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

An overview page with all terms is also available.


Valuta mark(s)

In addition to its foreign trade monopoly, the state authority in the GDR was also solely authorized to plan, steer and perform all other financial relations with other countries. As the development of prices was not free due to the prevailing planned economy in which prices were fixed by administrative means, the GDR had a closed pricing structure in which the currency could not be converted into the foreign currencies of international financial markets (with foreign exchange as book money and foreign currencies as cash). This ensured that global market developments could not exert any direct, uncontrolled influence on the domestic economy.

In order to convert the domestic currency into international, freely convertible currencies, the state introduced the "valuta mark" as a fictitious unit of account in 1959 to express the ratio of the East German mark to foreign currencies, e.g. to the dollar (1 USD = 4.20 VM = 2.22 DDM) or the West German mark (1.98 DEM = 1.89 VM = 1 DDM) from around 1960. As the method used to determine the exchange rate was complex and largely based on another equally arbitrary gold standard, it did not reflect the actual relationships between the currencies. When it came to the international exchange of goods for money, all transactions were settled in foreign currencies.

There was also a strict prohibition on taking the East German mark outside the national territory. As a result, for example, the fees afforded to West German artists performing in the GDR could only be spent within the national territory (unless payments had been agreed in a foreign currency). Several artists from the Federal Republic of Germany therefore spent their fees on antiques, works of art and jewelry in the GDR’s state-regulated or private art trade. (MD)

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

Victims of fascism

In the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ) and the GDR, unlike in the western occupation zones and the Federal Republic of Germany, the groups of people who had been persecuted in Nazi Germany received retirement benefits as  "Opfer des Faschismus" (victims of fascism, OdF) but did not usually get their expropriated property back. The state argued that the GDR (unlike the Federal Republic of Germany) was not the legal successor of the "Third Reich", but saw itself as a completely new state and was therefore not prepared to assume any financial obligations that might arise from Nazi politics. The only victims of fascism to be honored in the GDR were communist-minded people who had actively resisted the Nazi regime; no honors were given to victims of fascism who had remained inactive (for understandable reasons), such as those persecuted on racist, sexual or ideological grounds. (MD)

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

Vintage vehicles

In the GDR, vintage vehicles were subject to art protection laws. The →Kulturgutschutzkommission (Commission for the Protection of Cultural Assets) drew up a list of registered vintage vehicles that were prohibited from being exported. The actor Manfred Krug was a well-known collector of vintage vehicles; when he moved to West Berlin, he took some of his collection of old carriages, vintage cars and museumized machines with him and sold other items to the →State Art Trade in the GDR (probably because they had to remain in the national territory for the purpose of protecting cultural assets).  (MD)

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

Das weiße Lager. TV-Dokumentation des DDR-Fernsehens, Berlin 1989 (Erstausstrahlung am 16.04.1990, Dauer 43 min). DRA-IDNR 032211.

Fritz Rumler: "Schikane satt, Schnauze voll", in: Der Spiegel Nr. 27/1977, S. 168 f.