Presentation of the official delegation of Slovakia at the Vilnius Forum
Jozef Dravecky, Ambassador of the Slovak Republic
3-5 October 2000
Slovakia sent an official delegation led by Jozef Dravecky to the Vilnius International Forum on Holocaust-Era Looted Assets who gave the presentation set out below.
All countries present at the Forum agreed the Final Declaration.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, At the beginning of my presentation, let me thank the organizers of this Forum.
In 1990, the Slovak National Council solemnly expressed apologies for the injustice caused to Jews in the Years 1939 - 1945 in Slovakia, bearing in mind, among other things, the fate of 57500 Jews deported in 1942 and 14000 after the defeat of the Slovak National Uprising in 1944.
We know that lives cannot be given back, but what can be done to undo injustice should be done. A law on the indemnification of victims of Holocaust will come into force on 1st January 2001.
The laws that are now in force in the Slovak Republic create also favourable conditions for restitution of unjustly confiscated property and this applies also to the Holocaust era looted cultural property. Already in 1946, the Slovak National Council adopted a law defining that the legal successor of the Jewish legal entities that ceased to exist is the Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia. The Civil Code and the restitution legislation adopted after our Velvet Revolution provide for mechanisms for restituting property to original owners and the procedure is without particular problems especially if the property is in possession of state institutions.
To implement the principles elaborated by the Washington Conference in 1998, the Government of the Slovak Republic adopted Resolution No. 109 of 10 February 1999. In fulfilling that resolution, the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic committed the Slovak National gallery and the Slovak National Museum in Bratislava to provide for processing of the database of fine art works alienated from the territory of the Slovak Republic during and after the end of World War II. At the same time, the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic issued the directive "Principles and Practice in Relation to Arts Seized by Nazis" corresponding to the Washington principles. More details about this issue were presented to the workshop on Private Ownership and the Art Trade in regard to Holocaust Era Looted Cultural Assets by Mr. Tom?š Lang and his paper has been distributed to the delegations.
So, the principles of the Washington Conference are being implemented in Slovakia within the framework of the existing laws, by decisions of the Government and the Ministry of Culture. Evaluation of this process in progress will show whether any additional legislation is necessary in order to carry out the restitution of cultural assets, for example of those that might be in possession of communes or private persons.
The Slovak republic is committed to restoring justice and this applies in particular to the restitution of Holocaust era looted cultural assets, independent on how complicated this task may turn out to be in practice.
Vilnius International Forum on Holocaust-Era Looted Cultural Assets Website, accessed 27 November 2002. The website no longer exists (20 July 2007).