March 13, 2011

Nazi-looted Art Provenance: Emily Blyze on Museum Guidelines

by Emily Blyze, ARCA Alum 2009
Part three of a five-part weekend series

The crucial purpose of the European Shoah Legacy Institute in Terezin (Terezin Institute) is to follow up on the work of the Prague Conference and the Terezin Declaration. Initiated by the Czech Government, the Terezin Institute is a voluntary forum that facilitates an intergovernmental effort to develop non-binding guidelines and best practices for restitution and compensation of wrongfully seized immovable property. The priorities of the Terezin Institute will be to publish regular reports on activities related to the Terezin Declaration, develop websites to facilitate sharing of information, particularly in the fields of art provenance, as well as maintain and post lists of websites useful for Participating States, organizations representing Holocaust (Shoah) survivors and Nazi victims, and other non-governmental organizations (NGO).

Working Groups (WG) are composed of representatives of institutions with fundamental activities, field experience and research results related to the principal topics of the WG agenda. Each WG has two Co-Chairs (one from the Czech Republic and one from abroad) who are responsible for the overall planning and management of the agenda and schedule. The WGs established are Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, Immovable Property (Private and Communal), Looted Art, Judaica and Jewish Cultural Property, and a Special Session – Caring for Victims of Nazism and Their Legacy. Responsibilities of a WG are to prepare the agenda of the expert portion of the Prague conference, discuss the important focal points of their agenda, suggest the framework for presentations at the Prague conference, and draft recommendation for the final declaration.

The Looted Art Working Group prepared expert conclusions that acknowledges the Washington Principles, but “affirms the urgent needs to broaden, deepen and sustain these (Washington Principles) efforts in order to ensure just and fair solutions regarding cultural property looted during the Holocaust era and its aftermath."