Showing posts with label art looting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label art looting. Show all posts

April 28, 2015

Gaziantep, Land of Antiquities and a Whole Lot More

By Lynda Albertson

On Sunday, April 26th The Independent ran a news piece titled "Syria conflict: The illicit art trade that is a major source of income for today's terror groups is nothing new." The meaty article, by Freelance Contributor Isabel Hunter, describes the events that unfolded as she posed as an agent for an antiquities buyer during a meeting with Syrians who were purported to be middlemen selling antiquities on the outskirts of Gaziantep.

Gaziantep (Antep) is a bustling Turkish city with 1.8 million inhabitants.  Sometimes referred to as "Little Aleppo" or “Aleppo in Exile” the city has become home to many Syrians who once lived in Aleppo province but who have been forced to flee as a result of the ongoing civil war.

Now in its fourth year, Syria's multi-sided conflict has claimed more than 150,000 lives and displaced two-fifths of the country's population.  It is estimated now that 3 million Syrians have fled their homeland since the start of war and UNHCR has stated that 1.7 million Syrian refugees now live within Turkey's borders.  

30,000 of these refugees have relocated to five camps just outside Gaziantep.  A municipal official who was interviewed in January of this year estimated that the overall number of refugees in Gaziantep state alone is a staggering 400,000 people so its not surprising that “Hani” and his colleague are trying to eek out a meager living in any way they can, including trafficking.

Located just 60 kilometers from the Syrian border, Gaziantep has long been an established trade route between Syria's Aleppo province.  Historically Aleppo and Antep were both part of Ottoman province of Haleb, a longstanding trade corridor along the Silk Road.  Before war broke out, it took two hours to drive the 100 kilometers from Aleppo to Gaziantep, making it a frequent destination for Syrian travelers. Former resident's of Aleppo I spoke with this week said that to drive from Aleppo to Gaziantep now could take a full day, possibly even two depending on which roads were taken and which security checkpoints you needed to pass through or wanted to avoid. 

A bustling hub at the center of the Middle East’s biggest conflict, Gaziantep is a stopping off point for all manner of folk.  Insurgent fighters trying to get to Syria, refugees, foreign-aid workers, journalists, fixers and the ever opportunistic traffickers —all there in one way or another as the result of the Syrian conundrum.

Gaziantep Marijuana Bust December 2012
Traffickers in the past though have focused on commodities  easier to shift than antiquities.  In December 2012 Gaziantep Police Department of Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Branch seized 83 kilos of cannabis and arrested twelve people engaged in drug trafficking.  

In July 2014 Gaziantep Customs Enforcement teams confiscated 14,200 liters of diesel in one raid alone as smugglers began turning to the illegal fuel trade as the next hot commodity. In September 2014 Istanbul's Security Directorate Combating Smuggling and Organized Crime Branch arrested another eight traffickers for moving
Gaziantep Cigarette Trafficking 2012
9600 liters of fuel and 8500 of cartons of contraband cigarettes

Heroin, marijuana, ecstasy, fuel, mobile phones, pistachios, tea, and weapons — these are just a few of the fenced commodities trained Turkish law enforcement officers have seized in their fight against organized crime since the start of the Syrian conflict. I underscore the plethora of trafficked goods because I think its important.

Criminologists have long discussed transnational crime and the interface between legal and illegal actors broadening their activities into areas of antiquities trafficking and forgery.  But before I get into how the square holed, perforated Sumerian votive plaque in the Independent's article underscores this, I'd like to say that those in the cultural heritage protection field would be wise to discourage this type of investigative reporting when journalists come asking for leads.

The Syrian war is an exceptionally difficult story to cover due to the logistical barriers of the multi-sided conflict and the public's insatiable desire for instantaneous news.  More and more frequently journalists covering these conflicts are stringers; freelancers paid by the article who work without the safety net of the news outlets they report for.  These types of reporters don't have an editor standing in the wings saying, "walk away from it" when a story is too risky or when the line between being a legitimate journalist and an intelligence operative gets blurred.

