The Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty, the Ministry of Culture and the Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Dispossession (CIVS) welcome the restitution by the Central Library of the Land of Berlin (ZLB), of ten works from the complete works of Voltaire, stolen in France during the Occupation, which took place on 23 May 2022 at the French Embassy in Berlin.

Research on the provenance of the collections of the Central Library of the Land of Berlin (ZLB) has led to the identification of ten works from the complete works Voltaire which were kept in the Ministry of Finance in the 19th century and were stolen under the Occupation by German forces. 

A Franco-German cooperation action between the Central Library of the Land of Berlin (ZLB), the Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Dispossession, which took place due to the anti-Semitic legislation in force during the Occupation, the Mission of research and restitution of cultural objects plundered between 1933 and 1945 (Ministry of Culture) and the Service of economic and financial archives of the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty led to the restitution of these works, which will take place on May 23, 2022 under the aegis of the Ambassador of France in Germany.

These books come from the funds of the Zentral und Landesbibliothek Berlin, which still holds thousands of books stolen by Nazi Germany, which it seeks to return to their rightful owners through intense research work. Conducted for several years, these investigations have already enabled numerous refunds to individuals or institutions, in France and in other European countries.

These works will integrate the collections of the Department of Economic and Financial Archives (SAEF) of the economic and financial ministries, which are the heirs of the Ministry of Finance and the National Economy from which the stolen works are derived. The SAEF is responsible for the collection, preservation and communication of archives produced by economic and financial ministries. It preserves a rich administrative and historical library, consisting of nearly 70,000 books and is the heir to the former library of the Ministry of Finance constituted since the XIXe century. This library is regularly enriched with new monographs and periodicals from acquisitions made by the ministry and donations.

This restitution is part of a more general process of reparation for the dispossession of cultural property during the Nazi period. In France, a genuine public policy of reparation for dispossession has been in place for several years. Since 2019, the CIVS, the Prime Minister’s service, has been fulfilling this mission with the assistance of the Ministry of Culture’s Mission for the Search and Restitution of Looted Cultural Property between 1933 and 1945. The Mission is responsible for and coordinates the research relating to works stolen in France, mainly from Jewish families; In addition, it conducts or facilitates research on books and works of art preserved by public libraries and museums. The CIVS recommends restitution or compensation measures for cases of spoliation. Restitution of works of art take place regularly: the law of 21 February 2022 adopted unanimously by the Parliament allowed the exit of the public domain and the restitution of 15 works of national and territorial collections.

As part of its enhanced missions in favour of the search and restitution of plundered cultural property, the CIVS pays particular attention to the search for plundered books. It has thus participated in the restitution of several dozen works, intervening in the research of provenance, the search of rights holders, but also as a mediation body.

Other restitution by the ZLB of stolen works in France will take place in the coming months.