Showing posts with label Monuments Men. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Monuments Men. Show all posts

January 7, 2017

Saturday, January 07, 2017 - ,,, No comments

The officers who serve to protect art in the UK Military: A personal account by Lt Col Tim Purbrick

This article is republished with permission from the official British Army Blog viewable here.

During the latter stages of the Second World War a group of American and British archaeologists, museum curators and architects formed up as a curious military unit called the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section which became known as the Monuments Men. Their job was to protect the cultural property wherever the conflict was being fought. This included places as diverse as North Africa and Italy, northern Europe, Greece and the Far East. The wartime activities of this specialist Allied military unit have been written about extensively and were recently portrayed by George Clooney, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville, Matt Damon and others in the movie Monuments Men.

Lt Col Tim Purbrick
After the war the nations of the world considered the implications of the damage, destruction and looting of cultural property which had taken place during the Second World War. It was felt that the international humanitarian law extant during the war for the protection of cultural property during conflict could be strengthened. This led to the introduction of the Hague Convention (1954), which was followed by its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999. The UK signed the Convention in 1954 but did not ratify it, which means that the Convention was not brought into UK law. In 2004 the Government decided that the effect of the 1999 Protocol met the criteria for ratification and announced that the Convention would be ratified at the earliest opportunity that Parliamentary time permitted.

US Military personnel recover paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration/American Jewish Historical Society/Center for Jewish History

At the back end of 2013 I was standing at the magazine racks next to my desk at Army HQ congratulating myself as I read an article which I had written on green energy in the British Army Review (BAR). The BAR is a largely internal Army magazine which was then published by the Army HQ Concepts Branch where I work for a day a week as an Army Reserve. Flicking through the other pages of the same issue of BAR I came across a far more interesting article about what activities the military should undertake for the protection of cultural property during conflict. It had been written by Professor Peter Stone OBE of Newcastle University.

To understand why I was fascinated you need to know the three pieces of baggage that I brought to the start of Prof Stone’s article. Our family company, which I now work for, are private art dealers in London. We deal in Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art. I have been hanging around the business for 25 years and some of it rubbed off on me over that time! I had also spent 12 years tracking down stolen plant and equipment and stolen art and antiquities for The Equipment Register and The Art Loss Register so I had some understanding of the issues around cultural property theft. Underlying these was been my long term interest in the activities of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives sections during the Second World War, an interest which had been triggered by reading Lynn Nicholas’s outstanding book The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. It led me to many other books on the same subject.

Fortuitously, my current post is in the Concepts Branch of Army HQ. Our job is to work with academics, think tanks, military scientists and subject matter experts to attempt to understand what the future environment looks like so that we can propose how best to shape the Army to meet the challenges of that future environment. By the time I came across Prof Stone’s article I had already written one of our papers, which we call analytical concepts, on the future of the media and Army media operations. A second paper, on the future employment of cyber at the tactical and operational level, was already on circulation for comments by senior officers. These analytical concepts are highly detailed pieces of research work akin to a university dissertation or even, I kid myself, a Phd as it is generally a unique, first time look, in depth at a key issue for the future development of Army capability. Could cultural property protection (CPP) be my next analytical concept?

Literally the moment that I had finished reading the article I tracked down Prof Stone’s telephone number at Newcastle University and rang him up. Prof Stone and I had one of those interesting conversations: ‘you don’t know who I am’, I said, ‘but I have read your article in the British Army Review, I work at Army HQ and I think that there’s something that we may be able to do about your proposals.’ Prof Stone is also head of the UK Committee of the Blue Shield, an organisation which works with Governments to advise on the protection of cultural property during conflict. The Prof had some experience with the Armed Forces having advised NATO on what and where not to strike in Libya during OP ELLAMY in 2011. He had been trying to persuade the Armed Forces to take more of an interest in CPP so he was quite surprised to have someone from the Army calling him out of the blue to suggest that we could possibly do something about protecting cultural property during conflict.

I drafted a proposal for an analytical concept paper and took it to my Concepts Desk boss, Col Tim Law. Col Tim immediately agreed to let me write the proposed paper. Even though this issue was more current and not one of our future concept papers which look out 20 years, Col Tim and his boss, Brig Simon Deakin, saw the merit of the recommendations in Prof Stone’s article and in the Concepts Branch writing and circulating a paper. Over the coming weeks this became a draft document titled Delivering a Cultural Property Protection Capability. In the way that happens with all our papers, in a process that was to take to the end of July 2015, it was first circulated around Army HQ at Colonel level, comments were received back from these officers, the paper was amended, then it was sent out to Brigadier or 1 star level, comments were received and so the process went on until it had been all the way to the top of the Army where it was seen by Lt Gen Sir James Everard KCB, Commander of the Field Army.