In many cases stringers are the first with breaking news in conflicts either by risk or by happenstance.  Their goal, like that of any good reporter, is purely to bring home the story no one else has.  The difference though is that a freelance reporter might be paid £200 for a 1,000-word article and most likely doesn't even have insurance. 

Gaziantep Gun Seizure March 2015
When reporters contact ARCA asking if we can put them in touch with sketchy antiquities dealers, I tell them no.  Reporting from war zones and delving into the world of organized crime is a dicey proposition. Scoops may sell papers or create page clicks, but the journalists who win Pulitzer Prizes are rare.  Finding the dealer that is fencing Syria's and Iraq's  heritage for the sake of a story is not worth anyone's life.   A published exposée might rattle a trafficker, jeopardize the journalist, or interfere with ongoing criminal investigations, including those with heavier implications that just the world's cultural patrimony. 

I underscore this because I know there is a lot at stake as we try to draw clearer lines between terrorism, organized crime and heritage looting.   I know the topic is an important one and I know we want to know more.  But as ethical professionals we should be asking our respective countries to spend more money in law enforcement and in documenting the world's heritage better, not tacitly condoning investigative journalism in the hopes that a reporter's shocking revelation will illuminate a point we have already concluded.  Sometimes we should ask ourselves if we really need to find the smoking gun to solve this problem.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 61 journalists were confirmed killed doing their job in 2014. The vast majority of these dead journalists were working in, or covering issues in conflict areas. Some were killed intentionally, despite the fact that under the Geneva Convention, journalists are to be treated as civilians in times of conflict and that harming or killing them is a war crime.

If governments need proof that antiquities are tied to crime and terrorism, they should be asking law enforcement professionals directly what their educated opinion is and dedicating appropriate resources to address the problem, not sit on the fence because statistical analysts haven't been able to provide numerical data that translates easily into the financial numbers politicians prefer.

My fear when articles like the one in the Independent are published is that we use limited examples to make larger inferences about who is moving what and for whom instead of just examining the singular case itself and what data that case alone specifically tells us.   The first question I would ask myself is why these traders were eager to show their wares to an unknown foreigner?

In doing due diligence, Isabel Hunter shared the images she obtained with a number of US academics who confirmed to The Independent that they believed the Sumerian plaque to be genuine.   Not having the details of their assessments,  I asked Ms. Hunter if I could have a copy of her larger format images as the online version used in the article had been optimized for internet viewing and made the inscription almost impossible to see.

Sumerian Relief Plaque with a Banquet Scene, Metropolitan Museum of Art
I passed the images Ms. Hunter shared with me among several researchers who helpfully pointed out that there are several so-called "banquet" votive plaques in existence and that they have been found in both northern and southern Mesopotamia, some of them with square-perforated holes, including a banquet scene in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, two plaques at the Iraqi National Museum, here and here, as well as another one of Ur-Nanshe, king of Lagash, represented as the bird-god Anzu (or Im-dugud), a lion-headed eagle located at the Louvre.

A Votive relief of Ur-Nanshe, representing bird-god Anzu, the Louvre,   Paris
But what was off on the Independant's plaque featuring Anzu was its inscription.  I spoke with Professor Eleanor Robson of University College London whose research focuses on the social and political contexts of knowledge production in the cuneiform culture of ancient Iraq.  Without publishing the details of our conversation, so as not to be of benefit of future antiquities forgers,  Dr. Robson pointed out irregularities within the inscription, which, in her academic opinion, meant the piece was not authentic, or at a minimum had been altered.  She also added that while it's theoretically possible that the text could have been added a few centuries after the artefact was made she doubted it.*

Not to discount the possibility of a later-day alteration, I forwarded Dr. Robson's thoughts back to the journalist who put me in touch with Michael Danti, a co-director of The Syrian Heritage Initiative (SHI), supported by the US Department of State and the American School of Oriental Research.  Danti had helped Ms. Hunter identify experts to determine if the piece she was shown was authentic.  Danti advised me that he had shared the Gaziantep images with Dr. Richard Zettler, Dr. Jean Evans, Dr. Robert Biggs, and Dr. John Russell who all were of the opinion that the plaque was authentic and that he would share Dr. Robson's findings with the others for clarification.  It is my hope that by sharing thoughts on authentication with one another we can better understand the motivations of this particular seller as well as to determine if this is indeed an authentic looted Iraq plaque or a passing forgery.

