chapter  1
9 Pages

Archives Seizures

The Evolution of International Law 1
ByCharles Kecskeméti

Customary and conventional laws concerning archives have existed since the Middle Ages. The break with convention regarding transfers in the case of a succession of states occurred after the Second World War. The United Nations (UN) and UNESCO, as well as the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, felt the need to put an end to the legal disorder resulting from the fall into abeyance of customary law with respect to archives. The Vienna Conference became a political platform that produced a political statement rather than a workable convention, since an international convention adopted by a simple majority vote was meaningless (as it would be ignored by the minority holding the disputed archives). Seizures on a scale exceeding even Napoleon's transfers, led by the Third Reich for political, military, financial or ideological reasons, destroyed any archival precedent on the European continent even before the Soviets continued the spoliations.