This paper examines how cultural restitution was presented and debated in the three main post-fascist countries of Western Europe, i.e. Austria, Italy and (West) Germany, from the end of the Second World War to the 1998 signing of the Washington Declaration on Nazi-confiscated Art. It investigates in comparative and transnational fashion how liberal-democratic narratives surrounding the three countries’ dictatorial past were constructed in order to tackle one central question: what role did cultural restitution play in the construction of post-war memory politics, and, vice versa, how did the memory and legacy of fascism impact restitution debates during and after the Cold War? Far from constituting a mere exercise in cultural diplomacy, the restitution of cultural property played an integral role in these three countries’ attempts at rebuilding a sense of national cohesion designed to overcome the ghosts of their fascist past.
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