most valuable collections were allocated by the so-called State Fund within the Soviet Union. After recent examination of various relevant documents in Russian Archives, though, it is obvious that the State Fund was totally strained of its work in the last years (in the mid 50's this institution was closed down). The millions of books from Germany could no longer be distributed in any sensible way. Russian libraries had no need for regionally coloured German writings; the knowledge of Gothic letter was very limited, and Soviet libraries suffered from a lack of storage place. Therefore one obviously got rid of the books by allocating them half-heartedly to newly founded libraries irrespective of whether libraries needed German books or not. The work of the State Fund had become too expensive. The 'trophy books' had become a burden. The collection in Tbilisi is an example of this development. However, we have to keep in mind that our books in Tbilisi enjoyed a rather favourable treatment. The cellar was dark and dry, the books were able to survive. The big question is whether and where are more of such collections stacked away within or around the former Soviet Union. It is obvious from the documents that there must be more such places. How many of them enjoyed such favourable conditions as the books of Tbilisi did? How many have already decayed, and how many are still going to waste away?

Ingo Kolasa, The German Library, Frankfurt a.M.

This text was translated by Margret Dick

Part II

When - in the late 50's - we discovered the valuable book collections we immediately thought to return the books to the rightful owners. The German saying "Unrecht Gut gedeiht nicht" (unlawful possessions bring bad luck) has its Georgian equivalent in: "Was dir nicht gehört, das wird dir auch nicht schmecken" (those things which don't belong to you won't taste good). Georgia has done the deed which it should have already done long ago, but which was impossible during the communist totalitarism. To capture booty does not range among the worst violations, in this case compensation is possible - but this is not possible in cases of greater sins such as taking human lifes.

I believe one should not politicize our actions too much. The more progressive circles of Russia articulated their appreciation of our venture. In a Russian television show it was even said that this undertaking gives an example to Russia. In another television show, though, we were accused of betrayal; it was added that, in any case, we would not have any use for the precious books and that we were secretly making a profit by it. In the name of the staff of our institute I want to stress the following: Georgia has always been and always will be orientated towards Western Europe. For over one and a half centuries Swabian immigrants lived in Georgia and we are aware of their cultural contributions. Today about 3,000 highly qualified German specialists are working in Georgia. Better than most television journalists, these specialists know how to handle the precious books. Concerning the assumption we would do a deal with the books, we would like to emphazise that such a behaviour does not comply with our mentality.

We were very happy to see the German specialists inspecting and restoring the books with great dedication. It only supported our belief that the decision of my country was rather a moral than a political one.

Juri Mosidse,
Rector of the State Academy for Western European Languages and Cultures, Tbilisi


In May of this year the German "Bundesarchiv" restituted twelve volumes with judgements of the Belgian Councils of War. These documents were discovered at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The twelve books contain the following judgements:

  1. Judgements from the Council of War of the occupation army in Aachen,
    from 7.11.1919 to 29.12.1919 (nos. 152-318, 1 volume)
    Ditto, from 14.01.1920 to 25.11.1920 (nos. 1-875, 4 volumes)
    Ditto, from 4.01.1923 to 08.03.1923 (nos. 1-205, 1 volume)
  2. Judgements from the Council of War of the 4th occupation army in Aken, from 7.01.1920 to 22.12.1920 (1 volume)
  3. Judgements from the Council of War of Antwerp-Limburg, from 1.04.1925 to 30.12.1925 (nos. 128-439, 2 volumes)
  4. Judgements from the Council of War of East Flanders, from 1925 (1 volume)
  5. Judgements from the Council of War of Brabant, from 1925 (1 volume)
  6. Judgements from the Council of War of Hainaut, from 1925 (1 volume)

The main question is how these documents came in the possession of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One could suppose that one part (nos. 1 and 2) of these archives, concerning the occupation of the Belgian army in Germany, had been 'forgotten' afterwards. This theory does not do for the other half of the documents (nos. 3 to 6), which deal with military judgements.