Alongside the start of this internal circulation, with such a complex issue and with such little expertise on it within the Armed Forces, it was important for the paper’s credibility to have it validated by the real experts in academia, museums and amongst our Allies who had either already been involved in CPP for years or who had cultural property protection policies and plans in place for armed conflict. So, I shared the draft paper widely with many of those who quickly became key advisors, amending technicalities and suggesting generalities, giving the paper credibility inside and outside the Army and also giving us all a stake in the paper’s success.

In parallel to the paper and further afield I met up with a group of cultural property experts at the Defence College in Shrivenham. The group included Prof Stone, Richard Osgood, the MOD’s senior archaeologist at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Victoria Syme-Taylor from King’s College London, and Dr Nick Marquez-Grant and Prof Andrew Shortland from Cranfield University. Also attending were military educator Maj Dave Mason from the Defence Cultural Specialist Unit (DCSU) at RAF Henlow, to assist with identifying and drafting the individual skill sets required by cultural property protection officers, and Lt Col Alasdair Morrison, a military lawyer from the Operational Law Department in Warminster, to advise on military and international law.

This group became the Military Cultural Property Protection Working Group and it met for the first time in early 2014.

December 19, 2016

Who saves the culture of Mesopotamia and the Levant - Part I

In the first of a series, ARCA will be highlighting some of the people on a mission to protect and/or seize back the cultural heritage of Iraq and Syria, from those who seek to profit from or destroy it.

Since the start of the conflict, ARCA has received frequent queries from people concerned about the theft and destruction of sites throughout the Levant.  Often we are asked if anything is doing about the situation. While the form of the question often is posed in the singular format of what is anyone doing specifically about ISIS, ARCA would like to underscore that the problem of looting and destruction is not restricted to one identifiable nemesis operating in conflict zones, although Da'esh has been particularly adept at making a public display of its iconoclasm. 

Today's blog post highlights one forward-thinker in Iraq, who has show what can be done, if people think about a problem in advance of when they are actually faced with one. 

On July 20, 2014 jihadist troops of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took control of the Monastery of the Martyrs Mar Behnam and Marth Sarah, a monastery located near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, 30 km southwest of Mosul, in the Nineveh Plain of Iraq.  The site dates back to the 4th century CE.   

Occupying the site, the militants ejected the Syriac Orthodox monks with nothing more than the clothing on their backs, refusing to allow them to take any of the church's sacred objects.  In fear for their lives, the monastery's guardians were forcefully ejected and walked some ten kilometers before intersecting with Kurdish Peshmerga forces.  

On Thursday, March 19, 2015 ISIS fighters released footage which showed that they had rigged the tombs of Mar Behnam and Mart Sarah with explosives, dramatically detonating the monastery's revered historic shrines.    

Image Credit: Alsumaria News 
While the church at the Monastery of the Martyrs Mar Behnam and Marth Sarah itself was not earmarked for detonation along with its shrines, the historic site would did suffer extensive vandalism.  During its occupation, religious wall decorations were drilled out, and/or defaced. Inscriptions written in Syriac were scraped off the walls, crosses were taken down, and statues knocked to the ground and smashed. Throughout the monastery extensive graffiti was scrawled on practically every available surface.

The statue of Mar Behnam on horseback, dating from the 16th century,
has been completely destroyed
Sadly, as the desecration took place after the dramatic footage of the damages to the Mosul Museum and just before the demolition of Nimrud, the world's press gave the monastery's fate little in the way of press coverage.  Those that research iconoclasm tried to take limited comfort in the knowledge that some of the monastery's important manuscripts, dating back centuries, had been digitized. 

Dr. Lamia al-Gailanim, an associate fellow at the London-based Institute of Archaeology, reminded list-serv members of the Iraqi crisis group that Mosul had twelve Medieval shines with muqarnas domes.  In total, the exquisite remains accounted for half of what the country of Iraq had in terms of this specific style of monumental vaulted architecture.  By 2015, as Da'esh gained more and more territory, all the Mosul-area domed shrines suffered attacks.

On Sunday, November 20, 2016 the Baghdad-backed Babylon Brigades in cooperation with the Iraqi army liberated the Monastery of the Martyrs Mar Behnam and Marth Sarah and the world got its first look at the damages inflicted. It is believed that the militants may have occupied the site as a base of operations and some news reports have said the site was utilized by Da'esh's morality police. Whatever the case, the group's trademark shows throughout the trashed the interior.

As the mixed military force secured the site and the zones surrounding the monastery, the first photos of the extent of the rampage were released on social media.  Little had been spared.  Even the grave marker for Monsignor Francis Djahola, who was a well known part of the monastery religious community until his recent death, had been desecrated.

Father Yousif Sakat
Then, on December 9, 2016, those affiliated with the monastery announced something joyfully unexpected. 

Thanks to the forward thinking of Father Yousif Sakat, over 400 books and manuscripts, some illustrated by hand and dating back 800 years, had been kept safe.  Miraculously, they had been hidden directly under the noses of the militants. 

