Explanations of terms from the field of provenance research and Proveana's four research contexts.

An overview page with all terms is also available.


National property

The socialist understanding of "national property" comprised general, social property that did not result from individual labor and therefore did not belong to a certain individual. In addition, there was a comradely concept of property that extended to the joint property of working companies and the personal property of individuals, which included goods for personal use and items acquired through funds (wages, rewards), inheritance and gifts.

In essence, however, national property was treated as state property; the state and party alone controlled its use, investment and exploitation through regular planned economy resolutions. In accordance with Article 16 of the Constitution of East Germany, private property could be expropriated – and thereby converted into public property – if this was done for the common good on the basis of a law and in return for appropriate compensation. However, those affected had no possibility of legal recourse. The personal property of expatriated citizens became national property. Assets impounded in criminal proceedings also became national property. For more information, please refer to →desertion from the republic and the →Central Office for the Protection of National Property. (MD)

  • Confiscation of cultural goods in the Soviet Occupation Zone and the GDR

Nazi-looted art

  • Cultural goods confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution

Nazi-looted cultural property

  • Cultural goods confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution

New Guinea Company

In 1882, the New Guinea Company (Neuguinea-Kompagnie) was founded by bankers and major financiers in Berlin as the New Guinea Consortium (Neuguinea-Konsortium). Their aim was to acquire colonial possessions in Oceania in order to trade in goods, run plantations and speculate with the land. The company was formed mainly due to the strong colonial economic competition with Great Britain and Australia, which registered an interest in the same region. On 17 May 1885, the company was granted sovereign rights for the northeastern part of New Guinea (known as “Kaiser-Wilhelmsland”) and the Bismarck Archipelago by virtue of a "charter of protection" (Schutzbrief), and the North Solomon Islands were later added on 13 December 1886. As a result of the imperial charter, the New Guinea Company was able to govern the region autonomously, take possession of the land granted to it by the German Empire and sign its own contracts for land with the local population.
When the company was threatened by insolvency, the German Empire was forced to revoke the sovereign rights for the "Kaiser-Wilhelmsland" colony on 7 October 1898. From 1899, the colony was administered by the German Empire as part of →"German New Guinea". The former head of the autonomous government was replaced by the imperial →governor. However, the company continued operating in the Pacific colonies after 1899 (cultivation of copra, tobacco and cotton) and still owned large parts of land at the start of the First World War. (SF)

  • Cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts

Norddeutscher Lloyd

Norddeutscher Lloyd was a German shipping company that was founded by Hermann Henrich Meier and Eduard Crüsemann in Bremen on 20 February 1857. It developed into one of the most important German shipping companies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, providing both merchant shipping and passenger transport. Its greatest period of expansion began with the emergence of the →German Empire; it not only established transatlantic routes to North and South America, but was also contracted by the Imperial Postal Service (Deutsche Reichspost) to operate steamer lines to Australia and Oceania. These lines were heavily subsidized by the German Empire as part of its campaign to improve postal services. By 1890, Norddeutscher Lloyd had become the second largest shipping company in the world and the largest in Germany.
Many collectors and scientists used its connections to organize research trips and transport objects. For example, the zoologist Hugo Schauinsland, the founding director of today’s Übersee-Museum Bremen, had an agreement with Norddeutscher Lloyd that exempted him from travel and freight costs on their ships. However, the ships were also used to transport troops (e.g. in response to the →“Boxer War” of 1900). The company was generally very close to the Prussian dynasty. Despite incurring major financial losses and undergoing various restructuring measures, Norddeutscher Lloyd survived both world wars and the post-war period. It was not until 1 September 1970 that it merged with the Hamburg America Line (HAPAG) to form Hapag-Lloyd AG, which is still one of the most important transport and logistics companies to this day. (SF)

  • Cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts