740.00119 Control (Germany)/3–546: Telegram

The United States Political Adviser for Germany (Murphy) to the Secretary of State


685. Forty-first Coordinating Committee meeting March 4 considered and returned to Reparations, Deliveries and Restitution Directorate paper containing special instructions concerning replacement by similar or comparable property, in lieu of restitution, of objects of unique character. US delegate RD&R Directorate had withheld final agreement to paper because it failed to give effect to certain principles enunciated by US member of Coordinating Committee at its thirty-second meeting.55

United States delegate forty-first Coordinating Committee meeting opened his statement by reference to position taken by General McNarney at seventeenth Control Council meeting, which had approved principle of such replacement. He proceeded to state that in such cases as Control Council might agree require replacement by analogous articles, the latter should be taken where possible from property confiscated from Nazis. He declared that to agree to replacements generally would transform restitution into reparation.

French member then set forth French stand that replacement through analogous articles should not be limited to works of art such as pictures and statues; German pillage of cultural works had violated international law which also protects such books as historical documents, religious and other cultural works; it would be unjust to allow Germany keep all its cultural riches after having destroyed those of other nations; that should Germany be unable restitute what it had pillaged, it should be compelled yield substitutes; that nine other United Nations overrun by Germany had supported foregoing French thesis in Paris Reparations Commission meeting; finally that reparations can compensate only material not cultural losses.

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Slightly relaxing US position to meet French argument, US member declared that information about exceptional cases might enable US delegation enlarge scope its definition of works of art, but could not allow it accept general principle of replacement article by article.

British member expressed strong sympathy, and full agreement with French position. Moreover, provided it were made object of special study, he would agree to delete from paper a clause to which Soviet member objected and which would make liable to use as replacements inconvertably [incontestably] German-owned objects removed from an occupation zone after May 9, 1945. (Note: Soviet objections possibly traceable to alleged removal some art works from Soviet Zone as trophies of war, and others as replacements in kind).

Although agreeing return paper to RD&R Directorate for further study and clarification to US position, US member stated US delegation unwilling now agree reparation program necessitating removal all cultural works from Germany; such removals should be under title of reparation.

French member closed debate by stating French position did not mean removal all cultural objects from Germany since restitution and replacement program is strictly limited and emphasizes only objects of unique character.56

  1. See telegram 169, January 19, from Berlin, p. 488.
  2. Telegram 836, April 5, to Berlin, stated the Department’s approval of the policy of keeping the definition of unique objects subject to replacement very narrow (740.00119 Control (Germany)/3–546).