As a custodian for the monastery’s Medieval collection, Father Sakat knew that if he abandoned the monastery and left the library collection behind, it would be vulnerable to destruction or potential looting.  Sakat watched as the situation grew increasingly tense and as the nearby cities succumbed to the rule of ISIS.  As the militants grew bolder, he noted that individuals had defaced the monastery’s exterior and on occasion, hurled stones at the building to intimidate its occupants. 

Anticipating that the jihadist would eventually take control of the monastery and knowing that they might set fire to the collection, Sakat started to think about what he could do to protect the collection himself.

The fast-thinking priest moved the monastery's most important books and manuscripts into metal drums. He then placed these containers in a discreet area where he hoped they would avoid suspicion.  He then sealed the hiding place shut with a wall of concealing cement.

In December 2016, once the father felt sure the site was no longer at risk of possible recapture, he and a team of workers returned to recover the books from their hidden storage chamber.

Publishing the extraction on Facebook Amjad Hinawi uploaded 49 images of the remarkable books as the room was breached and reopened and the collection retrieved. ARCA has posted a selection of these photos here with the group's permission.


Just as the 72-year-old librarian from Mali successfully saved his own country's collection by stuffing them into millet bags and smuggling them out of harm's way, Father Sakat's ingenuity shows that a lot can be done, even when practically everything else has been lost. 

Having said that, there is a palpable urgency to better preserve these rich and varied historic collections, especially those at smaller religious sites, with little means and funding.  It is no longer cost prohibitive to digitize and catalog literary historic records and vulnerable sites such as these need to consider what potential risks their might be, now or in the future to their original collections.

Consideration before a threat occurs.

Just asking the simple question what are we doing about this (now), followed by what can be done better (before a threat or crisis occurs) in a first step in emergency preparedness.   Even in times of economic hardship or political unrest cultural heritage institutions with limited staff can make a world of difference to an otherwise grim outcome.

Luckily, the collection from the Monastery of the Martyrs Mar Behnam and Marth Sarah was not stored inside the shrines that Da'esh detonated.

Luckily, many of its manuscripts were already digitized.

Luckily, Father Yousif Sakat had the foresight, time and the means to purchase and use the supplies needed to hide his monastery's collection.

But what if any one of those things hadn't happened?

For now, the library of the Monastery of the Martyrs Mar Behnam and Marth Sarah are being stored elsewhere for safekeeping.


November 3, 2016

There's money to be made from suffering: The collection history of a recovered Monuments Men artwork, returned to the heirs, then sold, then sold again, and soon to be sold (yet) again


According to some statistics, less than 20 percent of the value of Jewish assets stolen by the Nazis and their collaborators has been restored.

ARCA highlights the lifespan of one.

Painted Crucifix
Artist: 
Giovanni da Rimini
Active in Rimini 
1292 - 1336
Egg tempera on cruciform panel
160.5 by 130 cm.

Collection History/Provenance 

Possibly Achillito Chiesa, Esq. of Milan collection, 
Frederick Muller, Amsterdam 
Enrico Testa

With Jacques Goudstikker, Amsterdam, inv. no. 2212, by 1929 .  

Goudstikker, the now famous second-generation Jewish Dutch art dealer fled the Netherlands in 1940 along with his wife Désirée von Halban Kurz and their son Edo following the country's invasion by Nazi Germany. 

While crossing the English channel on the SS Bodegraven, Jacques fell to his death through an uncovered hatch on the deck of the ship. Inconveniently his executor, Dr. A. Sternheim, also died around this same time and the entire Goudstikker collection (1,113 numbered paintings and an unknown quantity of unnumbered paintings) were sold to Nazi leader Hermann Wilhelm Göring despite the objections of Goudstikker's widow.  

The forced sale price:   a measly two million guilders, a small fraction of the collection's actual value.

13 July 1940  - the artwork is transferred to Carinhall by Walter Hofer for Hermann Göring (inv. no. 392).

 Museum and exhibition labels from the reverse side
of the panel painting

Photo of Jacques Goudstikker
from RKDarchives.
Afterwards, the panel painting was recovered by the "Monuments Men", a group of men and women from thirteen nations, most of whom volunteered for service in the newly created Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (“MFAA") section under the auspices of the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied Armies during World War II.  The recovered artwork was then forwarded to the Munich Central Collecting Point (inv. no. 6294) on August 2, 1945. 

After being documented, the panel painting was delivered to the Nederlands Kunstbezit, earlier known as the Stichting Nederlands Kunstbezit at The Hague (inv. no. NK1485) on November 7, 1945. 


As Marc Masurovsky, Co-Founder of  the Holocaust Art Restitution project has said "in an ideal world, the cost of seeking restitution of a Nazi-looted art object should not be a hindrance to achieving justice."

