The German-Russian Stalemate

31 Jan 2011 10:36 AM | Anonymous

The German-Russian Stalemate  
With diplomatic efforts unable to resolve the trophy-art dilemma, museum officials in both countries are looking for a way to break the deadlock
by Sylvia Hochfield
In 1990 the Soviet Union and the Federal Republic of Germany signed a Good-Neighborliness Treaty, pledging to return to each other "unlawfully removed art treasures." That treaty might as well have been written on sand. Twenty-one years later, hundreds of thousands of artworks, books, and archives taken from Germany after World War II by Red Army trophy brigades are still hidden in Russian storerooms. Cultural officials from both countries say these objects are unlikely to return to Germany anytime soon.

The Soviets considered that they had the right to seize German property, from entire factories to museum collections, as compensation for the losses the Germans had inflicted on their country. After the establishment of the German Democratic Republic, the Soviets returned approximately 1.5 million objects to museums in their "sister" socialist state, but objects that came from the former West Germany are still in Russia.

"On the political level, nothing is happening," says Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

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