Panel Discussion
Nazi-Era Provenance Research: The Importance of Transnational Exchange


Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP)

German Historical Institute Washington, DC

The German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP) brings together, for the first time, museum professionals from both sides of the Atlantic who specialize in World War II-era provenance projects for a three-year, systematic exchange. The program expands and elaborates on the methods and practices with which both countries have thus far approached the issues pertaining to Holocaust-era art looting.

PREP is also widening the scope of WWII-era provenance research, which to date has given priority to painting, sculpture, and Judaica, by including Asian art, decorative arts, and works on paper.

This panel discussion will reflect on the historical development of Holocaust-era provenance research in museums and research institutions over the past 20 years, from challenging beginnings to present-day accomplishments. German and American experts will compare and contrast approaches to this work; consider how access to research resources and to provenance online have been supported and sustained in our institutions; and explore the vital role of transnational exchange. More broadly, they will discuss the civic role museums play, and how historical, political, and legal contexts impact this work.

Speakers include:
Sharon Cott, Senior Vice President, General Counsel, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Gero Dimter, Vice President, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin
Stuart Eizenstat, Expert Advisor for Holocaust Issues, US Department of State
Christian Fuhrmeister, Research Department, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich
Richard Kurin, Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large, Smithsonian Institution
Simone Lässig, Director, German Historical Institute, Washington, DC
Anne Helmreich, Associate Director, Digital Initiatives, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
Lynn Nicholas, author of The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War
Laurie Stein, Senior Advisor, PREP, Smithsonian Institution
RSVP Held in conjunction with the 6th German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP) for Museum Professionals, October 20-26, 2019, organized by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC., and the seven PREP partners.

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution, German Historical Institute, and the Goethe-Institut, Washington, D.C.

Additional funding comes from: Norman and Suzanne Cohn, Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, James P. Hayes, Lois Jecklin, Jerry and Gwen Paulson, Ferdinand-Möller-Stiftung, Berlin, Eskin Family Foundation, Kathryn Hughes and John Christian.

Sharon H. Cott oversees the wide range of legal issues the Metropolian Museum of Art faces, from litigation over title to works of art in the collection to negotiations of gifts, supervising a staff of six attorneys. She coordinates corporate-governance issues for the Board and is responsible for assuring the Museum's compliance with various laws and regulations. A leader in the field of museum ethics, Cott has served as counsel to the committees of the Association of the Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums that drafted guidelines related to antiquities and to art confiscated during World War II.

Gero Dimter, Vice President of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, holds a law degree from the University of Dresden and completed his post-graduate legal training in Berlin, where he was an attorney before his judicial appointment in Berlin in 2004. After working at various courts, he then served as the Officer for Judicial Affairs and Consumer Protection in the Brussels office of the Federal State of Berlin from 2010 to 2012. From 2013, Dimter was member of a civil chamber at Kammergericht Berlin (the state’s highest court), and from 2014 until 2019 was simultaneously head of one of the administrative departments of the Kammergericht. In March 2019 Gero Dimter was appointed Vice President of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation)

Stuart Eizenstat is a Partner at Covington and Burling LLP, where he heads the firm’s international practice. During a decade and a half of public service in three US administrations, Ambassador Eizenstat held a number of key senior positions, including chief White House domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981); US Ambassador to the European Union, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs, and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration (1993-2001). During the Clinton Administration, he had a prominent role in the development of a number of key international initiatives. Much of the interest in providing belated justice for victims of the Holocaust and other victims of Nazi tyranny during World War II was the result of his leadership as Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State on Holocaust-Era Issues. He successfully negotiated major agreements with Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France and other European countries, covering restitution of property, payment for slave and forced laborers, recovery of looted art, bank accounts, and payment of insurance policies.

Ambassador Eizenstat has received seven honorary doctorate degrees from universities and academic institutions. He has been awarded high civilian awards from the governments of France (Legion of Honor), Germany, and Austria, as well as from Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers. He is a Phi Beta Kappa, cum laude graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and of Harvard Law School.