But the economics of restitution is never easy. The legal expenses of restitution to von Saher for the return of her family’s objects totalled some USD $10.4 million, a fee most World War II claimants cannot afford, even when the works of art are high in value as was the case in this circumstance. As a consequence, the painting was put on the auction block. 

On July 05, 2007 the cross, Lot 7, is sold for USD $125,362 via Christie’s London and is acquired by Old Master dealer, Fabrizio Moretti of Moretti Fine Art galleries in Florence, London, and New York. 

On January 29, 2015 the cross is again sold as Lot 131 for USD $245,000 via Sotheby's New York to an unnamed buyer, who apparently is still represented by the Italian Old Masters firm as it is still being marketed under the umbrella of Moretti Fine Arts.  

Image from Moratti Fine Art’s
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/morettifineart/

And the clack of an auctioneer's hammer continues.



April 28, 2016

Who stole and where are the (still) missing Führerbau paintings

By: Marc Masurovsky
Holocaust Art Restitution Project

On this day, 71 years ago, while the US 3rd Army met light to moderate resistance as it overran Munich, unknown individuals made off with more than 700 paintings, mostly Old Masters, from the Führerbau - translated as "the Führer's building, Adolf Hitler's administrative building on Arcisstraße in Munich.

Photo Clipping, Life Magazine, 

During the period of American military occupation, the Munich Central Collecting Point transformed the Führerbau into a central clearinghouse for assessing the origin of thousands of art objects looted across Europe.
To date, the theft has not been resolved.

The Zentral Institut fur Kunstgeschichte, housed in the old Führerbau building, has been working to reconstruct this historic theft, under the guidance of Prof. Christian Fuhrmeister and Dr. Stephan Klingen, director of the Fototek at the ZI, with Dr. Meike Hopp, a formidable art historian and provenance expert regarding the fate of art looted in Germany.


April 27, 2016

US Government sends H.R. 1493 to the US President’s desk for signature.

Late in the day, April 26, 2016 and with final House passage, the US government has approved its final amended version of H.R. 1493, "The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act" agreed to in the Senate by Unanimous Consent. The proposed law will now head to the US President’s desk for signature.

H.R. 1493 was drafted to deny ISIS Funding and to save Syria’s antiquities through the trafficking of its material culture.

The bill was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on March 19, 2015 during the 114th Congress, First Session by Representative Eliot L. Engel, [D-NY-16] via the House - Armed Services; Foreign Affairs; Judiciary; Ways and Means Committee and also referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.  The bill calls for the protection and preservation of international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes.  

Since that time the House and Senate have debated the bill separately and offered amendments (ultimately approved as amended by the Senate on April 18, 2016, before the bill went on to all of the US Congress for a full vote. The amended version includes a stronger "safe harbour" measure for Syrian antiquities and deleted a the proposed State Department "Cultural Property Czar."  

As both the Senate and the House have now voted approving the finalized amended version of the bill, it will now go forward to Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, for his signatory approval.


ISIS earns tens of millions annually from looting and trafficking antiquities to fund terror.  A UN Security Council resolution passed in February calls on all nations to help defund ISIS by preventing trade in Syrian antiquities. 
America’s allies have already imposed import restrictions on trafficked Syrian and Iraqi artifacts.  Congress established similar restrictions for Iraqi artifacts in 2004 but has yet to act for Syria, leaving Syrian artifacts open to looting and trafficking by ISIS.
H.R. 1493
  • Imposes import restrictions on illicit Syrian artifacts to undercut looting and trafficking.
  • Provides for antiquities to be temporarily protected by U.S. institutions until they can be safely returned to their rightful owners.
  • Expresses congressional support for establishing an interagency coordinating committee to better protect historical sites and artifacts at risk worldwide. 
  • Improves congressional oversight of efforts to save cultural property.
This bill has been publicly endorsed and supported by the American Alliance of Museums, the American Anthropological Association, the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works, the Archaeological Institute of America, Preservation Action, the Society for American Archaeology, the Society for Historical Archaeology, the United States Committee of the Blue Shield, and the U.S. National Committee of the International Council of Museums.

Once signed by President Obama and by imposing import restrictions on Syrian material culture, the U.S. will be joining the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the European Union in taking steps to protect trafficked antiquities from Syria.

A complete copy of the approved amended Bill is located here

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs welcomed the Senate passage of his legislation. 

On the House floor Chairman Royce spoke about combating ISIS’s destruction and looting of artifacts from the birthplace of civilisation.  Below is a video that includes Chairman Royce’s remarks.  A written transcript of his remarks can be found here




March 31, 2015

US Legislature calling for the protection and preservation of international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes.

by Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

Earlier in March 2015, Representative Eliot L Engel, [D-NY-16] introduced a Bill in the 114th Congress, First Session, -- via the House - Armed Services; Foreign Affairs; Judiciary; Ways and Means Committee and also referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs -- calling for the protection and preservation of international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes [A copy of that bill has been included in its entirety below].

