Spoils of War v. Cultural Heritage

February 8-9, 2008
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Harvard Law School

After WWII, Soviet authorities, seeking reparations for the extensive costs of Nazi aggression, used special "Trophy Brigades" to empty museums, castles, and salt mines in Germany and Eastern Europe, transporting millions of cultural treasures to the USSR. These included German state-owned cultural objects, cultural objects taken from churches and synagogues, as well as a great deal of private property that had been looted by the Germans from individuals. The art works taken back to the Soviet Union were held in relative secrecy for years, until the final years of glastnost (??????????). As European countries started to demand their cultural treasures and archives, Russian legislators passed a law that potentially nationalizes all cultural treasures brought to Russia at the end of World War II. In 1999 the Constitutional Court issued an opinion basically upholding the law. How do these actions comport with international law? What are the chances for restitution of these displaced cultural valuables?

Press & Scholarly


Co-sponsored by

Harvard Law School Arts & Literature Law Society

Commission for Art Recovery

Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University

Foundation for International Cultural Diplomacy

Harvard Law School European Law Research Center

  • Publication 2010, International Journal of Cultural Property
  • Journal of Cultural Property, SPECIAL ISSUE (Volume 17 - Issue 02), 2010 Spoils of War v. Cultural Heritage: The Russian Cultural Property Law in Historical Context



Friday, February 8, 2008

1:00 p.m. - Welcome - Terry Martin

  • Introduction - Charles A. Goldstein
  • The Evolution of Cultural Property Protection in International Law — Wayne Sandholtz
  • Restitution of Cultural Property at the End of WWII — Michael Kurtz
  • Stalin's Decrees and Soviet Trophy Brigades — Konstantin Akinsha
  • Panel: Legality of Soviet Displacement of Cultural Valuables under International Law
  • — Andrea Gattini
  • — Detlev Vagts
  • — Wayne Sandholz

5:30 p.m. - Reception

Saturday, February 9, 2008

8:30 a.m. - Continental breakfast
9:00 a.m. - Introductions

  • The Post-1991 Political Search to Legalize 'Compensation': the Long Battle over the Russian Law on Displaced Cultural Valuables - Patricia Kennedy Grimsted
  • The Federal Law on Cultural Valuables Displaced to the USSR as the Result of the Second World War and Located on the Territory of the Russian Federation in the System of Russian Law and International Law: the Russian Position — Olga Yudina
  • The Constitutionality of the Russian Federal Law on Cultural Valuables — Peter B. Maggs
  • Panel: Status of the Russian Law under International Law
  • — Guido Carducci
  • — Andrea Gattini
  • — Detlev Vagts

Lunch [provided for registrants]

  • Russian-German Negotiations over Displaced Cultural Valuables — Wolfgang Eichwede
  • The Legal Situation with regard to German “Trophy Art” in Russia – a German Perspective — Tobias Irmscher
  • Non-Restitution under the Law: the Baldin-Bremen Case — Konstantin Akinsha
  • Archives: the Forgotten Restitution Achievements under the Law — Patricia Kennedy Grimsted
  • Conventions and Declarations Relating to Cultural Objects Displaced in Armed Conflict — Guido Carducci
  • US Litigation over Displaced Art and Archival Collections — Michael Bazyler
  • Trophy Art, Art Loans and Immunity From Seizure in both the US and UK — Lawrence Kaye

5:00 p.m. - Final Comments


  • Konstantin Akinsha, independent scholar & contributing editor to ARTnews magazine, co-author of Beautiful Loot: The Soviet Plunder of Europe's Art Treasures (1995)
  • Michael Bazyler, Professor of Law & "1939" Club Law Scholar in Holocaust and Human Rights Studies, Whittier Law School, author of Holocaust Justice: The Battle for Restitution in America’s Courts (2003)
  • Prof.dr. Guido Carducci, Former Chief, International Standards Section, UNESCO; Author of La Restitution Internationale des Objets d'Art et des Biens Culturels Volés ou Illicitement Exportés. Droit Commun, Directive CEE, Conventions d'UNESCO ed d'UNIDROIT (1997)
  • Wolfgang Eichwede, Professor and Director of the Research Centre for East European Studies, University of Bremen
  • Andrea Gattini, Professor of International Law, University of Padua, author of Restitution by Russia of Works of Art Removed from German Territory at the End of the Second World War, 7 Eur. J. Int'l L. 1-88 (1996)
  • Patricia Kennedy Grimsted, Associate of the Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University, author of Trophies of War and Empire: The Archival Heritage of Ukraine, World War II, and the International Politics of Restitution (2001), co-editor of Returned from Russia: Nazi Archival Plunder in Western Europe and Recent Restitution Issues (2007)

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  • Tobias Irmscher, legal counsel, European Patent Office, Munich; formerly research assistant to the late Prof. Dr. Dieter Blumenwitz, at the Institute of European and International Law, University of Würzburg; author of The Protection of Cultural Property in Public International Law – the case of German “Trophy Art” in Russia (in German, with English summary), in: Im Labyrinth des Rechts? – Wege zum Kulturgüterschutz , Magdeburg 15-44 (2007) - invited
  • Lawrence M. Kaye, Herrick Feinstein LLP, dean of American art lawyers and author of Art Wars: The Repatriation Battle, 31 N. Y. U. J. Int'l L. & Pol. 79-94 (1998)
  • Michael J. Kurtz, Assistant Archivist for the Office of Records Services, National Archives and Records Administration, author of America and the Return of Nazi Contraband: The Recovery of Europe's Cultural Treasures (2006)
  • Peter B. Maggs, Clifford M. and Bette A. Carney Professor of Law, University of Illinois & author, with Aleksei Nikolaevich Zhiltsov, of The Civil Code of the Russian Federation (1997)
  • Harry S. Martin III, Henry N. Ess III Librarian & Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Wayne Sandholtz, Professor of Political Science, University of California at Irvine, author of Prohibiting Plunder: How Norms Change (2007)
  • Detlev F. Vagts, Bemis Professor of International Law, Emeritus, Harvard Law School, co-author of Transnational Business Problems (2003)
  • Olga Yudina, founder member of the International Foundation of Cultural Diplomacy, doctoral thesis in progress on the topic of the Problem of International Legal Regulation of Displaced Cultural Property, St. Petersburg State University, former legal adviser to the Hermitage museum, St. Petersburg



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Spoils of War v. Cultural Heritage event flyer