Christian Fuhrmeister has initiated and coordinated research projects at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich since 2003. His work focuses on 20th-century art, architecture, and art history (including war cemeteries, Max Beckmann, National Socialist art, and provenance research). His Ph.D. dissertation was published as Beton, Klinker, Granit. Material Macht Politik - Eine Materialikonographie (Berlin 2001), and he co-edited Kunstgeschichte im Nationalsozialismus. Beiträge zur Geschichte einer Wissenschaft zwischen 1930 und 1950 (Weimar 2005). In 2012, Fuhrmeister completed a Habilitation at the Ludwig-Maxmilians Universität München, which came out in 2019 as Die Abteilung "Kunstschutz" in Italien. Kunstgeschichte, Politik und Propaganda 1936–1963. He continues to teach at the LMU Munich on a regular basis and is a member of the PREP Steering Committee.

Richard Kurin is Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large at the Smithsonian Institution. As a member of the Smithsonian’s senior leadership team, Richard Kurin helps guide the Institution’s national museums, research centers, and educational programs. He focuses on strategic direction, institutional partnerships, public representation, philanthropic support, and special initiatives, including the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI) and the German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP). An anthropologist with a PhD from the University of Chicago, Dr. Kurin was a Fulbright fellow, has taught at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and has authored six books, including the best-selling Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects (2013). He directed the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage for two decades and served on the U.S. Commission for UNESCO. He has led efforts to save heritage threated by natural disaster in Haiti, Nepal and the U.S., and heritage threatened by conflict in Mali, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. A fellow of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences, Dr. Kurin serves as liaison to the U.S. President’s Committee for the Arts and the Humanities and the White House Historical Association, and advises the U.S. Department of State on cultural heritage matters.

Simone Lässig has been director of the GHI Washington since October 2015. Before taking up the GHI post, she served as Director of the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research in Braunschweig and Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Braunschweig. She is on leave from both positions during her tenure at the GHI, where she has made the history of knowledge, the history of migration — and especially the intersection of the history of knowledge and migration — and digital history foci of research. In her own research she focuses on Jewish history, religion and religiosity, philanthropy and patronage, and memory cultures and the politics of memory in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Her major publications include: Jüdische Wege ins Bürgertum: Kulturelles Kapital und sozialer Aufstieg im 19. Jahrhundert (Göttingen, 2004) and Wahlrechtskampf und Wahlreformen in Sachsen, 1895–1909 (Weimar/Cologne/Vienna, 1996)

Anne Helmreich is Associate Director, Digital Initiatives, at the Getty Research Institute. The Digital Initiatives area is composed of the Getty Vocabularies, the Project for the Study of Provenance and Collecting, and Digital Art History programs. She has also served as Senior Program Officer, The Getty Foundation, and Associate Professor of Art History and Director, Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities, Case Western Reserve University. Her current research focuses on the history of the art market and the productive intersection of the digital humanities and art history. She recently co-edited The Rise of the Modern Art Market in London, 1850-1939 (Manchester University Press, 2011) with Pamela Fletcher, and co-authored with Pamela Fletcher, “Local/Global:  Mapping Nineteenth-Century London’s Art Market,” the first article in Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide’s Digital Humanities and Art History series, which won the ARIAH 2015 prize for best online essay.

Lynn Nicholas, author of The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War, is an independent researcher in the area of Nazi-era social and cultural policy. She has served as an expert witness in numerous restitution cases and testified before Congress. She was a presenter at the Washington Conference in 1998 and a delegate to the Prague Conference in 2009. She has lectured at museums and universities both here and abroad, and participated in international symposia related to the wartime fate of works of art. She has been awarded the Legion d’Honneur by France and the Amicus Poloniae by Poland. She served as an advisor to Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative, and in the same function with the Smithsonian Provenance Research Program.

Laurie A. Stein, Senior Provenance Advisor PREP, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC is a specialist in World War II-era provenance research, as well as in 20th-century German art, design, and architecture. She has been a curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Saint Louis Art Museum, and the Werkbundarchiv in Berlin. She was the Founding Director of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts and Midwest Director for Christie’s before establishing L. Stein Art Research, LLC in 2005. Stein has been a provenance consultant for numerous institutions and individuals, including Yale University, The Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Foundation E.G. Bührle Collection in Zurich. She helped establish the German Working Group for Provenance Research and was a researcher for the Swiss government’s Bergier Commission and the “Schwabing Art Trove” Task Force in Germany. Since 2008, she has been Senior Advisor for the Provenance Research Initiative at the Smithsonian Institution.


German Historical Institute Washington, DC

1607 New Hampshire Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009

Language: English
Price: Free Admission

+1 (202) 847-4700