These documents were in all likelihood taken in the beginning or during the Second World War by national socialist organizations. In the case of no. 1 and no. 2 it seems logical, because the documents are about infractions in Germany and the question arises whether these archives are complete or not. Maybe the dates were misleading and one saw the judgements in correspondance with the Belgian occupation of the Ruhr region in 1924-1925?

In any case the restitution of these volumes fills in some gaps in the archives of Belgian military justice. One can hope that this will be the start of further restitution of Belgian military archives, most of which are kept in the Russian Federation.

The restituted volumes are momentarily in the Royal Museum of the Army in Brussels and will shortly be transferred to the General State Archives of Belgium ("Het Algemeen Rijksarchief"). (The military judgements are the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and their archives therefore must be legally deposited in the State Archives).

Richard Boijen, Archivist, Royal Museum of the Army, Brussels


The files and the recent publication on the return of five ivory sculptures to the "Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt" (Hesse State Museum, Darmstadt)1 give evidence as much of an adventure as of a success story. This leads to the question of the heart of the matter: Which factors contributed to the discovery and return in 1993 and 1994 of a number of medieval ivories which had been missing for several decades?

In 1805 Baron von Hüpsch left his "Kunst und Naturalienkabinett" (Cabinet of Art and Curiosities) to the Hessian Landgraf Ludwig X. The museum opening in 1815 was founded on these important collections together with those of Landgraf Ludwig X. Among the Hüpsch collection were the five apostle reliefs (probably depicting Jacob, John, Matthew, Philip and Simon) and the symbols of the four evangelists (man, lion, bull, eagle). These valuable 12th-century ivory sculptures were exhibited since the new museum premises opened at the beginning of this century.

Four decades later, on September 11th, 1944, the museum was destroyed by bombardments. In August and September 1943, however, the most precious collections of the museum had already been evacuated to Bavaria. Paintings, prints, sculptures, and furniture were stored at castle Rauhenzell near Immenstadt. Together with other medieval treasures, the apostles of the former Baron Hüpsch's collection had survived the bombing of 1944 in the air-raid shelter of the museum. On December 17th, 1944, they also arrived at castle Rauhenzell. By then, the first floor intended for the collections from Darmstadt was already overcrowded. Therefore the boxes, including box no. 17 with some smaller reliquaries and the ivory reliefs, had to be put near the entrance of the floor; this meant within easy reach for anybody. About the small "Turris reliquary" containing the ivories it was even said it could be opened "as easily as a sugar bowl".

On April 30th, 1945 the "2ème Division d'Infantérie Marocaine" (2nd Moroccan Infantry Division) of the French troops occupied Immenstadt and stayed until July 7th, 1945. Its officers moved into the nearby castle Rauhenzell. Today it is impossible to reconstruct with certainty whether the thefts of the medieval ivory plates of box no. 17 took place during one of their legendary parties. They might as well have disappeared during the soldiers' everyday routine or in a moment of confusion.

Although reports on sporadic burglaries existed, the Hessian custodians believed to hand over their almost completely evacuated stocks to the American forces, which were in charge then of the Bavarian region. By the end of 1947 the collections had been returned to Darmstadt. It was only in 1952-54, after the reconstruction of the museum, that the loss of the group of medieval objects was discovered while checking the inventories. Among the 17 missing objects were the five apostles and seven relief plates showing symbols of the evangelists. Three of the plates with the symbols carved out of walrus teeth were lost: the winged figures of man (Luke), of the lion (Mark) and of the eagle (St. John); only the bull (Matthew) had not been stolen. These are the outlines of the previous history.

Almost 40 years later, a first trace appeared of the lost treasures. In 1993 the Louvre contacted the "Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt" because it was offered two relief plates with evangelist symbols. As it is common practice in such cases, the Louvre consulted Adolph Goldschmidt's standard work on medieval ivory sculptures of 1923 which identifies the plates' provenance with Darmstadt. Therefore the Louvre addressed a direct inquiry to their German colleagues.

