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Artworks looted under Nazi rule handed over by German authorities

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German authorities have now handed over all 14 works from the art trove accumulated by late collector Cornelius Gurlitt that so far were proven to have been looted under Nazi rule, the government said.

Piano Playing, a drawing by Carl Spitzweg, was handed over to Christie’s auction house on Tuesday at the request of the heirs of its rightful owner, Henri Hinrichsen, the government said.

The work was seized from Hinrichsen, a Jewish music publisher, in 1939.

The following year, it was bought by Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand Gurlitt — an art dealer who traded in works confiscated by the Nazis.

Hinrichsen was killed at the Auschwitz death camp in 1942.

The reclusive Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in 2014, had squirrelled away more than 1,200 works in his Munich apartment and a further 250 or so at a property in Salzburg, Austria.

A visitor enters the 2017 exhibition Gurlitt : Status Report (Martin Meissner/AP)

He inherited much of the collection from his father.

Authorities first stumbled on the art while investigating a tax case in 2012.

Gurlitt’s will bequeathed the works to a Swiss museum, the Kunstmuseum Bern.

A German government-backed foundation has been working with it to ensure that any pieces looted from Jewish owners are returned to their heirs.

A trickle of works has been handed back in recent years as the painstaking process of provenance research made gradual progress.

Germany’s culture minister, Monika Gruetters, said it was “an important signal” that all the works so far identified as looted art have been restituted to their owners’ heirs.

“Behind every one of these pictures stands a human, tragic fate such as that of Auschwitz victim Dr Henri Hinrichsen,” she said in a statement.

“We cannot make up for this severe suffering, but we are trying with the appraisal of Nazi art looting to make a contribution to historical justice and fulfil our moral responsibility.”

She stressed Germany’s “lasting commitment” to continue with that appraisal and provenance research.

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Iran

Aliyev welcomes Iran’s prticipation in rebuilding Karabakh

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Aliyev welcomes Iran's prticipation in rebuilding Karabakh

Aliyev also expressed satisfaction with the Islamic Republic’s view on Azerbaijan’s proposed regional cooperation plan on peace, he called the proposal in favor of peace and common interests in the region.

He also showed his appreciation for the stances of the Islamic Republic of Iran toward the recent developments in the region and expressed satisfaction with the existing level of mutual cooperation between Tehran and Baku. He noted that the ground is set for further development of all-out ties. 

Enumerating the economic projects between the two countries, Aliyev welcomed the presence of Iranian companies in the reconstruction of the Karabakh region and expressed satisfaction with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s view on Azeris’ regional peace plan.

He assessed the proposal in favor of peace and common interests in the region.

Aliyev also welcomed the holding of Iran-Azerbaijan-Russia trilateral meetings, as well as the Iran-Azerbaijan-Turkey meeting in the future.

During the meeting, the Iranian FM congratulated the Government and the people of the Republic of Azerbaijan on their recent victories and stressed the importance of expanding bilateral cooperation.

He welcomed Azerbaijan’s proposed regional peace initiative and voiced Iran’s readiness for securing peace and stability in the region.

The Iranian minister reiterated Iran’s readiness and capabilities for reconstructing Karabakh.

Zarif arrived in Baku late on Sunday as part of a regional tour that will also take him to other countries including Russia later.

He and the accompanying delegation were welcomed in Baku International Airport by a number of Azerbaijan political officials and Iran’s Ambassador in Baku Abbas Mousavi.

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World

EU debates response to Navalny arrest and mass protests in Russia

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European Union foreign ministers have debated their response to the arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The discussion follows a weekend police crackdown that saw thousands of people taken into custody during protests across Russia in support of President Vladimir Putin’s most well-known critic.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “This wave of detention is something that worries us a lot, as well as the detention of Mr Navalny.”