To that end, it is not unusual forgeries to be mixed in, knowingly and unknowingly with authentic antiquities as academics and professional dealer associations can testify. They even have a term for intentional mixing, a practice known in the trade as "seeding".  It is also not unusual for forgeries and counterfeits of Assyro-Babylonian antiquities to deceive the eyes of specialists as some may specialize in iconography while others specialize in ancient texts. 

As soon as the explorations at Nimrod and Hatra attracted the public’s attention, forgeries began and its commonplace to find small objects, such as forged inscriptions, in the art market and markets throughout the middle east, especially where there is a tourist trade.  Most individuals, cannot read ancient languages and are simply looking to buy something which is aesthetically pleasing.  Plaques and tablets with wedge-shaped cuneiform script are also easier for forgers to execute with some precision, copying what they chisel character by character from photographs or books.

Since the early ’90s there’s been a notable supply of both real and forged cuneiform artifacts in the international antiquities art markets, some pilfered from archaeological sites, others lifted straight out of regional Iraqi museums, and still others gently handcrafted for the unsuspecting buyer.

In favor of the object's possible authenticity is the fact that the Turkish cities of Antakya, Gaziantep, Mardin, and Urfa have each been previously identified as cities where antiquities looted from Syria’s and Iraq can be found, including objects taken from Apamea and Dura-Europos, sites which also sustained looting while under governmental control, underscoring that opportunistic looting is not just restricted to terrorist organizations. Given that other items are fairly easy to fence in this zone, its probably reasonable to assume that antiquities are just another type of commodity to be traded.

But aside from the lettering incised in the tablet I also wonder whether or not the de-dolomitization (the way the surface of the stone has aged) is artificial.  If academics cannot even agree on if something is authentic vs. faked imagine how difficult this job would be for border authorities in stemming the flow of undocumented antiquities.  Looted antiquities pass through busy ports hidden among legitimate merchandise, or through porous borders in refugee bundles or intentionally packaged and mislabeled as reproductions only to revert back to being authentic when sold on the art market.   

With or without ISIS, fakes and illicit antiquities will continue to enter the art market wherever there is a willing buyer. Finding one dealer who will show a journalist his hidden treasure won't be a deterrent.  Artwork from the Early Dynastic Period (mid third-millennium BC), a time when stone was the common medium, gives both looters and opportunistic forgers a lot of material to work with. 

* Researchers interested in reviewing these assessments can write to us privately to share opinions.


References Used in This Article

"10 Foreigners, including Tunisian Who 'lied to Police,' Detained near Turkey's Syria Border." Hurriyet Daily News, [Istanbul] 08 Apr. 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. 

"Akaryakıt Kaçakçılığıyla Mücadele Hız Kesmeden Devam Ediyor" T.C. Gümrük Ve Ticaret Bakanlığı, 07 July 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. 
 
“Cuneiform Forgeries in the Museu Bíblic of Montserrat (Barcelona)”, en G. del Olmo, L. Feliu, A. Millet (eds.), Shapal tibnim mû illaku. Studies Presented to J. Sanmartín on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday (Aula Orientalis Supplementa 22), Sabadell 2006, pp. 289-301 [co-author: I. Márquez Rowe]

"Gaziantep'te Kaçakçılık Olayları." Haberciniz. Haberciniz, 29 Sept. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.   

Hooker, James T., ed. Reading the past: Ancient writing from cuneiform to the alphabet. Univ of California Press, 1990.