In addition, four members of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote a letter to Adam Szubin, Director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)urging the U.S. to block import of looted Syrian antiquities:
We write to urge that the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control act quickly to promulgate regulations imposing sanctions on importers of cultural property unlawfully removed from Syria,” the letter, issued on Monday, said. “Such regulations would implement a recently adopted United Nations Security Council Resolution and would mirror regulations already established for Iraq.
The Titles for the bill introduced earlier are as follows:
  • SHORT TITLE(S) AS INTRODUCED: 
    Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act
  • OFFICIAL TITLE AS INTRODUCED: 
    To protect and preserve international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes.
On March 19, 2015 this Bill was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on Ways and Means, Armed Services, and the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

Bill text available as: PDF

114th CONGRESS
1st Session

H. R. 1493

To protect and preserve international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
March 19, 2015
Mr. Engel (for himself, Mr. Smith of New Jersey, Mr. Royce, and Mr. Keating) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on Ways and Means, Armed Services, and the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

A BILL
To protect and preserve international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.
This Act may be cited as the “Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act”.

SEC. 2. Definition.
In this Act:

(1) APPROPRIATE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES.—The term “appropriate congressional committees” means the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.

(2) CULTURAL PROPERTY.—The term “cultural property” includes property covered under—
(A) the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, concluded at The Hague on May 14, 1954 (Treaty Doc. 106–1(A));

(B) Article 1 of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO on November 23, 1972 (commonly referred to as the “1972 Convention”); or

(C) Article 1 of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, adopted by UNESCO on November 14, 1970 (commonly referred to as the “1970 UNESCO Convention”).

SEC. 3. Findings and statement of policy.

(a) Findings.—Congress finds the following:
(1) Over the years, international cultural property has been looted, trafficked, lost, damaged, or destroyed due to political instability, armed conflict, natural disasters, and other threats.

(2) During China’s Cultural Revolution, many antiques were destroyed, including a large portion of old Beijing, and Chinese authorities are now attempting to rebuild portions of China’s lost architectural heritage.

(3) In 1975, the Khmer Rouge, after seizing power in Cambodia, systematically destroyed mosques and nearly every Catholic church in the country, along with many Buddhist temples, statues, and Buddhist literature.

(4) In 2001, the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas, ancient statues carved into a cliffside in central Afghanistan, leading to worldwide condemnation.

(5) After the fall of Saddam Hussein, thieves looted the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, resulting in the loss of approximately 15,000 items, including ancient amulets, sculptures, ivories, and cylinder seals. Many of these items remain unrecovered.

(6) The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami not only affected 11 countries, causing massive loss of life, but also damaged or destroyed libraries, archives, and World Heritage Sites such as the Mahabalipuram in India, the Sun Temple of Koranak on the Bay of Bengal, and the Old Town of Galle and its fortifications in Sri Lanka.

(7) In Haiti, the 2010 earthquake destroyed art, artifacts, and archives, and partially destroyed the 17th century Haitian city of Jacmel.

(8) In Mali, the Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group Ansar Dine destroyed tombs and shrines in the ancient city of Timbuktu—a major center for trade, scholarship, and Islam in the 15th and 16th centuries—and threatened collections of ancient manuscripts.

(9) In Egypt, recent political instability has led to the ransacking of museums, resulting in the destruction of countless ancient artifacts that will forever leave gaps in humanity’s record of the ancient Egyptian civilization.

(10) In Syria, the ongoing civil war has resulted in the shelling of medieval cities, damage to five World Heritage Sites, and the looting of museums containing artifacts that date back more than six millennia and include some of the earliest examples of writing.

(11) In Iraq and Syria, the militant group ISIL has destroyed numerous cultural sites and artifacts, such as the Tomb of Jonah in July 2014, in an effort to eradicate ethnic and religious minorities from contested territories. Concurrently, cultural antiquities that escape demolition are looted and trafficked to help fund ISIL’s militant operations.

(12) On February 12, 2015, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2199 (2015), which “[r]eaffirms its decision in paragraph 7 of resolution 1483 (2003) and decides that all Member States shall take appropriate steps to prevent the trade in Iraqi and Syrian cultural property and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, and religious importance illegally removed from Iraq since 6 August 1990 and from Syria since 15 March 2011, including by prohibiting cross-border trade in such items, thereby allowing for their eventual safe return to the Iraqi and Syrian people.”.

(13) United Nations Security Council resolution 2199 (2015) also warns that ISIL and other extremist groups are trafficking cultural heritage items from Iraq and Syria to fund their recruitment efforts and carry out terrorist attacks.

(14) Cultural property represents an irreparable loss of humanity’s common cultural heritage and is therefore a loss for all Americans.

