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Cultural property removed in wartime: Germany returns late mediaeval manuscript to Poland

05.11.2014

The Federal Foreign Office and the Free State of Saxony have agreed to return a Latin manuscript recording a number of sermons from the first half of the 15th century to Poland. The Governments of Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany will liaise to decide how the restitution is to be managed.

The manuscript in question is a theological anthology of Polish origin entitled “Sermones de tempore”, which in the 15th century still belonged to the library of Wiślica collegiate church. German authorities removed it from Poland’s National Library in Warsaw at the end of 1944 and brought it to Garbicz, then called Görbitsch, near Frankfurt an der Oder. Soviet troops confiscated it from there after the war, and the piece was taken to Moscow. In 1958, the Soviet Union – erroneously, as we now know – handed the manuscript back to the GDR along with a range of collections which had been taken from Dresden. It has been kept in the Saxon State and University Library Dresden (SLUB) ever since.

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