German-Israeli intergovernmental consultations – Grütters: Provenance research and the return of Nazi looted art are of central importance

October 4, 2018 – As part of today’s German-Israeli intergovernmental consultations in Jerusalem, Minister of State for Culture Monika Grütters has met for bilateral talks with the Israeli Minister for Social Equality, Gila Gamliel, and the Director-General of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, Yossi Sharabi.

Monika Grütters said: “Following our trip to Israel in July this year, we have been able to deepen the close cultural cooperation between our countries in a good and trusting atmosphere. With Minister Gamliel I have exchanged for provenance research and returns of Nazi looted art. We agreed that their work-up remains central in the 20th year after the Washington Declaration and will continue to work closely together. We support the project of the Israel Museum to show the current exhibition “Inventory Gurlitt – An Art Dealer in the National Socialism” of Berlin’s Gropiusbaus, in 2019 also in Jerusalem. We do not want the art find to be accessible only to the Israeli public, but also to make the Nazi art theft and the associated fate of the victims of the Shoa visible. Minister of Culture Miri Regev and I will continue to award the German-Hebrew Translator Award. We also want to further intensify existing cooperation in the field of literature, dance, music and film. ”

On the sidelines of the German-Israeli intergovernmental consultations, Minister of State Monika Grütters and the Israeli Minister Gila Gamliel opened the conference “The Future of Looted Art” in the Bible Lands Museum. Monika Grütters participated in the conference at the invitation of the Association of Holocaust Survivors Organizations in Israel. Experts from various disciplines discussed the stocktaking and perspectives of the Washington Declaration.

In her greeting, the Minister of State emphasized: “The processing of Nazi art theft, the provenance research of the individual cultural assets, is a politically important and a real concern of the heart. That is why I have more than tripled the resources for provenance research in my cultural budget in Germany, because we all know how difficult, complex and sometimes tenacious research into the provenance of looted cultural assets is. But in recent years it has made considerable progress and thus contributed significantly to the further understanding and clarification of Nazi art theft. Co-operation with international institutions, in particular the valuable support of the Israel Museum and Yad Vashem, has brought us together internationally and networked much better than we were before. The Gurlitt case is a vivid and good example of the achievements that can come from international scientific collaboration and a motivation to continue it in the future. For it is precisely the international networking of provenance research and the exchange of knowledge that makes it possible, time and again surprisingly, to elucidate fates and trace the winding paths of many objects whose origins were previously unclear. ”

Monika Grütters continues: “It is our moral duty to trace the victim biographies. There can be no restitution, but we must get to the bottom of the story of those who were robbed, persecuted, murdered, or – without penniless – forced to emigrate by the National Socialists. We need this insight in order to live up to the everlasting responsibility for the memory of the victims, which imposes on us the immeasurable suffering and injustice caused by Germans. With a culture of remembrance that puts the link between the dividing, we can build bridges of understanding, even across national borders. That is why it is necessary and important that today’s conference also addresses the question of how common memory can be made possible. “