Hunter, Isabel. "Syria Conflict: The Illicit Art Trade That Is a Major Source of Income for Today's Terror Groups Is Nothing New." The Independent [London] 26 Apr. 2015, Sunday ed.: n. pag. The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

"Iraq National Museum - Sumerian Votive Plaque - 1." Iraq National Museum - Sumerian Votive Plaque. Iraqi National Museum, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
"Iraq National Museum - Sumerian Votive Plaque - 2." Iraq National Museum - Sumerian Votive Plaque. Iraqi National Museum, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

"Journalists Killed in 2014." Committee to Protect Journalists. John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. 

Muscarella, Oscar White. "Gudea or not Gudea in New York and Detroit: Ancient or modern?." Source: Notes in the History of Art (2005): 6-18.
Muscarella, Oscar White. The lie became great: the forgery of ancient Near Eastern cultures. Vol. 1. BRILL, 2000.

"National Union for Journalists - Rate for the Job: Words, per 1000 / News." - Updated 4/13/2015. National Union for Journalists - London, 13 Apr. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.  

Ozerdem, Alpaslan. "Turkey Urgently Needs to Integrate Its Syrian Refugees." The Conversation. N.p., 13 Jan. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.  

"Professor Eleanor Robson." Academic Staff. University College London, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.  

"Relief Plaque with a Banquet Scene | Sumerian | Early Dynastic IIIa." Relief Plaque with a Banquet Scene. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Republic Of Turkey Prime Ministry Disaster And Emergency Management Presidency. "Syrian Refugees in Turkey, 2013." Syrian Refugees in Turkey, 2013 (n.d.): n. pag. AFAD TURKEY. Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, 2013. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Sollberger, Edmond. "The Cuneiform Collection in Geneva." Journal of Cuneiform Studies (1951): 18-20.

"Syrian Heritage Initiative." ASOR Syrian Heritage Initiative. The American Schools of Oriental Research, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.  
Taha, Munir Y. "The Authenticity of a Sumerian Statue." Iraq 35.02 (1973): 151-153.

"Torbacılara Şafak Baskını." Torbacılara Şafak Baskını. Müdürlüğümüz Kaçakçılık Ve Organize Suçlarla Mücadele Şube Müdürlüğü, 06 Dec. 2012. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.   

"UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response." UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response. Ed. UNHCR. UNHCR, Government of Turkey, 14 Apr. 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

"UN Jobs." Grant Manager - WV Response to Syria Refugee Crisis, Gaziantep, Turkey.http://unjobs.org/vacancies/1385418031847 United Nations, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. 

 Walker, Christopher BF. Cuneiform. Vol. 3. Univ of California Press, 1987.
 



September 18, 2014

Halyna Senyk, Executive Director of the European Shoah Legacy Institute, Speaks on the Importance of Archives in Provenance Research

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

International human rights lawyer Halyna Senyk has joined the European Shoah Legacy Institute (ESLI), an organization based in Prague, which is aiming to make provenance research mandatory in the art market, especially in areas where looting of art was combined with genocidal acts. We spoke briefly last week via Skype about the mission of ESLI.

“Washington principles and the Terezin Declaration “opened the door” for provenance research to become the main catalyst  in restoring justice of the Nazi looting of culture objects," Ms. Senyk explained. "The majority of the European legal systems recognize the bona fide acquirer as a rightful owner, even if s/he bought a stolen art object, besides many countries in Europe has statutory limitations which prevent to claim the property, which was stolen more than 70 years ago.  Only provenance research can challenge the title of a bona fide acquirer and can re-open cases, which have been closed due to the statutory limitation.  When we talk about provenance at large, we’re not just talking about Nazi crimes.

I’ve worked in human rights all my life and I believe in justice – what is important is that people who went through the Holocaust that they see justice – whether it involves issues of stolen property or art and that these items are returned. It doesn’t always mean that items are taken from museums but that title is corrected. This is what we are aiming at. The legislation doesn’t always reflect the historical reality. Who was the bona fide buyer? As we study art history, we should also study the provenance of the cultural object. It’s important to know the history of the object and who was the owner and taken into consideration that only a small percentage of what was looted has been returned. We have only four countries that have made major progress towards implementing the Washington principles and the Terezin Declaration. Part of our main mission is to monitor adherence to the Terezin Declaration, conceptualize the best practices and to assist governments in developing their national policies to bring them in compliance with their obligations. Austria, for instance, is the only country that has mandatory provenance for all state museums."

