General Records of the Department of State (RG 59)
Contents of RG 59:
Researchers are cautioned that, although major topics are described below for each lot file individually, topics often overlap. They should consult the box list for all the records in the series.
Most of the records in Lot Number 96D269 Boxes 1-17 relate to two topics: claims against the United States for seizing, vesting, and liquidating property declared to be enemy-owned or enemy-controlled during World War II; and the disposition of external German assets seized during the War.
The records of claims reflect attempts at achieving diplomatic remedies to losses suffered in federal courts in suits handled by the Office of Alien Property. Among the records of claims are those of Internationale Industrie - und Handelsbeteiligungen AG (Interhandel) of Switzerland, and Manfred Weiss, and his heirs, of Hungary.
Most of the records dealing with the disposition of external German assets are for German assets in Japan, although there are also records relating to the disposition of German property in Brazil, Luxembourg, and other countries.
Also included are records relating to crafting legislation for dealing with compensation claims and war assets, German objections to the "overlap" of compensation payments under the German Equalization of Burdens Legislation and other funds, attempts by former Yugoslav nationals to receive compensation for time spent as German prisoners of war, the disposition of external Japanese assets, a few references to Nazi Gold, the settlement of Greek claims against Germany for the destruction of merchant vessels and other property prior to Greece's entry into World War I, and State Department compliance with Executive Order 12372, which sought to foster intergovernmental partnership and a strengthened federalism.
Most of the records in Lot Number 96D244 Boxes 18-104 relate to four topics: compensation and reparation payments by the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) to victims of the Nazis, the return to either the FRG or the German Democratic Republic (GDR) of works of art and other property looted or confiscated from Germany after WWII, the work of the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold, and U.S. participation in the Bureau of International Expositions.
The records on compensation and reparation payments to Nazi victims mainly consist of requests by individuals to the State Department for help with receiving compensation from the FRG; accounts of negotiations between the FRG and Austria, and between the FRG and countries invaded by the Nazis, over the return of stolen property and reparation payments; and analyses of the ramifications for Nazi victims of changes in FRG compensation laws and the 1974 U.S. recognition of the GDR.
The records on the return to the FRG and GDR of works of art and other objects looted or confiscated from Germany after WWII document the negotiations and litigation that led to the return of the items. Most of the looted art works were found in the hands of individuals in the US. The works were usually located when the individuals tried to sell the works, and reputable dealers notified authorities. The works included Portrait of Hans Tucher and Portrait of Felicitas Tucher by Albrecht Duerer; eight rare postage stamps from Mauritius, British Guiana, and the then independent Hawaiian islands; and gold medals and coins.
The U.S. Army confiscated approximately 8,000 pieces of German War Art immediately after WWII as part of denazification. The U.S. returned some of the art to the FRG in the 1950s and again in 1972. In 1986, the U.S. and FRG signed an agreement for the return of approximately 6,225 pieces of art to the FRG. The Army retained 327 art works because they "could tend to glorify Nazism," and the U.S. Army and Air Force retained another 259 items for educational and historical purposes.
There are also records relating to the return by the U.S. of three works of art stolen from Germany in 1922, and vested by the Office of Alien Property in 1947. These were a self-portrait by Rembrandt, Portrait Of A Young Man by Terborch, and a Portrait Of A Young Girl by Tischbein. In addition, there are records relating to attempts to return The Holy Family With Saint Catherine And The Adoring Donor by Tintoretto to the GDR.
A few records relating to the GDR's transfer to the U.S. of paintings by Lyonel Feininger are also included.
The third main topic is the work of the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold. The Commission was an international organization, established by the Paris Reparation Agreement of January 1946. It was composed of representatives of the US, the United Kingdom, and France. It received claims from countries whose monetary gold the Nazis looted, and paid out on recognized claims from monetary gold recovered from the Nazis at the end of the war. Most of the records relate to a protracted dispute between the U.S. and Czechoslovakia. The U.S. refused to allow Czechoslovakia's claims for monetary gold to go forward because Czechoslovakia refused to compensate American nationals for properties nationalized and expropriated after the war. Additional Commission records document claims by the Netherlands, Albania, Poland ("Danzig Gold"), the Foreign Exchange Institute of Italy (Istcambi), Dollfus Mieg et Compagnie S.A. of France, the Sociedade Insulana de Transportes Maritimos, Ltda. of Portugal, and one Frederic Deutsch of Liechtenstein. A few records relating to Commission attempts to get Sweden to return gold deposited there by the Nazis, along with copies of Commission final decisions, meeting minutes, draft reports, and other internal matters are also included.
