Are libraries required to return Nazi-looted assets?
In the "Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art" of 3 December 1998, 44 states, including the Federal Republic of Germany, agreed to actively pursue the identification, publication and restitution of Nazi-looted assets. If the previous owners or their heirs can be identified, "steps should be taken expeditiously to achieve a just and fair solution." The "Joint Declaration" of 1999 specified these points for German public institutions. The "Guidelines" and "Provenance Research Manual" provide criteria for examining individual cases, creating a basis for restitution that is generally accepted. However, the Washington Principles, as an agreement, do not legally bind the signatory states, and they are seen as a document of moral commitment.
In line with that commitment, the cooperation partners conduct research on Nazi-looted cultural property in order to identify books that have been confiscated in the context of persecution and to return them to the rightful owners or their heirs.