What are the country models of funding provenance research at an effective level?

Ms. Senyk: “The states have funded provenance research in Germany, and Austria. The Netherlands and Czech Republic have mitigating bodies to resolve disputes over art property injustices inflicted on Holocaust victim and they have been using provenance research as an important tool in resolving them. Some private museums, like the Jewish Museum in Prague, initiated the provenance research of its collection on its own expense.”

How can you develop standards and work with others in the field?

Ms. Senyk: “Provenance research is dictated by restitution disputes either by a museum or a family. What is important for us is that provenance research is independent and impartial and not influenced by one party or the other – when is it done, we’re looking for a report based upon as much information as is fiscally responsible. Sometimes we don’t have access to archives. Researchers try to do everything possible to show that they have done their due diligence. Until now the standards of provenance research reports haven’t been discussed.

“We also discovered that discussing accessibility of archives, how getting information is extremely difficult. Talking about provenance without talking about archives doesn’t make sense because researchers have to be able to look at information in all available sources. We talk a lot about national archives and how to use their archives, how to submit requests and get the information. In these workshops, we list the archives and share the practical experience of the researchers. We believe that sources of information is very important. It is also helpful to have researchers who understand the history and the movement of the cultural property at the time it was stolen.”

April 22, 2014

Looted Artifacts from Peru: A story of grave robbing from the 1970s

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

The story of how a woman in the 70s supported her traveling in South America by smuggling pre-Columbian artifacts is presented in True Crime: Real-Life Stories of Abduction, Addiction, Obsession, Murder, Grave-Robbing and More (InFACT Books, 2013) edited by Lee Gutkind, founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction magazine.

Joyce Marcel describes herself in "Grave Robber: A Love Story" as a woman in her early 30s in the 1970s on an adventure in Ecuador that involved "a bit of grave robbing":
I'm not too proud of that now, but in 1976, I didn't believe in ghosts or national treasure. I just wanted to keep traveling. I bought pre-Columbian ceramics, textiles, jewelry and artifacts from a secret village tucked away in the Atacama Desert, far outside of Lima, Peru; I wrapped the stuff in newspaper and bought it to the United States. I kept everything but the ceramics, which I dropped off at Sotheby's Parke-Bernet in New York. Back then, they didn't care about ghosts or national treasures, either. They auctioned off everything I gave them and sent the checks to me in Lima, and I'd be back on the road again.
Ms. Marcel tells of meeting someone who "knew his way around South America because he'd been thrown out of the Peace Corps for smuggling" who had a "perfect scam" that involved a town in the Peruvian desert, mummies from the Chancay civilization, and selling artifacts to an art dealer he'd met in a bar in San Francisco, and how she dealt with her paranoia about smuggling:
At that point, I formulated "Joyce's Law": After you've decided to do something illegal or weird, give up on the worrying. No matter what nightmares you imagine, reality will be different. And anyway, it's out of your control. At the border, nothing happened -- except that the immigration man said, "I won't let you through; you're too pretty. I want you to stay with me."
According to Ms. Marcel, for five years she followed a routine of trading American goods to locals in this Peruvian village until "the United States suddenly recognized Peru's national treasures act" [and] "in 1980, instead of being passed through U.S. customs by bored inspectors, I was stopped." She writes:
My baggage was searched, and I was taken into a small room and given a harsh lesson about the harm I was doing by robbing a country of its archaeological treasures. I was such a small-time operator that they let me go with my last shipment intact. Later, when the big exporters came through, they were busted and their shipments confiscated. And when the really big operators arrived, customs not only confiscated their shipments but went to their homes and took their personal collections.
For a broader view on looting in South America, you may read Karl E. Meyer's The Plundered Past : The Story of the Illegal International Traffic in Works of Art (Antheneum 1977) recommended by Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis for his ARCA 2014 course on "Unravelling The Hidden Market of Illicit Antiquities: Lessons from Greece and Italy".

