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Ukraine returns war booty to Germany

This is in marked contrast to Russia’s tough line against any restitution of works of art taken from Nazi Germany

A cache of prints seized by the Red Army in Dresden at the end of World War II has been found in the Ukraine. Wolfgang Holler, director of the Dresden Print Room, was recently shown five albums at Kiev’s Museum ofWestern and Oriental Art. The albums, made in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, contain hundreds of prints of Swiss views, flowers, the Duke of Savoy’s estates, and works by F.Garies and Theobald van Oer. They disappeared from Dresden in 1945, but it is unclear why they were not among the works of art which the Soviet Union returned to the German Democratic Republic in 1958. Although five albums were discovered in Kiev, the Ukrainian authorities have offered to return only three to Germany. The albums are now believed to be in the German embassy in Kiev and are expected to be sent to Bonn in the diplomatic bag this month. Ukraine’s willingness to return some of the albums is in marked contrast to Russia’s tough line against any restitution of works of art taken from Nazi Germany. Dresden’s Print Room is still missing 5,000 drawings (including masterpieces by Dürer, Rubens and Van Dyck) and 10,000 prints lost during the war. However, Dr Holler is now hopeful that the Kiev discovery means “other works from our collection are in the Ukraine”. Kiev’s Museum of Western and Oriental Art was also badly looted during the Nazi occupation of 1941-43 and it recently published a catalogue of 475 missing paintings and drawings.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 65 December 1996