Eric Sundby and Rep. Paul Wesselhöft of Oklahoma at a press conference on the restitution of Holocaust Era artifacts in the Oklahoma State Capitol. Photo provided by the OU Daily.
“Since the beginning of human history, artworks, intellectual property, books, and cultural artifacts and antiquities stand as the basis of our civilization and our way of life. It distinguishes our human condition and expresses our logic, reason, emotion, and thought. It is one our traits that separates man from beast. It is because of this that we must protect and preserve our cultural history. If we seek our children to gain knowledge and understanding of our world, we must allow them to witness it themselves. The only way to do that is to fight every day for the conservation of our world’s heritage.”
~ Lang Eric Sundby, co-founder of the Holocaust Remembrance and Restitution Foundation during the opening remarks of the organization
U.S. Soldiers examine 'Wintergarden', famous painting by the French impressionist Edouard Manet, found in collection of Reichbank wealth, SS loot, and art treasures removed by the Nazis from Berlin to mine in Merkers, Germany. Photo provided by Dailymail.
Throughout history cultural artifacts have been stolen and crimes against humanity have been committed. On July 5th, 1940, theEinsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (Rosenberg Taskforce), was formed by the Nazi Party under the control of its chief ideologue Alfred Rosenberg. This organization was created for the sole purpose to plunder cultural property which included precious manuscripts and books from national libraries and archives; important artifacts of ecclesiastical authorities and Masonic lodges; all valuable cultural property belonging to Jews throughout all of the European continent. The ERR quickly became so enveloped in the looting of art that it became a central cause under the Hitler regime.
In 2014, “The Monuments Men”, a dramatization of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Program, brought the history of art plundering into the spotlight. With worldwide acclaim the film was able to educate the public on the general topic of Nazi looting during World War Two.
Monuments Men film poster. Photo provided by Columbia Pictures.
In early 2015, “Woman In Gold”, a film depicting the famous restitution of the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I from the Republic of Austria to Maria Altmann, was released. This further educated the public on what restitution is and why it is necessary.
Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds star in the Hollywood film “Woman in Gold”. Photo is provided by The Weintsein Company.
The Holocaust Remembrance and Restitution Foundation was formed by a coalition of concerned students in June of 2015 primarily to focus on the restitution of “La bergère” (Camille Pissarro, 1886) a French Impressionist painting that hung in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma. Quickly, the Foundation, after seeing what it could accomplish, took on multiple causes including restitution, Holocaust education, anti-prejudice activism, and pro-Israel advocacy. After an unprecedented development of a settlement in the La bergère case, the Foundation celebrated its first victory in the field of restitution. This settlement gained international media attention for its uniqueness.
“La bergère” in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art prior to its restitution in 2016. Photo provided by NewsOK.
After a long period of advocacy and activism, the Foundation extended its reach to include a new Holocaust education program. This program is currently being developed for high schools in the United States. Through this educational production we believed the youth of the America will learn extremely important historical topics. The Foundation also conducts educational programs focusing on crimes against humanity under authoritarian, socialist, and communist regimes. This has allowed the Foundation to become a central figure in the advancement of history education throughout the United States of America.
Due to a large increase in anti-Semitic and prejudicial attacks across Europe, the Foundation began to monitor situations around the globe to better be prepared for any of these attacks and hate crimes if there is a threat that could be conducted here at home. As an organization, we have advocated against the prejudicial attacks that occur in communities around the world. Specifically focusing on physically violent and virulent rhetoric taking place in our current society. The purpose of this mission is due to the many genocides and violations of human rights throughout history.
Photo provided by Thinkstock Images.
The Holocaust Remembrance and Restitution Foundation decided early on to support the State of Israel in an effort to help foster a better understanding of current affairs in the Middle East. The Foundation seeks to educate society on the relation of the Holocaust to current crimes taking place in modern times. The State of Israel stands as a testament to what people and countries can overcome in some of the darkest hours in human history. Therefore, the Foundation has sought to create Israel advocacy programs and has worked tirelessly to help in the passage of pro-Israel and anti-BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel movement) legislation in both state and national legislatures.
A word about our logo –
Designed by Rebecca Sherman, a talented artist from the Hill Country of Texas, the Holocaust Remembrance and Restitution Foundation’s logo was inspired by the barbed wire used on concentration camps, the Yellow Badge used as a form of discriminatory identification by the Nazi regime, and lastly, the olive branch which serves as a sign of peace and hope. This logo shows an important symbol of history: The Holocaust and how we have overcome it.
Our motto –
“Remember the Darkness, Ignite the Light!”
In this motto we have manifested the belief that through the dark times of human history we are able to overcome and create a better world for us all.