January 11, 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014 - ,, No comments

José Manuel Lluent presenting second edition of "Looting and Fraud in Art" January 15 in Barcelona

Information provided by Oblyon

José Manuel Lluent will present the second edition of "Looting and Fraud in Art" at 7 p.m. on January 15 at Oblyon's headquarters in Barcelona. The event will be attended by Lluent, the author of the book; Marco Mercanti (Founder and CEO of Oblyon); Jesús Gálvez Pantoja (head of the investigation unit of the Civil Guard); Mariano Costoso (Regional Deputy of Cultural Heritage in Catalonia) and Joan Cifuentes Mesa (from the central theft unit and cultural heritage protection of the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalonian local police law enforcement body).
The event will take place at the Barcelona headquarters of Oblyon, an art advisory firm. Due to Mr. Mercanti’s professional background in law at Oblyon we specially care about the protection of our cultural heritage and believe all professionals working in the field of art should be aware of the existing problems and cooperate in the fight against art crimes. This is why we like to collaborate in the presentation of Lluent’s book, an important tool for information and diffusion of this topic.
Book review

The author analyses and thoroughly gives details on matters revolving around art fraud and looting, giving an overview on the legislation that applies to those issues in order to be able to fight the phenomenon in an easy and transparent way. Current laws to fight art crime are scattered amongst the different legal administrations, both local and national as well as the ones linking Spain to other international organizations with jurisdiction in this matter, thus the effort made by the author to methodologically put them all together in one book make it a reference work for all the professionals in this area.

Author

José Manuel Lluent was born in León, Spain in 1945. He studied at Escola de la Llotja in Barcelona (School of Art and Design) and at Groupe IESA in Paris (Superior Institute of Arts). After completing his studies he furthered his art expertise through the creation of ASART. One of the firms main specialization is the documentation and provenance of artworks.  Specializing in the fight against fraud and spoliation in art, Lluent has worked with the group Grupo de Delitos contra el Patrimonio Histórico and Interpol.

Lluent has also collaborated with Scotland Yard introducing the identification system SGS-INART, as well as with the Ministry of Culture in Spain and France and has cooperated in identification tasks of artworks from the Vatican collection.

DETAILS
Date: January 15th, 2014
Time: 19:00
Place: Oblyon Headquarters, Portaferrissa 7, Pral. 1, 080, Barcelona (Spain).
RSVP: info@oblyon.com

March 19, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011 - ,, No comments

Paris Diary: Replica of Stolen Art at Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Paris - The statue above the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in front of the Louvre is a replica of the original "The Triamphal Quadriga" more commonly known as "Horses of Saint Mark". The original bronzes, analyzed to be more likely copper supporting the theory that they are more Roman than Greek, sat on top of a column in the Hippodrome in Constantinople until the Venetians took a detour during the Fourth Crusade in the 13th century to loot the Christian city of its wealth, including slicing off the horses' heads to ship back to San Marcos Square in Venice. Napoleon stole them in the early 19th century before they were returned to Venice. The horses outside of St. Mark's Basilica are also a copy; the originals reside inside the cathedral.

January 31, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Contributor Patricia Kennedy Grimsted on Plundering Libraries in World War II