A policeman in plain clothes detains opposition activist Pavel Krysevich (AP)

He spoke as he arrived to chair the ministerial meeting in Brussels after more than 3,500 people were reportedly taken into custody in Russia during the nationwide protests.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas said that “under the Russian constitution, everyone in Russia has the right to express their opinion and to demonstrate”.

He added: “That must be possible. The principles of the rule of law must apply there, too – Russia has always committed itself to that.”

Mr Maas and other ministers called for the immediate release of the protesters.

More than 3,500 people were arrested over the weekend (AP)

Mr Navalny was arrested earlier this month when he returned to Moscow after spending months in Germany recovering from an attack in Russia which involved what experts have said was the nerve agent Novichok.

In October, the EU imposed sanctions on six Russian officials and a state research institute over Mr Navalny’s poisoning, but there is little appetite to take new measures immediately.

Mr Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, is also planning a trip to Moscow, and it is unclear what impact events will have on that visit.

On Sunday, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed concern about what he called Russia’s “authoritarian drift”.

Thousands took to the streets in cities across Russia (AP)

He told France-Inter radio that “all light must be shed” on Mr Navalny’s poisoning, saying: “This was an assassination attempt.”

The protests attracted thousands of people in major Russian cities, including an estimated 15,000 in Moscow.

As events unfolded, the US embassy spokeswoman in the city, Rebecca Ross, said on Twitter that the United States “supports the right of all people to peaceful protest, freedom of expression. Steps being taken by Russian authorities are suppressing those rights”.

The embassy also tweeted a US state department statement calling for Mr Navalny’s release.

Mr Putin’s spokesman said the statements interfered in the country’s domestic affairs and were encouraging Russians to break the law.

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Editors' Choice

Q&A: Why Survivors Should be at the Centre of Discussions on Genocide and Gender Violence

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Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations Crime & Justice

Remains of some of the over 800,000 victims of Rwanda’s genocide, which will soon be relocated to a new memorial site to preserve them. Jacqueline Murekatete, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide and founder and President of the Genocide Survivors Foundation (GSF). highlighted the importance of centring these discussions on genocide around survivors. Credit: Edwin Musoni/IPS

Remains of some of the over 800,000 victims of Rwanda’s genocide, which will soon be relocated to a new memorial site to preserve them. Jacqueline Murekatete, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide and founder and President of the Genocide Survivors Foundation (GSF). highlighted the importance of centring these discussions on genocide around survivors. Credit: Edwin Musoni/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 25 2021 (IPS) – Women and young girls are disproportionately affected by conflict and genocide, and that is why they should be a central part of conversations on the issue, according to Jacqueline Murekatete, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide and founder and President of the Genocide Survivors Foundation (GSF).

“Survivors need to be invited to the table to share their testimonies,” Murekatete told IPS. “When people hear personal stories they’re more likely to want to get involved. It makes a huge difference to have their testimony.”

It’s also crucial for the narrative to distinguish between women survivors and survivors who are young girls in order to highlight the nuances of how young girls are affected when they are subject to sexual violence at a tender age, she said.

“I have friends who were raped at the age of nine. A nine-year-old child being raped and some of them being infected with HIV/AIDS means their whole life can be ruined. Raising awareness about the fact that it’s not just women, it’s also little girls, really elevates what genocide is. When you see children who are nine or ten, being gang-raped — it’s another level of violence, of evil that needs to be brought to light,” Murekatete said.

Jacqueline Murekatete. Courtesy: Genocide Survivors Foundation (GSF)

Jacqueline Murekatete. Courtesy: Genocide Survivors Foundation (GSF)

Murekatete spoke with IPS following a U.N. panel on “Women and Genocide” last week. The panel specifically highlighted the issue of how women were impacted during the Holocaust — where between 1941 and 1945 Nazis systematically murdered over 6 million Jewish men, women and children — and the Rwandan genocide of 1994 — where in just 100 day over 800,000 people, ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were murdered.

Dr. Sarah Cushman, Director of the Holocaust Educational Foundation at Northwestern University, discussed the issue of gender and the Holocaust.

