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AFP
March 15, 2019

Germany pledges to speed return of colonial-era loot

World

AFP
March 15, 2019

BERLIN: Germany has agreed to speed up the return of human remains and artwork from former African colonies where the country carried out brutal massacres and pillaged indigenous heritage.

The German culture and foreign ministries as well as regional and local cultural authorities signed a pledge late on Wednesday committing museums and scientific institutions to completing an inventory on their "ethnology, natural history, art and cultural history holdings" from the colonial era.

The aim is to determine which "were acquired in a way that legally or ethnically would no longer be acceptable today" and work toward their restitution. "The priority in this work are the human remains dating from the colonial period" in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the signatories said.

The commitment comes after a study commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron in November 2018 recommended returning African treasures held by French museums -- a radical policy shift seen as putting pressure on other former colonial powers.

Germany is unique among the powers in having large holdings of African human remains at museums, universities and in private collections that were used in pseudo-scientific studies. "Research" carried out by German professor Eugen Fischer on the skulls and bones resulted in theories later used by the Nazis to justify the murder of Jews.

Germany has on several occasions repatriated human remains to Namibia, where it slaughtered of tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908.

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