(15) Protecting international cultural property is a vital part of United States cultural diplomacy, showing the respect of the United States for other cultures and the common heritage of humanity.

(16) The United States Armed Forces have played important roles in preserving and protecting cultural property. In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established a commission to advise the United States military on the protection of cultural property. The commission formed teams of individuals known as the “Monuments Men” who are credited with securing, cataloguing, and returning hundreds of thousands of works of art stolen by the Nazis during World War II.

(17) The Department of State, in response to the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, noted that “the legislation is important to our foreign relations, including our international cultural relations. The expanding worldwide trade in objects of archaeological and ethnological interest has led to wholesale depredations in some countries, resulting in the mutilation of ceremonial centers and archaeological complexes of ancient civilizations and the removal of stone sculptures and reliefs.”. The Department further noted that “[t]he United States considers that on grounds of principle, good foreign relations, and concern for the preservation of the cultural heritage of mankind, it should render assistance in these situations.”.

(18) The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield was founded in 2006 to support the implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and to coordinate with the United States military, other branches of the United States Government, and other cultural heritage nongovernmental organizations in preserving international cultural property threatened by political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters.

(b) Statement of policy.—It shall be the policy of the United States to—
(1) protect and preserve international cultural property at risk of looting, trafficking, and destruction due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters;

(2) protect international cultural property pursuant to its obligations under international treaties to which the United States is a party;

(3) prevent, in accordance with existing laws, importation of cultural property pillaged, looted, stolen, or trafficked at all times, including during political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters; and

(4) ensure that existing laws and regulations, including import restrictions imposed through the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) of the Department of the Treasury, are fully implemented to prevent trafficking in stolen or looted cultural property.

SEC. 4. United States Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection.
The Secretary of State shall designate a Department of State employee at the Assistant Secretary level or above to serve concurrently as the United States Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection. The Coordinator shall—

(1) coordinate and promote efforts to protect international cultural property, especially activities that involve multiple Federal agencies;

(2) act as Chair of the Coordinating Committee on International Cultural Property Protection established under section 5;

(3) resolve interagency differences;

(4) develop strategies to reduce illegal trade and trafficking in international cultural property in the United States and abroad, including by reducing consumer demand for such trade;

(5) support activities to assist countries that are the principle sources of trafficked cultural property to protect cultural heritage sites and to prevent cultural property looting and theft;

(6) work with and consult domestic and international actors such as foreign governments, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, museums, educational institutions, and research institutions to protect international cultural property; and

(7) submit to the appropriate congressional committees the annual report required under section 6.

SEC. 5. Coordinating Committee on International Cultural Property Protection.

(a) Establishment.—There is established a Coordinating Committee on International Cultural Property Protection (in this section referred to as the “Committee”).

(b) Functions.—The full Committee shall meet not less often than annually to coordinate and inform Federal efforts to protect international cultural property and to facilitate the work of the United States Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection designated under section 4.

(c) Membership.—The Committee shall be composed of the United States Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection, who shall act as Chair, and representatives of the following:
(1) The Department of State.

(2) The Department of Defense.

(3) The Department of Homeland Security, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

(4) The Department of the Interior.

(5) The Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

(6) The United States Agency for International Development.

(7) The Smithsonian Institution.

(8) The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield.

(9) Such other entities as the Chair determines appropriate.

(d) Subcommittees.—The Committee may include such subcommittees and taskforces as the Chair determines appropriate. Such subcommittees or taskforces may be comprised of a subset of the Committee members or of such other members as the Chair determines appropriate. At the discretion of the Chair, the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.) and section 552b of title 5 of the United States Code (relating to open meetings) shall not apply to activities of such subcommittees or taskforces.

(e) Consultation.—The Committee shall consult with governmental and nongovernmental organizations, including museums, educational institutions, and research institutions on efforts to promote and protect international cultural property.

SEC. 6. Reports on activities to protect international cultural property.
The Secretary of State, acting through the United States Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection, and in consultation with the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, as appropriate, shall annually submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that includes information on activities of—

(1) the United States Coordinator and the Coordinating Committee on International Cultural Property Protection to protect international cultural property;

(2) the Department of State to protect international cultural property, including activities undertaken pursuant to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and other statutes, international agreements, and policies, including—
(A) procedures the Department has instituted to protect international cultural property at risk of destruction due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters; and

(B) actions the Department has taken to protect international cultural property in conflicts to which the United States is a party;

(3) the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to protect international cultural property, including activities and coordination with other Federal agencies, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations regarding the protection of international cultural property at risk due to political unrest, armed conflict, natural or other disasters, and USAID development programs;

(4) the Department of Defense to protect international cultural property, including activities undertaken pursuant to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and other cultural property protection statutes and international agreements, including—
(A) directives, policies, and regulations the Department has instituted to protect international cultural property at risk of destruction due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters; and

(B) actions the Department has taken to avoid damage to cultural property through construction activities abroad; and

(5) the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to protect both international cultural property abroad and international cultural property located in, or attempted to be imported into, the United States, including activities undertaken pursuant to statutes and international agreements, including—
(A) statutes and regulations the Department has employed in criminal, civil, and civil forfeiture actions to prevent and interdict trafficking in stolen and smuggled cultural property, including investigations into transnational organized crime and smuggling networks; and

(B) actions the Department has taken in order to ensure the consistent and effective application of law in cases relating to both international cultural property abroad and international cultural property located in, or attempted to be imported into, the United States.

