Berlinka (art collection)

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The Berlinka (Polish: from Berlin) is the Polish name for a German collection of historic material which was originally kept at the Preußische Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, the Prussian State Library at Berlin, but which is now kept in the Jagiellonian Library in Kraków.


During the Second World War, German authorities moved the material to the Silesia Grüssau Abbey to protect it from Allied bombing. When Lower Silesia became Polish territory after the war, the Polish state secretly claimed the collection as war reparations.[1]

The Polish government kept the Berlinka's existence a secret until 1977, when Polish First Secretary Edward Gierek gave East German leader Erich Honecker seven pieces of sheet music, including Mozart's original manuscript of "Zauberflöte" and Beethoven's notes for his Ninth Symphony,[2] as a gift.

Poland claims that it should retain ownership of the Berlinka as compensation for Polish historical collections destroyed or looted by Germans during the Second World War; the total worth of Polish cultural heritage destroyed by Germany is estimated at 20 billion dollars.[1] Some German media have referred to the Berlinka as the "last German prisoner of war", and claimed that Poland is in violation of the Hague Convention of 1907.[3]

In summer 2007, Der Spiegel quoted German foreign ministry representative Julia Gross as saying that negotiations over the disposition of the Berlinka had reached a low point. Earlier, Poland had stated that the return is out of the question.[2] Previously, Poland has undertaken several initiatives, such as proposing a creation of a Polish-German foundation that would take possession of such disputed collections, but Germany has refused, each time demanding that Poland return the Berlinka unconditionally; Poland refuses, claiming that Germany still has much Polish material looted during World War II, and that this should be returned to Poland in exchange.[1]

In 2014 Germany returned to Poland the looted painting Palace Stairs by Francesco Guardi. With this gesture, Germany hopes to restart negotiations for the return of Berlinka.[4]


The Berlinka is known to contain over 300,000 manuscripts by individuals such as Martin Luther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Friedrich Schiller. It also contains linguistic studies by the Grimm Brothers[5] as well as many manuscripts and incunables from Polish monasteries in Gniezno, Lubiń, Mogilno, Pakość, Paradyż, Pelplin and Poznań, removed by Prussian authorities after the partitions of Poland[6] between 1820 and 1840.

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  1. ^ a b c (Polish) Rosjanie oddają skradzione dzieła sztuki, Gazeta Wyborcza, 2007-10-14
  2. ^ a b (German)Der Spiegel: BEUTEKUNST-RÜCKGABE Polen stellt sich stur, 8 August 2007 [1]
  3. ^ (German)Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: Rückgabe von Beutekunst - Die letzten deutschen Kriegsgefangenen, 26 July 2007, [2]
  4. ^ "Germany returns art stolen by Nazis in 1939 to Poland". BBC News. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  5. ^ (German) German TV HR: Handexemplare des Grimmschen Wörterbuchs in Krakau gefunden [3]
  6. ^ (...) do słynnej Pruskiej Biblioteki Państwowej w Berlinie włączono starodruki pochodzące z klasztorów w Gnieźnie, Lubiniu, Mogilnie, Pakości, Paradyżu, Pelplinie i Poznaniu.
    Jan Pruszyński. "Kulturkampf". (in Polish). Retrieved 2009-11-21. 

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Coordinates: 50°03′41″N 19°55′25″E / 50.0615°N 19.9236°E / 50.0615; 19.9236