09 April 2011

The Krakow Declaration, May 14, 2009, Krakow, Poland

The Krakow Declaration was written by a group of independent historians, attorneys, and members of the art trade, from the United States and Europe, concerned over the general lack of initiative and action on matters pertaining to art restitution.

The Declaration evolved over two days of animated discussions, its ultimate purpose to provide an alternative text to the one that would be issued at the forthcoming Prague Conference of June 26, 2009, on Holocaust-era Assets.

Here it is:
Recognizing that it is not in the national interest to build art collections with looted property or to keep collections taken from victims of religious, racial or other forms of persecution between 1933 and 1945, 
Recognizing that between 1933 and 1945, the art and cultural property of Holocaust victims was dispossessed through various means including theft, coercion, abandonment, forced sales, and sales under duress, 
Recalling the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art adopted at the Washington Conference of 1998 which enumerated a set of commitments for governments, 
We reaffirm our support of the ‘Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art’ and encourage all parties including public and private museums, galleries and auction houses to abide by them as well. 
We acknowledge that the plunder of cultural property was an integral part of the genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people and of the persecution of others and that it was a war crime and a crime against humanity. 
Exclusive government control of research into provenance and title issues and the failure to permit, encourage and enable independent research is not acceptable. We therefore urge nations to provide adequate funds to facilitate independent research and to make such research available to the general public. 
Taking into consideration the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, we urge all parties to ensure that claims to recover looted art are resolved expeditiously and based on the facts and merits of the claims, having taken into account legal, moral and other considerations, in order to achieve just and fair solution. 
Export control, cultural heritage and citizenship laws should not be applied to prevent the return of property to Holocaust victims. It is unjust for a country that took or came into possession of Holocaust looted property to keep it.

We urge nations to enact or modify laws and regulations to authorize the restitution of looted Holocaust cultural property to their rightful owners.

Where statutes of limitations or prescription laws prevent the restitution of looted Holocaust property, they should be waived or exceptions for Holocaust looted property should be made. 
We urge nations to conduct systematic surveys of works of art and other cultural objects in their collections, produce inventories of this property and make them available to the general public. 
We urge nations to conduct systematic provenance research and make the results available to the public. 
We urge nations to provide alternative dispute resolution mechanisms using qualified and independent experts. 
Acknowledging that provenance research has priority over individual privacy protection, we urge nations to open all public records and archives pertaining to the looting of cultural property through various means including theft, coercion, abandonment, forced sales, and sales under duress; to make them accessible to researchers and the public, and to provide incentives for the accessibility of privately-owned archives. 
All nations should monitor restitution activity and make public annual reports on the making and resolution of claims and supply to the public accurate information about looted Holocaust property.

We urge all nations to create facilities where information is available on restitution procedures in other countries. 
Krakow, Poland
14 May 2009

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