Other residual WWII related problems include disputes between the former Allied Powers and the FRG over the settlement of the International (Young) Loan of 1930, and the terms of the liquidation of Deutsche Golddiskontbank (DEGO) foreign currency bonds; FRG extension of the statute of limitations on the prosecution of Nazi War Crimes; Nazi War Crimes trials in the 1960s; the possibility that then NASA but formerly Nazi scientist, Werner von Braun, might testify at a Nazi War Crimes trial in Essen, GDR; accusations of the use of slave labor during WWII by the German company Rheinmetall A.G., and the affect of the controversy on Department Of Defense plans to purchase arms from that company; and the disposition of Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian assets blocked by the U.S. after their occupation by the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics in 1940.
The last major subject is U.S. participation in the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE). The BIE assesses applications to host world expositions. Topics include negotiations over U.S. membership, which occurred in 1968; revisions of the 1928 International Convention of World Expositions, which established the BIE; the 1974 International Exposition on the Environment, held in Spokane, Washington; the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition, held in New Orleans; advance planning for the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee of 1992; and the work of the Government and Advisory Committee on International Book and Library Programs.
Also included are a few records relating to attempts to protect monuments in Angkor Wat, Cambodia during the Vietnam War; and internal State Department discussions over the differences between negotiating a treaty with a foreign government and negotiating an executive agreement with a foreign government.
By far the largest topic in Lot Number 98D252 Boxes 105-228 is post-WWII educational and cultural exchange agreements between the U.S. and other countries. The records provide details of negotiations; copies of draft and final agreements; evaluations of the state of educational and cultural affairs in other countries, including those with which the U.S. had no exchange agreements; reports of notable educational and cultural events in other countries, particularly those under Communist control; and assessments of educational and cultural agreements between other countries.
Closely related to the records of U.S. educational and cultural agreements are those documenting U.S. participation in United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conferences. UNESCO called the conferences to reach agreements on the importation and circulation of educational, scientific and cultural materials. The series contains records relating to U.S. participation in the 1948 conference which adopted the "Beirut Agreement" (the Agreement for Facilitating the International Circulation of Auditory and Visual Materials of an Educational, Scientific and Cultural Character), and the 1950 meetings which led to the adoption of the complementary, but wider in scope, "Florence Agreement" (the Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials).
The series includes records from the case Bullfrog Films v. Charles Z. Wick, a case brought in part because of the denial of rights granted under the Beirut Agreement. Charles Wick was the Director of the United States Information Agency (USIA). The USIA was the implementing agency of the Beirut Agreement. Bullfrog Films sued Wick after the USIA refused to certify the educational character of Bullfrog Films' documentary about the danger of uranium mining, In Our Own Backyards.
Other major topics include public affairs and Voice of America operations.
The public affairs records relate to legal guidance on requests for information under the Privacy Act; legal guidance to State Department employees, including those formerly held hostage by Iran, on avoiding conflicts of interest; and anti-lobbying. Anti-lobbying refers to the fact that, while State Department officials are allowed to contact Congress to urge specific legislative action, they are not allowed to "urge, encourage, request or assist" others to contact Congress to urge specific legislative action. The series includes records from three instances when people charged that the State Department crossed the line. These were during campaigns in support of the Panama Canal and Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) treaties; and in 1987, when Senator Jesse Helms questioned the legality and propriety of efforts by the State Department and the Agency for International Development to publicly oppose funding cuts in foreign affairs operations.
The records on Voice of America (VOA) operations relate to VOA broadcast stations in Bahrain, Greece, Grenada, Israel, Kuwait, Sao Tome and Principe, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and Thailand. The records document negotiations to establish, extend, or terminate broadcast agreements; site selection; reports on reactions to the VOA presence; and other matters.
This portion of the series also includes more records on the work of the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold. The records relate to dealings with Germany and Albania. The records relating to Germany concern release of two gold bars to the Commission for incorporation into the Commission's gold pool. After deposit in a U.S. Military Government account in Germany soon after the end of WWII, the bars were apparently overlooked until brought to the Commission's attention by a British journalist in 1983. The records relating to Albania deal with the resolution of long-standing nationalization and expropriation claims by the United States against Albania. The resolution of these issues allowed for distribution to Albania of its share of the Nazi-gold held for it by the Commission.
Other topics include the Informational Media Guaranty (IMG) Program, which facilitated the sale of books and other media about the U.S. for local currency in countries with a shortage of dollars; the work of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad, which encourages the preservation and protection of cemeteries, monuments, and historic buildings associated with the foreign heritage of U.S. citizens; determinations of whether or not individual exhibitions of artwork on loan to U.S. institutions were in the national interest and immune from judicial seizure; administrative matters of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; and three topics of concern to Poland: the return to Poland from the U.S. of Polish Foreign Ministry records, 1918-1940, originally seized by the Nazis; the return to Poland from the U.S. of the remains of Polish pianist, composer and statesman Ignace Jan Paderewski; and Poland's claim to a 1236 AD manuscript on vellum given to the Library of Congress after World War II.
Also included are a few records from 1993-1994 relating to U.S. attempts to have the Soviet government release a collection of books to the Lubavitch Chasidic community. The Soviet government confiscated the books ("the Schneerson Collection") shortly after the Russian Revolution.