Chronology of Relations between the Claims Conference/WJRO and the Republic of Croatia in regard to Looted Art and Cultural Property
The Republic of Croatia participates in the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets and endorses the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.
The Croatian delegation’s statement (Chapter 3 Delegation Statements, pp.89-98) specifically referred to the importance of the archival documentation of the “Commission for the gathering and protection of cultural monuments and antiquities” known as KOMZA as the principal specific information on objects of artistic significance that were distributed to institutions from 1945 to 1949 and nationalized (the distributions of movable works of art among private individuals was not followed up by detailed records and is more difficult to trace).
The Republic of Croatia participates in the Vilnius Forum on Holocaust-Era Looted Cultural Assets and endorses the Vilnius Forum Declaration.
The Republic of Croatia becomes a member of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research (now the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – IHRA).
The Republic of Croatia participates in the Prague Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets and endorses the Terezin Declaration.
[Croatia also is a signatory to the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Code of Ethics and has participated in relevant Council of Europe and European Union resolutions.]
Following up on the Terezin Declaration, the European Shoah Legacy Institute (ESLI) sponsors a Workshop in Zagreb as part of its Provenance Research Training Program. This is administered and largely funded by the Claims Conference-WJRO.
The Croatian Ministry of Culture, the Croatian State Archives, the Museum Documentation Center, the Jasenovac Memorial Area, and the organization Documenta—Center for Dealing with the Past co-host the Workshop. In particular, the Croatian State Archives provides information on the relevant collections that contain documentation about wartime plunder and postwar disposition of the fruits of plunder under Ustashi rule, especially the documentation of PONOVA, the agency that disposed of looted Jewish property on a systematic basis.
The Claims Conference-WJRO brokers an agreement between the National and University Library in Zagreb and the National Library of Israel on surveying books and archives held by the National and University Library in Zagreb that are in Hebrew or other Jewish languages.
The Claims Conference-WJRO arranges with the National Library of Israel and the Jewish Community of Zagreb for the approximately 7,000 books that the National and University Library in Zagreb previously had turned over to the Jewish Community of Zagreb to be catalogued with examination of markings that may be relevant to the provenance of the volumes. The National Library of Israel and the Jewish Community of Zagreb complete this work towards the end of 2017.
The project TransCultAA: Transfer of Cultural Objects in the Alpe Adria Region in the 20th Century is begun under HERA-Humanities in the European Research Area (funded by the European Commission). The project is highly relevant to Claims Conference-WJRO concerns regarding cultural property in Croatia and the other countries participating, and the Claims Conference-WJRO actively participates in meetings of the project.
In accordance with Croatian regulations regarding release of archives after a certain period of time, the Croatian Ministry of Culture opens the records of the “Commission for the gathering and protection of cultural monuments and antiquities” known as KOMZA. Provenance researchers of the Strossmayer Gallery image the records before they are to be transferred to the Croatian State Archives.
The Claims Conference-WJRO contracts with Dr. Michal Brandl of the University of Zagreb for the first months of 2020 to compile an historical analysis of what these archival records are, whether from KOMZA under the communists or otherwise, and to compile a list of the names of the original Jewish individual and organizational owners of the objects that were distributed after the war.
In February 2020, the Croatian Ministry of Culture agrees to a meeting with Wesley Fisher and Ivica Ceresnjes of the Claims Conference-WJRO and Anne Webber of the Commission on Looted Art in Europe (member of the WJRO Council) for a technical discussion of how claims might best be handled. The meeting is postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the earthquake in Zagreb, and uncertainties concerning elections to be held in the summer.
In May 2021, the Ministry of Culture confirms through the United States Embassy in Zagreb that the technical discussion will take place later that month. However, due to the pandemic and the earthquakes in March and December 2020, talks were subsequently postponed because the majority of heritage institutions were closed down and all objects had to be evacuated.
The WJRO issues a report on the Restitution of Movable Property in Croatia by Dr. Naida-Michal Brandl in cooperation with the Croatian Ministry of Culture.
The Republic of Croatia will become the President of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which unites thirty-five governments and experts to strengthen, advance and promote Holocaust education, research and remembrance and to uphold the commitments to the 2000 Stockholm Declaration.
last updated October 2022