Germany returns 17th-century Nazi-looted missal to Russia

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A seventeenth-century orthodox missal looted by the Nazis during World War II was returned to Russia during a ceremony in Berlin on Monday.

The missal had been kept in the state library in Berlin. Scholars had identified it as an item originating from the Novgorod State United Museum and recorded as lost during the war, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation said.

The Foundation handed over the item to the director of the Novgorod State United Museum, Natalya Grigoryeva.

A short sword from a private owner was also returned to the museum.

“The return (of these items) highlights the trusting and collegial nature of German-Russian cultural relations,” the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Hermann Parzinger, said at the event.

The ceremony was held as part of a two-day meeting of 200 museum directors from Germany and Russia, who have been working to find practical solutions to the issue of war-time looted art.

Around one million German artworks are estimated to be kept in former Soviet republics. Germany sees this as a breach of international law.

However, Moscow has so far refused the return of any artworks to Germany pointing to the destruction and looting of Soviet art by the Nazis.

German Minister for Culture Monika Gruetters welcomed the return of the missal, pointing out that both sides had agreed to give back looted art in the German-Soviet Partnership Treaty of 1990 and in the German-Russian Cultural Agreement of 1992.

However, political talks on the issue have been put off for years.

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