SEC. 7. Authorization for Federal agencies to engage in international cultural property protection activities with the Smithsonian Institution.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any agency that is involved in international cultural property protection activities is authorized to enter into agreements or memoranda of understanding with the Smithsonian Institution to temporarily engage personnel from the Smithsonian Institution for the purposes of furthering such international cultural property protection activities.

SEC. 8. Emergency protection for Syrian cultural property.

(a) Presidential determination.—Notwithstanding subsection (b) of section 304 of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (19 U.S.C. 2603) (relating to a Presidential determination that an emergency condition applies with respect to any archaeological or ethnological material of any State Party to the Convention), the President shall apply the import restrictions referred to in such section 304 with respect to any archaeological or ethnological material of Syria, except that subsection (c) of such section 304 shall not apply. Such import restrictions shall take effect not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(b) Definitions.—In this section—
(1) the term “archaeological or ethnological material of Syria” means cultural property of Syria and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, or religious importance unlawfully removed from Syria on or after March 15, 2011; and

(2) the term “State Party” has the meaning given such term in section 302 of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (19 U.S.C. 2601).

September 22, 2014

Smithsonian Institution and U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield Meeting at the Hirshhorn Museum: the 60th Anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention Celebrated with a Meeting of Great Minds and Efforts

Harry Ettlinger speaking at the Hirschhorn
by Kirsten Hower, Social Networking Correspondent and List-Serve Manager

Keynote speaker Harry Ettlinger, World War II veteran and former Monuments Men, opened Friday's SI/USCBS meeting with an inspiring keynote speech: “For the first time in the history of human civilization, instead of taking art that did not belong to us, we gave it back to its rightful owners.”

The annual meeting of the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, held at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C, recognized the 60th Anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The timing was equally appropriate as the day before marked the fifth anniversary of the United States' ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention. 

Ettlinger, who made the audience both laugh and cry as he recounted stories of his life and time as a Monuments Man, was joined by many other great men and women who reported on the current state of efforts being made to protect and preserve the world's cultural heritage.

After a much earned standing ovation, Ettlinger yielded the podium to Major Thomas (Tommy) Livoti who spoke on behalf of Brigadier General Hugh Van Roosen about the beginnings of the formation of the 21st century "Monuments Men." Though only in it's infancy, this program will seek to recruit cultural heritage professionals "under the guise of a military initiative" to protect the world's heritage that is threatened by armed conflict.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding
by Dr. Nancy Wilkie and Dr. Richard Kurin
The first half of the meeting was rounded off by quick speeches by Dr. Patty Gerstenblith and Dr. Laurie Rush, both board members of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield. Gerstenblith, of DePaul University, spoke about what has happened in the 60 years since the 1954 Hague Convention, both the successes and the challenges still to be faced. Rush, who works as an Army civilian for Cultural Resources at Fort Drum, NY, spoke briefly about the annual meeting of the Combatant Command Heritage Action Group who had met the day before. Their report, which Rush quickly summarized, will soon be available at www.cchag.org.

The second half of the meeting was started by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, who gave a stirring speech about the horrors of cultural destruction that we are witnessing in the world and the efforts being made to bring them to a halt: “We are trying, ladies and gentlemen, to give a concrete reaction to extremist actions…[that the destruction of people and cultural heritage] are crimes against humanity.... Attacks against culture are attacks against people, their identity, their history, and their future.” Bokova ended on a serious but somewhat optimistic note that while the art market is in dire need of more education on the challenges facing cultural heritage during this time, a new consciousness is emerging that could help in the efforts to stem this wanton destruction.

Following Bokova’s speech was a panel of sobering reports from Dr. Brian Daniels, Dr. Salam Al Kuntar, Dr. Susan Wolfinbarger, Dr. Katharyn Hanson, Corine Wegener, Dr. Sarah Parcak, and Dr. Amr Al Azm. Each presenter spoke about the multiple projects that they are part of that are attempting to document and prevent destruction of cultural heritage.

Wolfinbarger (AAAS) and Hanson (U. Penn Cultural Heritage Center) spoke about the ongoing turmoil in places such as Syria, Iraq, and the Thai/Cambodian border, as well as the documented satellite imagery that follows the turmoil.

