Poland Seeks UNESCO Help in Returning Art Looted by Germany in WWII

Poland Appealed to UNESCO For Help in Securing the Return of Art, Missing After Being Looted During the Nazi German Occupation of World War Two.

Dec 19, 2022By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Poland initiated a national “Empty Frames” campaign to raise awareness of the art taken by both Germans and Russians during WWII. (Source: Twitter/Polish Ministry of Culture)


Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk announced he had written to the director general of UNESCO. Poland hopes UNESCO can help the country negotiate with Germany over the return of stolen heritage. Also, this announcement occurred at a joint press conference with Minister of Culture Piotr Gliński.


“Nazis wanted to erase the Polish state from the map” – Poland’s Minister Mularczyk

Destroyed Warsaw in 1945. Via Wikipedia


Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk is overseeing the Polish government’s efforts to obtain up to $1.3 trillion in war reparations from Germany. Mularczyk told reporters Germans destroyed and robbed many works of art and science. This was in an attempt to erase the Polish state and its culture from the map.


He said Germany still did not pay for the actions of its legal predecessor. “We do not see the desire, or the will to repair all this damage, to return plundered cultural goods and works of art”, the minister stated. Also, Poland submitted a diplomatic note to Germany with a demand for compensation. This is for damages sustained by Poland in World War II.


psychological warfare nazi rally
A Nazi rally in the 1930s, with German dictator Adolf Hitler speaking, via the Wiener Holocaust Library, London


“The aggressor destroyed Polish cultural and intellectual heritage. The goal was its complete annihilation. The aggressor also destroyed and robbed the work of generations of Poles, historic architecture, art collections, libraries and archives”, he added.

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The Polish deputy foreign minister also said Nazis took 50,000 railway trucks with furniture, books, paintings, and sculptures. This is just from Warsaw alone. He also estimated they took 500,000 items of valuable heritage from across the country. All of these are now in German homes, museums, or other public spaces, he claimed.


Mularczyk Calls on UNESCO to “facilitate bilateral negotiations”

Warsaw, 1944


The extensive and heavy losses greatly affected the entire country. This all happened with the German invasion and occupation in the years 1939-1945. In particular also the sphere of culture, art, science and education. During the brutal occupation, Nazis killed six million Polish citizens. Half of them were Jews.


That represented around 17% of the prewar population. Also, that means Poland suffered greater proportionate human losses than any other country during the war. In addition, the country saw entire cities razed to the ground. This also includes Warsaw and its historic centre. Poland estimates that hundreds of thousands of such items remain unaccounted for.


Secretary of State Arkadiusz Mularczyk and Minister of Culture and National Heritage Prof. Piotr Gliński


“Today these things are in German homes, mansions, museums”, said Mularczyk. He called on UNESCO to “facilitate bilateral negotiations”. Also, to help in the process of recovering cultural goods looted from Poland by Germany. He also said UNESCO plays a key role, regarding the protection of national heritage. UNESCO is also instrumental in formulating conventions, resolutions, and recommendations, attempting to prevent illegal trade. Also, to facilitate the return of heritage robbed during conflicts.


In October, Poland sent a diplomatic note to Berlin outlining its position. The minister still did not receive a formal response. The German government has long argued that there is no legal basis for Poland to claim war reparations. Last month, the Polish government sent diplomatic notes to all EU, NATO and Council of Europe member states regarding its claim against Germany.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.