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29 Nov, 2021 12:56

Ukraine demands Germany pay up for WWII damage

Ukraine demands Germany pay up for WWII damage

Ukraine’s top diplomat in Berlin has demanded that Germany must pay for what he describes as the theft of priceless heritage from the country by the Nazis during WWII, as well as for subsequent deals made on cultural artifacts.

In an open letter published on Monday, Andrey Melnik, the Eastern European country’s ambassador said he refused to attend a concert marking the repatriation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s archive under the terms of a deal concluded just two decades ago.

In the statement, the envoy argued that Kiev is still owed compensation “for the enormous losses in cultural heritage during the Nazi occupation, as well as from the point of view of supporting [Ukraine] on its path to membership in the EU.”

Melnik also complained that Germany has ignored his country’s proposal to create a “Compensatory Fund for Wartime Losses” to help Ukrainian museums purchase art from around the world, and pointed out that Ukraine had been completely destroyed by the occupation and was deprived of much of its cultural heritage.

The Bach archive consists of around 5,000 manuscripts that belonged to the world-famous composer and his family, taken from Germany by the Soviets in the aftermath of the war. The documents had been considered lost for decades after the conflict, before they were discovered in Ukraine in 1999, following a decades-long search. The priceless archive was given by Ukraine to Germany for free in 2001.Melnik has made a series of public requests of Germany, citing the country’s past invasion of Eastern Europe. In March, he said it was the “moral duty” of Germany to secure the return of Crimea from Russia, because of Berlin’s previous occupation of the territory, at a time when it was part of the Russian Soviet Union. In October, he asked Germany for help inducting Ukraine into NATO and the EU, asserting that “our enormous sacrifices continue to be ignored in German politics and society.”

Last month, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky lavished praise on a Dutch court’s decision that a treasure trove of golden artifacts from Crimea should be handed over to Kiev, rather than restored to their home in a museum on the peninsula. The collection, named the “Crimean Treasures,” had been on loan in Amsterdam during the 2014 re-absorption of the territory into Russia.