Editor-in-Chief Noah Charney features "Q&A with Joris Kila and Karl von Habsburg" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. Kila and Habsburg are co-winners of the 2012 ARCA Award for Art Protection and Security. For more information about them, please see the article on ARCA Award winners in this issue. Joris Kila answered questions on behalf of both parties.
Joris Kila is chairman of the International Military Cultural Resources Work Group. He is a researcher at the Institute of Culture and History of the University of Amsterdam, and a board member for civil-military relations with the World Association for the Protection of Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflict (WATCH), based in Rome. Additionally, he is a former community fellow of the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago. He is a member of the US Commands Cultural Historical Action Group and Chair of the International Cultural Resources Working Group. Until recently he served as network manager and acting chairman of the cultural affairs dept. at the Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) Group North in the Netherlands. In that capacity he undertook several cultural rescue missions in Iraq and FYROM (Macedonia).
Noah Charney: Tell me about the Austrian Society for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and Blue Shield Austria. How did these initiatives begin and what are some of their current projects?
Joris Kila: The current Austrian situation concerning the implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention (1954 HC) for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, especially within the Austrian Armed Forces (AAF), is not the product of well-organized activity; it is rather the result of a number of individuals’ efforts while working in a variety of positions at the right time. A long time passed between Austria’s 1964 ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention, and its implementation and dissemination within the AAF. The first Austrian “military mission” in which cultural property protection (CPP) played a role, occurred in 1968 in the context of the “Prague Spring.” The Austrian government and military leaders expected Soviet troops to cross Austrian territory on their way to Prague, violating the country’s sovereignty and neutrality. Knowing that the Soviet troops could not be stopped by military force, Austria prepared for an invasion. By initiative of the Federal Bureau for Monuments and Sites (FBMS) and under the supervision of its provincial departments, hundreds of Blue Shields, the emblem of the 1954 HC, were distributed in districts of eastern and northern Austria and, through the active participation of gendarmerie and army officers, these were attached to historical or cultural monuments along the anticipated Soviet route through Austria. It was greatly feared that Soviet troops would not respect Austria’s rich cultural heritage, which had already suffered badly during World War II.
The idea was that this time the enemy would at least be made aware of the fact that with every destructive step they took, they were likely to be violating international law. This form of resistance without force at the climax of the Cold War initiated the birth of some sort of “Blue Shield Movement” in Austria, which finally resulted in the foundation of the Austrian Society for the Protection of Cultural Property in 1980. This civil organization is still characterized by having many regular and militia army officers among its members who are entrusted with most of the positions on its steering board. The Society also played an initial and decisive role in setting up the Austrian National Committee of the Blue Shield in 2008. Therefore, both organizations – forming an interface between civil and military expertise as well as providing an unrivaled pool of experts within Austria – consequently have an interest and high competence in (today's) military CPP.
You may read the rest of this interview in The Journal of Art Crime by subscribing through ARCA's website.