Section II.—Special provisions (Art. 245 to 247)
Within six months after the coming into force of the present Treaty the German Government must restore to the French Government the trophies, archives, historical souvenirs or works of art carried away from France by the German authorities in the course of the war of 1870-1871 and during this last war, in accordance with a list which will be communicated to it by the French Government; particularly the French flags taken in the course of the war of 1870-1871 and all the political papers taken by the German authorities on October 10, 1870, at the chateau of Cerçay, near Brunoy (Seine-et-Oise) belonging at the time to Mr. Rouher, formerly Minister of State.
Note to VIII, 245
With the exception of some trophies which had been destroyed by German nationals, the restitutions provided by this article were satisfactorily fulfilled.
France was especially interested in recovering the political papers from Cerçay. Eugène Rouher, permanent minister of state under Napoleon III, at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 transferred Napoleon’s confidential papers from the palaces of the Tuileries and Saint-Cloud, as well as important documents from [Page 523] the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to his chateau at Cerçay for safety. On October 10, 1870 a regiment of German cavalry took possession of the chateau. A lieutenant came upon and stopped soldiers breaking up the boxes containing these papers. The regimental commander later forwarded the material to Bismarck at Paris. Among the papers was extensive correspondence between Napoleon III and the rulers of Bavaria, Württemburg, Hesse, and other German states who were opposed to Prussian hegemony and antagonistic to the organization of the German Empire as eventually constructed. Bismarck’s frequent and successive threats to publish the correspondence, which was apparently of a nature to induce revolution in those states, broke down their opposition to entering the empire. The papers remain unpublished.
Within six months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, Germany will restore to His Majesty the King of the Hedjaz the original Koran of the Caliph Othman, which was removed from Medina by the Turkish authorities and is stated to have been presented to the ex-Emperor William II.
Within the same period Germany will hand over to His Britannic Majesty’s Government the skull of the Sultan Mkwawa which was removed from the Protectorate of German East Africa and taken to Germany.
The delivery of the articles above referred to will be effected in such place and in such conditions as may be laid down by the Governments to which they are to be restored.
Note to VIII, 246
With respect to the Koran of the Caliph Othman, the German Peace Delegation wrote the president of the peace conference on January 21, 1921 as follows:
“The supposition that this Koran was presented to the ex-Emperor of Germany is erroneous. It was, moreover, never transferred to Germany nor into German hands.”
The Koran was originally made up of scattered fragments collected during the months immediately after the Prophet’s death in a.d. 632. This was the standard Koran for the Caliphs Abu Bekr and Omar. Their successor, Othman ibn Affan, summoned [Page 524] Zaid ibn Thâbit, who had been Mohammed’s secretary, to establish a text which would be the sole standard. The original of this text was deposited at Medina and is referred to in the treaty.
Sultan Okwawa, or M’Kwawa, was chief of the Wahibis, German East Africa. This tribe under several sultans from 1870 to 1898 gathered to itself much native support and was continuously hostile to the Germans. M’Kwawa, the last of the warrior line, added a religious superstition to his prestige by preaching that he could not be captured and committed suicide when capture was inevitable. The British demand for the return of his skull could not be granted, according to the German report sent to the British Government for verification. One sergeant Merkl cut off M’Kwawa’s head when he killed himself to escape capture by Captain von Prinz. Merkl preserved the skull in alcohol at the nearest German fort against the time when he could claim the reward of 6,000 rupees. The affidavits of Merkl, the widow of Captain von Prinz, and other witnesses stated that negro warriors broke into the fort and stole the alcohol and the sultan’s head, leaving in place of the latter the freshly severed head of some other negro. The theft became known when the substitute head, without the alcohol, came to the olfactory attention of the German garrison. The Germans found that the theft had been committed by retainers of M’Kwawa, who had buried the head in his family vault, and decided not to prosecute the case further.
Germany undertakes to furnish to the University of Louvain, within three months after a request made by it and transmitted through the intervention of the Reparation Commission, manuscripts, incunabula, printed books, maps and objects of collection corresponding in number and value to those destroyed in the burning by Germany of the Library of Louvain. All details regarding such replacement will be determined by the Reparation Commission.
Germany undertakes to deliver to Belgium, through the Reparation Commission, within six months of the coming into force of the present Treaty, in order to enable Belgium to reconstitute two great artistic works:
Text of May 7:
7. Germany undertakes to deliver to Belgium, through the Reparation Commission, within six months of the coming into force of [Page 525] the present Treaty, in order to enable Belgium to reconstitute her two great artistic works:
- The leaves of the triptych of the Mystic Lamb painted by the Van Eyck brothers, formerly in the Church of St. Bavon at Ghent, now in the Berlin Museum;
- The leaves of the triptych of the Last Supper, painted by Dierick Bouts, formerly in the Church of St. Peter at Louvain, two of which are now in the Berlin Museum and two in the Old Pinakothek at Munich.
Text of May 7:
- The leaves of the triptych of the Mystic Lamb painted by the Van Eyck brothers, formerly in the Church of St. Bavon at Ghent, now in the Berlin Museum.
- The leaves of the triptych of the Last Supper, painted by Dierick Bouts, formerly in the Church of St. Peter at Louvain, two of which are now in the Berlin Museum and two in the former Pinakothek at Munich.
Note to VIII, 247
Books and other property to the value of 2,186,084 gold marks were delivered to the University of Louvain, under conventions concluded between Belgium and Germany on January 29 and November 4, 1920.
Execution of this article was effected by several instruments between Belgium and Germany, among which were: Agreement of December 10, 1920, ratified by the Reparation Commission, February 14, 1921; convention of December 6, 1921; protocol of December 9, 1921; agreement of September 18, 1922; supplementary agreement of July 11, 1925.
By a majority vote of the Reparation Commission the triptychs were not a credit to Germany on the accounts.
The return of Belgian works of art by Germany raised no question. They had been seized by the German authorities during the occupation of the country and were readily identified. The treaty of peace with Austria (articles 191–196) also called for restitution of works of art to which a historic claim was made and which had been carried off from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, certain Italian provinces, and Poland at various times in the past by the House of Habsburg. The restitution of these objects, in case of dispute, was to be determined by a committee of three jurists, appointed by [Page 526] the Reparation Commission. Such a question was referred to the committee, in respect of two items in which Belgium was interested.
The committee reported October 21, 1921 and found “that Belgium has not discharged the onus of proving that the Triptych of St. Ildephonse was carried off from Brussels, or retained in Vienna, in violation of the rights of the Province of Brabant or of the Low Countries as a whole or of Belgium as their successor”.
The Habsburg sovereign removed the treasure of the Order of the Golden Fleece from Brussels to Vienna in 1794 before the French invasion “in exercise of the powers that belonged to him, and made a normal use of his rights”. He infringed no rights of the Low Countries and the brilliant past of the order from the second half of the 15th century, “did not, and could not, give to the Low Countries at the end of the 18th century, rights which have descended to contemporary Belgium.”