Cultural asset

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Marks for cultural property worthy of protection

In common parlance, cultural property denotes "something that has enduring and is preserved as a cultural value" ( Duden ). A cultural asset does not have to be bound to matter, but durability is required.

The whole of human cultural assets is as cultural heritage or heritage designated ( English cultural heritage ). This includes real objects, for example the international UNESCO World Heritage or, according to the Blue Shield documentation , the World Document Heritage or the archival material protected as a registered cultural asset such as the Peters Music Library . But also the goods of the intangible cultural heritage that are not bound to objects, including oral traditions, are cultural goods. This also includes traditional customs , performing arts, social rituals and festivals, and people's knowledge .

The term des héritage ( French for "heritage") was coined by Henri-Baptiste Grégoire ( Bishop of Blois ) at the end of the 18th century . There are extensive legal provisions for the protection of cultural property .

Concept and essence

The term cultural property is used in a variety of ways in the German-speaking world and includes movable, immovable and immaterial goods. Cultural assets are usually of archaeological, historical, literary, artistic or scientific importance. Material cultural goods can be holdings of libraries , archives and museums , but also ground monuments and buildings ( monuments such as churches , monasteries , castles ). Since the 1960s, works of technical culture have also been increasingly recognized as cultural assets, for example historical production facilities or means of transport. Intangible cultural assets are, for example, languages, but also songs and regional cultural traditions, knowledge and skills that are documented in writing or only passed on orally and are therefore present in people's consciousness. Intangible cultural heritage as defined by UNESCO is based on human knowledge and ability and is passed on from one generation to the next. It shapes social coexistence and makes an important contribution to the sustainable development of societies. Well-known cultural assets often come from high culture ; But they can also belong to folk culture, everyday culture or industrial culture .

According to the Austrian Society for the Protection of Cultural Property, a distinction is made between cultural goods in the narrower sense and cultural goods in the broader sense. Cultural goods in the narrower sense are movable and immovable goods which, in their entirety, symbolize the cultural heritage of a people. This includes historical buildings, secular and sacred objects, libraries and archives as well as archaeological sites, historical gardens and industrial monuments. Cultural goods in the broader sense include all forms of traditional culture, i.e. collective works that are produced by a community and are often based on oral tradition. These include language, customs, music, dances, rituals, festivals, traditional medicine and knowledge of medicinal plants, as well as all kinds of skills related to the material aspects of culture such as tools and habitat (dwelling, settlement). In summary, the term “cultural property” can be understood as symbols of national, regional or local identity, which in addition to their material meaning also have an ideal meaning for a people or an ethnic group.

The term cultural property is often used when it comes to the “preservation” of cultural property that is worth preserving or protecting, or the “loss” that has occurred or is threatened in wars , disasters or through stealing of antiquities . The transition from the looting and destruction of cultural property through riots and the partial breakdown of public order to the destruction of cultural property in the course of fighting is fluid. Sustained and systematic destruction of cultural property or world heritage typically occurs in conflicts of an interethnic-interreligious character. This applies, for example, to the destruction of the Buddha statues in Bamiyan , Afghanistan, or the looting and destruction in Iraq as a result of the third Gulf War in 2003, but also in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Mali and Lebanon. The protection of languages, as the greatest and most important cultural heritage, is also important in this context (destruction of cultural assets as part of psychological warfare), according to Karl von Habsburg , President of Blue Shield International . As a highly symbolic cultural asset, language in particular can become a target.

