Art stolen with no traceable owner to return to Jewish community
Artworks stolen from Dutch Jews during World War II and returned from Germany by Allied troops must be returned to the country’s Jewish community if the original owners cannot be found.
The state’s cultural heritage department is currently re-examining the ownership of some 3,700 works of art brought back to the Netherlands after the end of the war, including paintings, drawings and furniture.
Those who cannot be reunited with their rightful owners will be taken in by a Jewish cultural institution and will ultimately be transferred to the community, broadcaster NOS reported on Friday. The works will also be exhibited.
Jewish organization Centraal Joods Overleg (CJO) called Friday’s decision a “breakthrough.” “We are very happy because it is the most justifiable thing to do,” said President Ronny Naftaniel. “They were stolen from the Jewish community and should be returned to them.
“We have been too passive on this subject”, Van Engelshoven says Nieuwsuur in an interview. “We want to be an active government that informs people and acts itself.
Last December, the Culture Council released a long-awaited report on Dutch restitution policy, which has been criticized for several high-profile decisions not to return art in recent years.
The study, Striving for Justice, admitted that some serious criticism from the Dutch Restitution Committee seemed valid, although its work met with “general approval”.
He said the Dutch reputation as a model for other countries “has been undermined by a limited number of applications … which have been rejected in recent years”, while the government has a duty to actively seek out works by looted art and contact the heirs.
Furthermore, he said, the committee should in no way “balance the interests” of modern museums, where art has found its way, with those of families.
Returning to the community the 3,700 works, currently held in a special repository, was one of the options considered by the committee.
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