Due to the war most files of the museum in Darmstadt were destroyed. Thus in earlier inquiries museum employees couldn't rule out that the National Socialists might have sold art objects to France during the 30's. Consequently, in 1983, the Louvre had already bought two evangelist symbols which originally belonged to Darmstadt. In 1993, however, Sybille Ebert-Schifferer, director of the "Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt", and custodian Theo Jülich2 doubted that the cultural treasures appearing on the Parisian art market could have legally left Germany. Why should National Socialists have sold these ivories, attributed to the school of Cologne, which they must have highly appreciated as objects of 'true German art'? Rather the reversed practice was common in Germany at the time: the selling of French or Italian art. Payed with the profits resulting from these sales German art "returned to the Reich".

It turned out that one of the symbols offered in 1993 matched the group of two plates the Louvre had already bought in the 80's. Sybille Ebert-Schifferer proposed, therefore, a special arrangement to her French colleagues: They could keep the third evangelist symbol and, in return, the Louvre would help Darmstadt to get back the ivory plate of the lion (Mark) which belonged to the group still in the German museum. The French private owner of the plates learned that he possessed previously stolen goods. Thanks to the cooperation of the Louvre he also was informed that objects of such dubious origin would not be bought by any museum. Consequently the German museum could re-purchase the lion figure (Mark) for a rather small sum compared to its actual value.

Whether it was an accident or not, in the very same year, in September 1993, the five apostles were among the lot numbers of an auction at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris. Meanwhile the German art historians had discovered the old evacuation lists which were believed lost for good. With these files evidence existed for the fact that the ivories had been deposited in castle Rauhenzell and had disappeared from there. The "Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt" reported to the French police and tried to withdraw the artworks from the auction. This attempt was not successful since French law allows the possession of stolen goods if the owner can prove to have bought it bona fide. Nevertheless the private owner eventually was defeated. Sybille Ebert-Schifferer informed every larger museum in France about the fate of the apostle plates. Interpol conducted investigations, the German embassy was asked to intervene, and the auction house was put under pressure. Finally, after intensive negotiations and with the financial help of some Hessian enterprises, the five apostles could return to the "Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt" in 1994. The story of the five apostles closes with a happy ending.

Although every restitution is of individual character the example of the Darmstadt case shows how crucial the combined forces of public pressure and the solidarity of the international museum community can be. Without these means it would not have been possible for the committed museum staff to prevent at such short notice the selling of the artworkss at the auction. Furthermore, the museum's publication of its success story might encourage others as well to make their institutions' history of the 30's and 40's known to a wider public. Up to the present day in many cases this still remains a desideratum.

Christiane Kienle,
Coordination Office of the Federal States for the Return of Cultural Property, Bremen


1 Klaus Staat: Die abenteuerliche Heimkehr der fünf Apostel. Geschäftsbericht der Darmstädter Sparkasse. Darmstadt 1995.
2 The author thanks Theo Jülich for his advice and friendly support.


In September 1992 the Russian Federation made the only restitution of books to the West in returning 608 books to the Netherlands. This restitution took place thanks to the special efforts of Frans Janssen, director of the "Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica" in Amsterdam, and Ekaterina Genieva, director of the Rudomino Library of Foreign Literature in Moscow.

All 608 books had one thing in common: they were published in Dutch and were of diverse nature: school books, children's literature, Dutch prose from the Golden Age, historical and philosophical literature. A few of them were published in the 19th century, most came from our country and two were printed in 1942. The books came from private collections as well as families or even from book shops. Roundabout 100 had names or stamps of the former owners on the title pages.

The volumes were exhibited in Moscow in 1992 in the Rudomino Library of Foreign Literature, and came in their possession in the years 1981 and 1983. There they received a stamp from the library itself and one on page 17, a remembrance to the Russian Revolution of 1917. Before, these books were kept in the National Library of Minsk, where they were gathered after the Second World War. They came probably from the German depot in Raciborz (Ratibor), which was used by the "Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg", as central depot for their large "Ostbücherei" (Eastern Library). There they received the indication HOL ("holländisch" - Dutch), written with pencil and a specific number.

These books made an enormous journey through time and space: they were stolen during the Second World War mainly in the Netherlands, but also in Belgium and in France and then transported to Berlin and Ratibor. After the war they were transferred to Minsk, Moscow and in the 90's they returned to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris.