The protection of cultural property is becoming increasingly important nationally and internationally. Under international law, the UN and UNESCO try to set up and enforce rules for this. The aim is not to protect a person's property, but rather to preserve the cultural heritage of humanity. The aim is to preserve the particularly sensitive cultural memory, the growing cultural diversity and the economic basis (such as tourism ) of a state, region or municipality. There is also a connection between the destruction of cultural property and the causes of flight, as Karl von Habsburg explained during a cultural property protection mission in Lebanon in April 2019 with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon : “Cultural goods are part of the identity of people who live in a certain place . If you destroy their culture, you also destroy their identity. Many people are uprooted, often no longer have any prospects and as a result flee from their homeland. "

However, it is not enough to develop international legal norms such as the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict or the Doha Statement of the Conference of 'Ulamâ on Islam and Cultural Heritage , as has happened in recent years. In addition, it is necessary to effectively implement and implement these standards globally. UNESCO and its partner organizations such as Blue Shield International deal with the definition, inventory, protection and restoration of cultural property . Blue Shield International and its national organizations have carried out projects in conflict zones and war zones in Iraq, Syria, Mali, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. This also applies to the designation of cultural property to be protected, the creation of no-strike lists with local experts, the linking of civil and military structures and the training of military personnel with regard to the protection of cultural property.

Freedom of cultural life as a human right

Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights deals with cultural heritage in two ways: it gives people the right to participate in cultural life on the one hand and the right to the protection of their contributions to cultural life on the other:

  1. "Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific progress and its achievements."
  2. "Everyone has the right to the protection of the intellectual and material interests that accrue to him as the author of works of science, literature or art."


Cultural property certificate for a rococo church in
Bergkirchen in Upper Bavaria

In jurisprudence, cultural property appears in different contexts, for example in Germany in the Cultural Property Protection Act , which only affects movable cultural property.

Protection of cultural property and monument protection are closely related. In Swiss law, the term cultural property is used in the “Cultural Property Transfer Act” (implementing legislation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention ); In Austria, the protection of cultural property is regulated in the Monument Protection Act.

The protection of cultural property is manifold. The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954 names protection as a task of civil defense. Buildings are given the status of “cultural property worthy of protection” with a certificate and are marked with a blue and white diamond sign (the emblem of the Hague Convention mentioned). In Germany, the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) is responsible for implementing the relevant measures.

Together with other memory institutions , cultural assets such as archaeological finds and excavation sites, archives, museums and monuments represent the particularly sensitive cultural memory and often also the economic basis (e.g. tourism) of a state, a municipality or a region. In many armed conflicts there was and the destruction or the robbery of the cultural heritage is one of the primary goals. In doing so, the cultural heritage of the opponent is consciously damaged, destroyed or stolen in the long term.

European Heritage Label and Year of Heritage

In 2006, several member states of the European Union (EU) launched an intergovernmental initiative on the European Heritage Label in Granada, Spain . This seal is intended as a state award for important cultural monuments , cultural landscapes or memorials . The Council of the European Union supported this initiative in November 2008 and asked the EU Commission to submit a proposal for the creation of a European cultural heritage label by the EU and to define the practical modalities for the implementation of this project. On November 16, 2011, the European Parliament and the Council decided to create a measure for the European Heritage Label . The seal is intended to strive for added value and to complement other initiatives, for example the UNESCO list of world heritage , the representative UNESCO list of the intangible cultural heritage of mankind and the initiative of the Council of Europe (see Cultural Route of the Council of Europe , until 2010 European Cultural Route ). A European jury of thirteen independent experts will be set up for this purpose and will carry out the selection and control at EU level.

The year 2018 is dedicated to the common cultural heritage of the states of the European Union. This year has been proclaimed the European Year of Cultural Heritage.

