As announced by the Prime Minister in July 2018, the State wishes to give a new impetus to the policy of reparation for the so-called «artistic» spoliation of the Jews between 1933 and 1945, spoliation which is part of the general process of anti-Semitic persecution and the Holocaust.
This is why the Ministry of Culture has decided to create a specific department within it to steer this policy and to shed light on cultural goods of dubious origin preserved by public institutions: works said «Musée nationaux récupération» (MNR), spoliated books but also works entered the permanent collections.
The Mission for the Search and Restitution of Cultural Property Dispossessed between 1933 and 1945 therefore takes over, amplifying it, the action carried out for several years by the Ministry, which has enabled a better knowledge of the mechanisms of plunder and made possible several dozen restitution of stolen works to their legitimate owners.
The department thus intends to affirm a true public policy of reparation and remembrance, which must be assumed as such and made visible.
The Mission, led by David Zivie, author of a report on the stolen cultural property submitted to the Minister of Culture in 2018, is thus both a coordination and steering service, and a case-by-case file research and investigation service, that these are submitted by the families of the owners dispossessed or inspired by the Mission itself.
The Mission is responsible for coordinating all actions to identify the stolen works and their owners, to better understand their background, to present them to the public and to restore them. It must become a central place in the cultural and scientific landscape, in contact with its natural partners – Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, museums, libraries, archives, national and territorial, research institutions – in France and abroad.
The Mission reports to the Secretary-General of the Ministry. It is composed of experts in research of provenance. The Mission has a budget to fund additional research by external researchers.
The new organization also allows the unification of restitution procedures: the Mission will work in close liaison with the Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation (CIVS), which reports to the Prime Minister. Individual files will now be examined by the Mission at the Ministry of Culture, before being forwarded to the CIVS, which will recommend a decision to the Prime Minister. In this context, the CIVS expands to several qualified personalities, in order to complete its expertise in artistic spoliation.
A cooperation agreement between the mission for the search and restitution of looted cultural property between 1933 and 1945, the CIVS and the German Centre for Missing Works of Art (Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste) was also signed in Berlin on 22 May 2019, in order to facilitate exchanges between the two countries and to strengthen the Franco-German research network.
Franck Riester, Minister of Culture, recalled the obligation of research that falls to the State, in empathy with families: We owe it to the victims of the spoliations. It’s about memory. It’s about fairness.”
The decree establishing the Mission for the Search and Restitution of Looted Cultural Property between 1933 and 1945 was published in Official journal of 17 April 2019.
The decree appointing the four new qualified personalities of the Commission for the compensation of victims of spoliations was published at Official journal of 7 May 2019.