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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Press Releases (Other) > 2002 > December
Media Note
Office of the Press Secretary
Washington, DC
December 13, 2002


Return of Smolensk Archive

At a ceremony in Moscow today, the United States returned to Russia the archive in its possession of the Smolensk Oblast Committee of the All-Union Communist Party.

Germany captured the archive when it occupied Smolensk during World War II. During the German retreat from Russia in 1943, Nazi officials took the archive initially to Vilnius and then to Poland. The Germans took a small portion of the archive to Bavaria, where it came into the possession of U.S. Forces at the end of the war. The Soviet Army retrieved the largest portion of the archive in Poland and returned it to Russia. The portion discovered by the U.S. Army was brought to the United States in 1947 and has been held for many years at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, MD.

At the ceremony, U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow presented a file from the archive to Mikhail Shvydkoi, Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Ministry of Culture. The balance of the archive is being turned over to the Russian Embassy in Washington today.

At the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets, the United States and Russia agreed with 42 other countries to an international effort to help research and uncover cultural assets seized by the Nazis during World War II, and to return those assets to their pre-war owners or heirs. In the years following the conference, both public and private institutions in the U.S. and Europe have taken positive steps toward addressing issues related to Nazi-confiscated cultural assets.

Mr. Ronald Lauder, Chairman of the Commission on Art Recovery and Mr. Edgar Bronfman helped make this return possible though their "Heritage Revealed' project. Mr. Lauder attended today's ceremony in Moscow. The return of the Smolensk Archive is part of the U.S. Government's effort to resolve outstanding disputes over cultural property from the World War II era. It is our belief that such returns help to build an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect between peoples. In this vein, the U. S. Government welcomes the return of some volumes in the Schneerson library to the Lubavitch community and encourages the Russian Government to return the balance of the Schneerson collection as soon as possible.


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