This article deals with the fate of Lithuania's cultural heritage during World War I, ie. the final phase of Russian rule and the German occupation, 1915-1918. In mid-1915, as it became clear that the Russian army was not able to halt the German advance, the Russian authorities ordered the evacuation of movable state property (a category which included objects of special historical value) from the territories alongside the front line. The evacuation plans included not only institutions like museums, archives, and libraries with their collections but also art treasures and movable property owned by the churches. In the course of the war a large number of historical buildings (especially palaces, manor houses and churches) were ruined or devastated. Another major threat to Lithuania's cultural heritage came from German requisitions of objects made of non-ferrous metals. A lot of artifacts and objects of historical value were in this way seized and melted down for the German war effort. Having said that, it should be noted that the Germans also showed interest in preserving the cultural heritage of the territories they occupied. This became manifest on a number of occasions, especially during the visits of royals and high-ranking politicians from the Central Powers in the period following the fall of Wilno in September 1915. Among the visitors were the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, King Friedrich Augustus III of Saxony and Johann Georg, the Prince of Saxony. This article is based on sources from Polish and Lithuanian archives as well as contemporary diaries and press publications.
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