The Belgian books, restituted during the Benelux gathering on October 8th, 1996 in Brussels, originated from the "Algemeene Diamond Workers Association" of Antwerp, the private collections of the socialist Ministers Camille Huysmans and Arthur Wauters, and the Jewish family Andriesse, who lived in Brussels. The books of French origin belonged to the Turgenev Library and to the "Société Théosophique" in Paris.

Through a better documentation of the cultural losses these books can finally be returned to their rightful owners. It remains a symbol of a symbol: these are only examples of ten thousands of stolen books out of a total eleven million books, distributed between libraries in the Russian Federation.

Fritz Hoogewoud, Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, Amsterdam
Jacques Lust, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Brussels


On Friday, September 13th 1996 Ambassador Ronald Lauder, owner of a most important collection of arms and armour, handed over to Pavia & Harcourt, legal counsels of the Italian Consulate General in New York, a parade shield of the XVIth century, belonging to the Musei Civici of the Italian city of Bologna.

The shield, oval in form, known as "Targa Ovata" is of damascened steel, plated with gold; round the central boss runs the inscription: "Populus Universus Agri Bergomensis". The "Targa Ovata" was sent in 1939 from Bologna to Naples to be exhibited in the "Mostra Terre d'Oltremare" from where it disappeared due to wartime events. Ambassador Lauder bought it on the art market, from a respected London dealer, in 1982.

The Interministerial Commission for the Italian Art Treasures lost during the Second World War could identify the shield in the Lauder collection. Ambassador Ronald Lauder immediately reacted very positively, as a true lover of the arts, to the restitution request from the Italian Government through the Consul General in New York. The "Targa Ovata" belongs to a parade armour donated by the people of the country-side of Bergamo to Francesco Bernardo, a captain of the troops of the Republic of Venice around 1550. In 1553 Captain Francesco Bernardo ruled on a question of taxes due to the "Serenissima" by the country-side of Bergamo and it is likely that the armour was presented to him as a token for gratitude on that occasion or as a departure gift. Around the figure of Justice runs the inscription: "Sic profuit dum prafuit". To the armour belongs a war hat currently in the Wallace Collection in London (n.A. 87), bought in Paris in the middle of the last century by Sir Richard Wallace for 3,500 pound sterling.

The shield was returned to the Musei Civici Medievali of the town of Bologna on October 16th, 1996, in a ceremony attended by the mayor and other authorities as well as a numerous public.

Mario Bondioli-Osio,
President of the Interministerial Commission for Artworks, Rome


Since 1993 Germany is negotiating with the Ukraine about the restitution of cultural treasures moved because of World War II. After the third round of negotiations another mutual agreement could be achieved. On December 3rd, 1996, Waldemar Ritter of the Ministry of the Interior in the presence of the ambassador of the Ukraine returned three precious albums to the Department of Prints and Drawings Dresden. These albums of lithographs and engravings had been missing since 1945. Three of five albums known to be in Ukraine were presented to chancellor Helmut Kohl in Kiev during his state visit at the beginning of September. Already in July 1996, the staff of the Museum of Western and Eastern Art had shown all five of these albums to their German colleagues.

The recently returned works are: one volume with 57 lithographs of 1820 after Franz Gareis (1775-1803), a renowned Saxon artist, a second album with 69 colour etchings after Swiss sceneries, mostly of the 18th and 19th century, and, last but not least, 95 engravings by Johann Blaeu which date back to 1700 depicting scenes of festivities, ceremonies and the residences of the Dukes of Savoy. In return, the Ukraine received an 18th-century-icon, an antique Scythian mirror and books, among them works of the famous Lavra monastery in Kiev.

Today the Department of Prints and Drawings still misses a total of about 640 anthologies, albums, illustrated albums as well as books, containing thousands of engravings, wood cuts and lithographs. Also the museum still misses approximately 10,400 prints from the Renaissance to the 20th century, 3,300 drawings in albums and sketching books, the whole art historical library and valuable archival material. Most of all, due to the war the museum further lost 1,500 mainly unique drawings of exceptional quality by artists such as Dürer, Cranach, Rubens, Kollwitz and Menzel.

Wolfgang Holler,
Director of the Department of Prints and Drawings, Dresden