See also


  • Regina Bendix, Kilian Bizer, Stefan Groth (Hrsg.): The constitution of cultural property. Research perspectives (= Göttingen studies on cultural property. Volume 1). Göttinger Universitätsverlag, Göttingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-941875-61-6 ( PDF file; 11.5 MB; 333 pages on
  • Julia El-Bitar: The protection of cultural property as res extra commercium in France: A role model for Germany? , in: Coordination Office for the Loss of Cultural Property Magdeburg and the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (Ed.): Im Labyrinth des Rechts? Paths to the Protection of Cultural Property, Magdeburg 2007 (= publications by the Coordination Office for the Loss of Cultural Property. Volume 5. ISBN 978-3-9811367-2-2 )
  • Ulf Häder: Contributions by public institutions in the Federal Republic of Germany on dealing with cultural goods from former Jewish property (= publications by the coordination office for the loss of cultural goods . Volume 1). Coordination Office for the Loss of Cultural Property, Magdeburg 2001, ISBN 3-00-008868-7 .
  • Thomas Mathà: Cultural property law in South Tyrol (= series of publications on Italian public law at the Leopold-Franzens University Innsbruck. Volume 2). Studia Universitätsverlag, Innsbruck 2005, ISBN 3-901502-71-8 .
  • Jörn Radloff: Cultural Property Law. With special consideration of the foreign trade restrictions and prohibitions on taking away art and cultural property in private property (=  publications on public law. Volume 1258). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-428-13957-6 .
  • Andrea Raschèr , Marc Bauen, Yves Fischer, Marie-Noëlle Zen-Ruffinen: Cultural Property Transfer, transfert de biens culturels, trasferimento die beni culturali, cultural property transfer. Schulthess, Zurich / Bruylant, Bruxelles 2005.
  • Andrea Raschèr: Transfer of cultural goods and globalization: UNESCO Convention 1970 - Unidroit Convention 1995 - EC Regulation 3911/92 - EC Directive 93/7 - Swiss law. Schulthess, Zurich 2000.
  • Olaf Zimmermann , Theo Geißler (eds.): Old stuff: Contributions to the discussion on the sustainable protection of cultural assets (From Politics & Culture, Volume 14) , ISBN 978-3-934868-38-0 ( free e-book ).

Web links

Commons : cultural heritage  - images and media files
Wiktionary: cultural property  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Protection of cultural assets  - sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Duden editorial team: Kulturgut. In: Duden online . January 2013, accessed August 19, 2014.
  2. Cf. Gerold Keusch: Protection of cultural assets in the era of identity wars. In: Troop Service - Magazine of the Austrian Armed Forces, October 24, 2018.
  3. See Sabine von Schorlemer: Destruction of cultural assets. The eradication of cultural heritage in crisis countries as a challenge for the United Nations. Nomos, 2016.
  4. ^ Roger O'Keefe, Camille Péron, Tofig Musayev, Gianluca Ferrari: Protection of Cultural Property. Military Manual. UNESCO, 2016.
  5. ^ Karl von Habsburg on a mission in Lebanon. Retrieved July 19, 2019 .
  6. Jyot Hosagrahar: Culture: at the heart of SDGs. UNESCO courier, April – June 2017.
  7. ^ Rick Szostak: The Causes of Economic Growth: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Springer Science & Business Media, 2009, ISBN 9783540922827 .
  8. ^ Proceedings of the Doha Conference of Ulamâ on Islam and Cultural Heritage. Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, 2001, accessed June 20, 2019 .
  9. Friedrich Schipper: Iconoclasm: The global norms for the protection of cultural property do not apply. In: Der Standard, March 6, 2015.
  10. See e.g. B. Corine Wegener, Marjan Otter: Cultural Property at War: Protecting Heritage during Armed Conflict. In: The Getty Conservation Institute, Newsletter 23.1, Spring 2008; Eden Stiffman: Cultural Preservation in Disasters, War Zones. Presents Big Challenges. In: The Chronicle Of Philanthropy, May 11, 2015; Hans Haider in an interview with Karl Habsburg: Abuse of cultural goods is a criminal offense. In: Wiener Zeitung, June 29, 2012; Aisling Irwin: A no-strike list may shield Yemen's ancient treasures from war. In: Daily News, January 23, 2017.
  11. cf. Homepage of the US Committee of the Blue Shield, accessed October 26, 2016; Isabelle-Constance v. Opalinski: Shots at civilization. In: FAZ, August 20, 2014; Hans Haider: Misuse of cultural goods is a criminal offense. In: Wiener Zeitung, June 29, 2012.
  12. ↑ Protection of cultural property; Identification of cultural property. Administrative Service Bavaria, February 19, 2015, archived from the original on June 23, 2015 ; accessed on June 23, 2015 . (also proof of the use of the term "hash sign")