Law is vital to protect heritage

Germany needs the law to curb the trade in illegal antiquities and protect its most significant heritage, Hermann Parzinger, the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, says. Current legislation on the import of cultural objects “is really shameful”, he says. “Archaeological objects, which are the most endangered, can be imported into Germany without problem if they have not been listed by the countries of origin. This is crazy. If Islamic State, or other criminals in the Near East or Latin America are looting, how can the country of origin list the objects?”

He also says that there must be some restrictions on the export of national heritage. He says that what counts as Germany’s national cultural heritage “has to be rethought”. He points to “a Caravaggio from our museums, or a small painting from Italy we cannot [afford to] buy any more like [we could] in the 18th century” as items that should be protected. “Of course there will also be things that art dealers won’t like very much, but politicians need to have their say. [German cultural heritage] must not just be about German artists, or German heritage, but about the objects that are important for our cultural institutions and our self-understanding.”