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Dr. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted wrote “The Postwar Fate of Einsatzstab Riechsleiter Rosenberg Archival and Library Plunder, and the Dispersal of ERR Records” in the Fall 2010 issue of the Journal of Art Crime. In her abstract, Dr. Grimsted wrote:
“Alfred Rosenberg was one of Nazi Germany’s most successful “looters.” The Einsatzstab Richsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), organized specifically for plunder under his direction, seized cultural property across Nazi-occupied territories. This article traces what happened to the ERR’s hoard of books and archival materials that ended up at war’s end in the ERR evacuation center headquartered in Ratibor (now Polish Racibórz) in Upper Silesia. In contrast to the treasures found in the Western occupation zones of Germany and Austria, a large part of the property in Silesia fell into Soviet hands. Thus plundered a second time, it was held in secret for decades. Only recently has it been possible to find and identify the displaced books and archives, and to raise the issue of restitution. The author also addresses the issue of where and why the ERR’s own records were scattered, as well as current efforts to identify them and make them more accessible to researchers electronically on the Internet.”
Dr. Patricia Kennedy Grimsted is a Senior Research Associate at the Ukrainian Research Institute and an Associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University and an Honorary Fellow of the International Institute of Social History (Amsterdam). She received her Ph.D. in Russian history at the University of California, Berkeley in 1964 and has taught at several universities, including American University and the University of Maryland. Among many fellowships and awards, she was a Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2000-2001), and in 2002 she received the Distinguished Contribution to Slavic Studies Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. Dr. Grimsted is the West’s leading authority on archives of the former Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the other Soviet successor states. She is the author of several historical monographs, documentary publications, and a series of directories and many other studies on Soviet-area archives, including the comprehensive Archives of Russia: A Directory and bibliographic Guide to Holdings in Moscow and St. Petersburg (Russian edition, 1997; English edition, 2000). She currently directs the Internet version of ArcheoBiblioBase, a collaborative electronic directory project with data from the Federal Archival Service of Russia, maintained by the International Institute of Social History (Amsterdam).

She has also written widely on World War II displaced cultural treasures (see below). In 1990 she was responsible for revealing information about the archives from all over Europe that were captured by Soviet authorities after the war and long hidden in Moscow. With Dutch colleagues she edited the volume Returned from Russia: Nazi Archival Plunder in Western Europe and Recent Restitution Issues (Institute of Art and Law, UK, 2007), soon to be released in an updated paper edition. Most recently, she edited and was a major contributor to the collection Spoils of War v. Cultural Heritage: The Russian Cultural Property Law in Historical Context, published as International Journal of Cultural Property 17, no. 2 (2010). She is currently consulting for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and has just completed the guide Reconstructing the Record of Nazi Cultural Plunder: A Survey of the Dispersed Archives of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), soon to be released on the Internet, which is already serving as the basis for virtual display of many dispersed fragments, in cooperation with the Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archives).

ARCA blog: You write about meeting a retired Belarusan professor of French philology, Vladimir Makarov, who had found in Minsk books with autographs of French writers such as André Gide, André Malraux, and Paul Valéry. He told you in 2003 that he had not found anyone else so concerned about the provenance and fate of these books. More than six decades after World War II, what is it about these stolen and misplaced libraries that is so compelling for you? And are you surprised that these volumes have not been destroyed?
Dr. Grimsted: Over the past decade and a half there has been a renewed interest in the fate of cultural valuables looted during the war. I find it tragic that many of these books were looted from Holocaust victims and other prominent individuals in Western Europe, and that unlike countries in Western Europe, the Soviet Union never made any effort to return them to their owners. Only since the 1990s have we learned about the fate of the art, archives, and libraries books looted a second time by the Soviets after the war.

Some of the volumes from Western Europe the Soviets captured were destroyed, but close to half a million survived. The rare books that were hidden away for half a century in Belarus, many with famous autographs, are finally being catalogued. However, Belarus librarians have no interest in returning them to their owners, and prefer to consider them “compensation” for their own war losses..
ARCA blog: You write that owners of half a million plundered books from Western Europe and the Balkans that went to Minsk (and another half million plundered from Soviet libraries) never knew that their books had survived and been “saved” by the Red Army. The information was classified or secret for half a century. You think that even today the Rothschild family or the heirs of Léon Blum, Georges Mandel, or Louise Weiss may not know that some of the treasures from their family libraries traveled to Minsk. Are people making inquiries now that ERR records of plunder are being gathered, digitized and made available on the internet?
Dr. Grimsted: Some of those people have learned about the books that went to Minsk after my articles revealed the story of their fate, and there have been a number of inquiries about them since. There is considerable interest, especially among the families and heirs of Holocaust victims in learning more details, and even the suggestion of setting up a database about the looted collections.
To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.