“Gender has been a part of Holocaust studies from the start,” she said. “Early explorations centred on the notions of a German crisis of masculinity – scholars saw this as a response to World War I.”

This supposed threat to their masculinity was “fertile soil for the emergence of a masculinist bellicose revival in the form of the Nazi party, and the person of Adolf Hitler,” she added.

“I don’t necessarily think they were trying to preserve ‘the gender hierarchy’ per se, but rather they sought to reestablish Germany as a masculine nation among other nations,” Cushman told IPS. “They viewed the ‘Jewish influence’ as creating a liberalistic, soft, effeminate and ineffective democracy. They aimed to put an end to that (among other things).”

Cushman was joined by Sarah E. Brown, Executive Director of the Centre for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College, who spoke on the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The genocide left thousands of orphans like Murekatete, who lost her family at the age of nine. Murekatete currently runs GSF to make sure other survivors have a safe haven to process their trauma.

Excerpts of the full interview below.

The gates of World War II concentration camp, Auschwitz. Approximately 1.1 million people — including 900,000 Jews — were killed in the biggest extermination camp from World War II. Photo by Jean Carlo Emer on Unsplash

The gates of World War II concentration camp, Auschwitz. Approximately 1.1 million people — of whom 960,000 were Jewish — were killed in the biggest extermination camp from World War II. Photo by Jean Carlo Emer on Unsplash

Inter Press Service (IPS): Can you share how you realised as a woman, there are different implications of a genocide for you?

Jacqueline Murekatete (JM): I was nine when the genocide happened. I was a young girl, not a woman. Growing up in the aftermath of the genocide, and now as I work with genocide survivors, I have spoken with so many girls and women who have suffered so much because of their gender. During a genocide, every member of the targeted group suffers but women and girls have a higher level of suffering in that most of them are always victims of sexual violence.

During the Rwandan genocide, rape wasn’t just a random act. The Hutu extremists actually got on the radio to encourage Hutu men to make sure they rape Tutsi women and Tutsi girls before they killed them.

IPS: Sarah Brown said at the talk Hutu men ‘deliberately impregnated’ Tutsi women to make sure there are ‘Hutu children’ and also knowingly passed on HIV/AIDS. Can you speak to that?

JM: There have been women who were infected by Hutu men knowingly, who told the women they were going to die a very, very slow death. Many of these women contracted HIV/AIDS during the genocide. Although it’s been more than 25 years, the consequences of the genocide are still a daily reality for them. Some say they can’t forget because they still take pills everyday for HIV/AIDS.

Many say, everyday they look at their child and she/he looks like their rapist. So for these women, everyday is a reminder of what they suffered and they are still living with the physical and mental consequences of the genocide.

The relationship between these moms and their children was and remains very complicated. Many gave up their children for adoption because everyday was a reminder of what happened to them. Meanwhile, in some cases, these children were the only relatives these women had because the women or the girls’ families had been killed.

IPS: Sarah Brown also said women were given more leadership roles following the genocide, and the Rwandan government removed a bunch of laws that made women second-class citizens. Are women’s rights in Rwanda better after the genocide?

JM: This partly happened out of necessity. In many villages, sometimes you’d find that there were so many men that had been killed that women would end up taking roles that they had never taken on before.

This led to a cultural shift in women doing more work and having more leadership roles — including in politics. As women came into positions of power, a lot of women’s rights got better. For example, women couldn’t own property in Rwanda, and that has changed; and domestic violence is addressed with more access to services.

IPS: Can you elaborate on why it’s crucial for survivors to be present — and highlighted — at talks about genocides?

JM: I always highlight the importance of including people who are the actual survivors in conversations, for them to come and share their stories. I always say, we cannot be here debating about people’s lives who are not at the table, it’s just wrong. There is progress being made, but there’s still a long way to go in making sure that the voices that need to be at the table are actually at the table.

 

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