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    ‘Empty Frames’ campaign

    Poland has submitted seven restitution applications to the Russian Federation concerning looted works of art by the Red Army during World War II. This was announced by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Culture and National Heritage Professor Piotr Glinski.

    “The place and date of our meeting are not accidental. In 3 days – September 17 – it will be another anniversary of the Soviet Union’s attack on Poland in September 1939. 83 years ago, Poland fell victim to two aggressors – Germany and the USSR. (…) Today, we are inaugurating the nationwide ‘Empty Frames’ campaign, which is intended to remind us of works of art and historical objects looted during World War II – by both the Germans and the Soviets,” Prof. Gliński said during a conference at the King John III Palace Museum in Wilanów.


    The Minister of Culture and National Heritage stressed that of all the countries participating in World War II, whether occupied or fighting, it was Poland that suffered the greatest losses, including in the field of culture and art.


    The Deputy Prime Minister pointed out that from the beginning of the war, the Germans had carried out a planned and systematic robbery of Polish public, private and church collections. He pointed out that after the Red Army had entered the Polish territory, together with the moving eastern front, so-called trophy brigades entered Poland – units which had been engaged in robbing works of art.


    “We are unable to assess precisely the scale of the looting carried out by the Soviets. For the hundreds of thousands of objects lost by Poland as a result of the Second World War, the trail leads to the Russian Federation and the former Soviet republics. However, the lack of access to Russian museum resources and archival sources, including export lists, makes it difficult to determine how many other Polish works of art and monuments are still on Russian territory today,” the Minister of Culture conveyed.


    Prof Piotr Glinski stressed that the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage has for years been using a number of available tools to determine the location of works of art exported by the Red Army. He informed that so far the Polish side has submitted 20 restitution applications to Russia via diplomatic channels, covering several thousand individual objects.


    The head of the Ministry of Culture also pointed out that in recent years another seven works of art seized from Polish collections by the Red Army have been identified and are still in Russia today. He pointed out that under international law, Russia is obliged to return Polish cultural property looted during the war.


    The Deputy Prime Minister thanked the staff of the Department of Restitution of Cultural Property of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, as well as other people and institutions in Poland and around the world who cooperate with the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in the search for looted works of art. He pointed out that this cooperation currently enables as many as 130 restitution processes to be conducted in 15 countries around the world.


    So far, after 2000, the Polish side has submitted 20 restitution requests through diplomatic channels, covering several thousand individual objects. They were handed over in three batches – in 2004, 2012 and 2014. The government of the Russian Federation has not yet considered the claims made.

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