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April 200
3 - Nr. 4


The Editor
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Öl zuliebe
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Age of Chivalry
Powell: Friendship
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Ute Lemper Tour
Help Baghdad Museum
Celebrating Lucas Cranach
Leipzig 2012 Olympics

Berlin to Help Baghdad Reclaim Stolen Art

  TWIG - Thousands of cultural treasures from the ancient civilizations of Babylonia, Assyria and Mesopotamia have been destroyed or stolen from Iraq since the U.S.-led attack that led to the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. In response to the crisis, German museums and archeologists have offered to help Iraq recover what antiquities it can.

Among the leaders of the initiative is the Prussian Cultural Property Foundation in Berlin, which maintains the German capital’s major museums, including the Pergamon Museum, an institution with a significant Mesopotamian collection. On Wednesday (April 16), foundation president Klaus-Dieter Lehmann promised to help the German government and the United Nations cultural organization UNESCO restore stolen goods to Iraq. Lehmann said there was a risk not only of further looting and illegal art dealing, but also that the works that Iraq still possesses will not be properly protected and preserved. Yet he also said he believed much could be accomplished through close cooperation between Berlin’s Near Eastern Museum, the Louvre in Paris, the British Museum in London and the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad.

Beate Salje, director of the Near Eastern Museum in Berlin, says archeologists and art restorers must swiftly establish contact with Iraqi colleagues to assess the damage and set up security measures, including steps to prevent further theft from archeological sites. The German Archeological Institute, which has maintained an office in Baghdad since 1955, has promised to send experts to the region as soon as possible.

To prevent the circulation of looted works, the German Cultural Council, a nongovernmental group that represents arts organizations, called on German museums and art dealers not to buy art stolen from Iraq. "We appeal to all art lovers, should art works of unclear origin be offered to them, to inform the police," said council director Olaf Zimmermann. "We Germans especially, who have stolen art works and had them stolen from us during the Second World War, must send a clear message of opposition to art theft."

After hearing reports of the plundering of the Iraqi National Museum in recent days, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer promised Germany would join the international effort to recover Iraq’s cultural heritage. The world must ensure that art works stolen from Iraq find no buyers and are returned to the museum, said Fischer. Iraq’s archives and libraries must also be protected, stressed UNESCO director Koichiro Matsuura in Paris Tuesday. "Almost 20 centuries of the written history of humanity is in danger."


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