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May 2002 - Nr. 5


The Editor
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To Do Business
Stained Glass Windows
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World Cup 2006
Economic Upswing
"Hesse Year"
German Beer Day

Russia to Return Stained-Glass Windows to Frankfurt on the Oder

  TWIG - In a step that may help heal old wounds, the Russian parliament has agreed to return to Germany a priceless piece of World War II booty: more than 100 stained glass windows that once graced a church in the eastern city of Frankfurt on the Oder. Russian President Vladimir Putin, visiting Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Weimar this week, signed off on the agreement, setting the stage for the windows to be returned later this year.

Officials at Frankfurt’s Church of St. Mary (Marienkirche) have been negotiating for the return of the windows for almost a decade. They confronted their most serious setback three years ago, when Moscow formally declared all booty art Russian property. Since that time, Germany has been able to arrange for the return of a few works by helping the Russians recover some of their own cultural property in exchange. Millions of other confiscated artworks, books, and archival materials, however, remain in Russia.

Created between 1360 and 1370, the 60-foot-tall windows present the history of the Christian world in pictures, from the Creation to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to the Judgment Day. They were removed from the church to avoid war damage in 1943 and placed in safekeeping at the Sanssouci palace in Potsdam. At the end of the war, Soviet officers had them, along with many other artworks, seized and taken to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) as a form of compensation for Russia’s losses at the hands of Germany.

The church itself was all but destroyed during the war, and for a time the East German government threatened to raze its remains. But the citizens of Frankfurt championed its cause, and it is slowly being rebuilt. The project picked up speed after German reunification, and in 1998 workers completed the roof over the choir, the area where the windows had been before the war. Frankfurt citizens hope the windows will be back in place before 2003, when the city will celebrate its 750-year anniversary.

In a similar gesture of goodwill, State Minister for Cultural Affairs Julian Nida-Ruemelin will present St. Petersburg with a 1.3 million euro grant to help restore the organ in its symphony’s famous grand concert hall. Built by the sons of Eberhard Friedrich Walcker (1794-1872), one of Germany’s master organ builders, the instrument is the only functional concert organ in St. Petersburg. "The organ is culturally and historically significant for both Germany and Russia," said Nida-Ruemelin. "Its restoration is thus a sign of the common cultural responsibility of Russia and Germany."

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