Catalogue description Looted property: works of art. Notes from the British Embassy in Angora [historic name...

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Details of FO 195/2488
Reference: FO 195/2488
Looted property: works of art.

Notes from the British Embassy in Angora [historic name of Ankara, Turkey] on policies to be adopted on the question of looted works of art, dated late December 1945. Refers to the resolution adopted by the delegates to the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods 'affirming the United Nations' intention of frustrating the methods of looting and dispossession practised by the common enemy and of preventing the disposal of such looted property in United Nations' markets'. These notes, later suspended [according to a handwritten note on the document], invited the Turkish government 'to consider taking practical steps with a view to putting into effect, insofar as Turkey is concerned, the aforesaid Bretton Woods resolution, by controlling the export from Turkey of all works of art, books, artistic or historic archives, or other artistic or historic property'. Provides guidelines for the control and regulation of exported articles. This meant that 'neutral governments are to be asked to control exports of all works of art whatsoever, and not only those which are suspected of having been looted from their countries'. To this effect, 'governments of the liberated countries are at present engaged in drawing up lists of objects of artistic or historic value which have been looted from their territories, and it is expected that copies of these lists will be transmitted in due course to the Turkish government'. On the whole, 'the control of the export of looted works of art can really be said to be part and parcel of the general safehaven measures which we are still waiting to submit to the Turkish government [...], although the control of works of art proposals go much further than the general safehaven measures, in as much as they are obviously designed to control the movement of any work of art which has at any time been looted by the Germans whether or not there remains any German element in its present ownership'.

Notes on a meeting with Mr Short of the American Embassy in Ankara suggesting the drawing up of parallel notes, possibly including France as well, for the Turkish government on the matter of looted works of art, dated late December 1945. Includes a suggestion for the final version of a note on looted works of art to be submitted to the Turkish government on behalf of the UK, US and possibly French embassies, with references to the procedure followed by the three embassies 'in cases where reference was made to them', ie referring 'to the competent Board of Examination of their respective governments'. Suggests that 'we should give the Turkish equivalent of the dollar values' and a definition of what constitutes 'an export' or 'an item' should be included, especially in cases such as sale of a whole set of books. Includes handwritten minutes commenting on the draft.

Copy of a telegram to British Embassies throughout Europe and in Washington informing them of the agreement between the British, American and French governments for the control of export of works of art, dated mid-December 1945. States that 'neutral government [were] to be asked by the three governments to prohibit the exports of all works of art, books, artistic and historic archives and other artistic and historic property' [see above]. 'Export licences to be granted by neutral government at their own discretion when the declared value of the export is not more than 500 dollars; in cases where the declared value of the export is more than 500 dollars but less than 5,000 dollars, and where the neutral governments have any reason to suspect that the export may be loot, the application of an export licence [is] to be referred to the British, US and French Missions in the capital concerned and not to be granted without their concurrence'.

Note: This document forms part of the Looted Art Collection; records selection and descriptions reproduced by the kind permission of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe.
Date: 1945
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Closure status: Open Document, Open Description

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