Parcak (University of Alabama) spoke about “Protecting the Past from Space,” how cultural heritage experts can better track the motions of looting of archaeological sites using satellite imagery and technology.

Kuntar (U. Penn) and Wegener (Smithsonian) spoke about the amazing efforts of locals in conflict areas that are doing everything in their power to preserve cultural heritage sites and objects. Both Kuntar and Wegener have been involved in efforts to educate and supply locals with the best means to continue their preservation efforts.

Amr Al Azm (Shawnee State University) spoke about the cultural heritage of Syria (a main focus for much of the panel) and how it must be preserved to act as a common ground for the Syrians once the conflict is resolved. He closed his speech with a poignant statement that while he and his colleagues are often called “modern day Monuments Men,” that he does not want to be referred to as such; the real “Monuments Men” are the the locals, the ones putting their lives on the line to protect their heritage.

Daniels (U.Penn Cultural Heritage Center) rounded off the panel discussing his work in educating locals in conflict areas about emergency preservation methods and his studies of heritage in conflict situations, which will be launching it’s new website in October (www.heritageinconflict.org). 

The meeting ended with two joyous events; the first being the awarding of the USCBS Award for Meritorious Military Service in Protection of Cultural Property to Brigadier General Erik C. Peterson, Commanding General, US Army Special Operations Aviation Command. His work at Fort Drum alongside Dr. Laurie Rush have been an example of the actions that can be taken to protect and preserve the world’s cultural heritage.

The final event of the evening was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding by Dr. Richard Kurin (Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, Smithsonian Institution) and Dr. Nancy Wilkie (President, U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield). This memorandum creates a bond between the Smithsonian and the USCBS; that they will endeavor to support each other in the education of cultural heritage professionals as well as locals in conflict areas, and to provide the means with which to do this.

The meeting served as a reminder of the tragedies befalling cultural heritage sites and objects in areas of armed conflict, but also of the hope and initiative that so many are taking to protect these sites and these objects.

May 31, 2014

Noah Charney on "The British Origin of the Monuments Men" in "Lessons from the History of Art Crime" in the Spring 2014 issue of ARCA's Journal of Art Crime

Noah Charney is a professor of art history specializing in art crime and an international best-selling author of fiction (The Art Thief) and non-fiction (Stealing the Mystic Lamb). He teaches for American University of Rome and Brown University, and is an award-winning columnist for a variety of popular magazines and newspapers. He is the founder of ARCA, and has served as its president since its inception. In his column "Lessons from the History of Art Crime", Noah Charney writes about “The British Origin of the Monuments Men”: 
This winter, when George Clooney’s drama comes out about the Monuments Men and their adventures in saving Europe’s art treasures during the Second World War, viewers will be privy to a Hollywoodization of a true, dramatic, epic story of the race to rescue an estimated five million cultural heritage objects, from paintings and sculptures to rare books and valuable archival materials, that were looted by the Nazis and risked complete destruction. The Clooney film is only loosely based on historical fact—it necessarily compresses, condenses, and alters reality to fit the rules of a Hollywood feature. But one aspect of the Monuments Men that most American accounts skip past or exclude altogether is the fact that the Monuments Men began as a British operation—its spearhead was a most British brand of hero, Sir Leonard Woolley. 
The Monuments Men was the nickname of a group of some three-hundred Allied officers, members of the art world during their civilian lives (architects, conservators, archaeologists, art historians), who were charged with identifying art and monuments that might be in the line of fighting in Europe during the Second World War. Once these works, from Notre Dame Cathedral to the entire contents of the Uffizi, were identified, the officers would advise the Allied armies they accompanied on how, whenever possible, to avoid damage to these cultural monuments. That part of their call of duty was the British plan. But their role changed in practice, once the officers were in the field and it became clear, only late in the war, that there was an enormous, proactive art-looting plan that the Nazis had put into operation, led by their art theft unit, the ERR, and intended to both enrich the Nazi war effort and fill Hitler’s planned “super museum” that would occupy the entirety of his boyhood town of Linz, Austria, which would contain every important artwork in the world. Once in the field, as an under-appreciated and under-supported twig attached to the massive Allied armies, the Monuments Men began to act as war-time art detectives, seeking out key stolen works, piecing together clues as to the overall Nazi art theft plan, and eventually rescuing tens of thousands of looted masterpieces, including van Eyck’s Adoration of the Mystic Lamb and Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna—the twin focal points of the Clooney film.
You may finish reading this column in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue (#11) of The Journal of Art Crime edited by ARCA founder Noah Charney. The Journal of Art Crime may be accessed through subscription or in paperback from Amazon.com. The Table of Contents is listed on ARCA's website here. The Associate Editors are Marc Balcells (John Jay College of Law) and Christos Tsirogiannis (University of Cambridge). Design and layout (including the front cover illustration) are produced by Urška Charney.