France ramps up bid to return stolen WWII Jewish assets
search

France ramps up bid to return stolen WWII Jewish assets

Thousands of artifacts plundered by Nazis still held in French museums; government vows ‘active role’ to find owners

Two US soldiers, shown in 1945 or 1946 inspecting a Rembrandt self-portrait in a salt mine where the Nazis stored stolen and hidden art (Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration)
Two US soldiers, shown in 1945 or 1946 inspecting a Rembrandt self-portrait in a salt mine where the Nazis stored stolen and hidden art (Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration)

PARIS, France — The French government said on Wednesday it had launched a project to return cultural artifacts stolen from Jews in World War II.

The new task force aims to “shed light on cultural assets of dubious origin held by public institutions,” stolen between 1933 and 1945, the culture ministry said in a statement.

Around 2,000 artifacts sent from Germany to France after the war are held in French museums under special status as their owners have not been identified.

Their status also means they should never leave the country.

A Renoir painting, ‘Deux Femmes Dans Un Jardin,’ stolen by the Nazis was returned to the heir of its rightful owner, Sylvie Sulitzer, during a ceremony at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York on September 12, 2018. (AFP/Timothy A. Clary)

Researchers will work alongside museums, libraries, archives and the Foreign office to “examine cases one by one, whether they are filed by victims’ families or uncovered by the investigation,” the statement said.

France and Germany signed an agreement last month to improve cooperation on returning seized objects to their rightful owners.

The move comes after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe pledged during last year’s commemorations of the Vel d’Hiv round-up of Jews in 1942 that the culture ministry would take “a much more active role in restitution work.”

The government wants to ramp up efforts to return stolen works after it returned “several dozen” artifacts “over many years,” it said.

“This is our duty to the victims of plundering,” France’s Culture Minister Franck Riester said. “It’s about memory and justice.”

In Austria, thousands of artworks stolen by the Nazis have been returned — including major works worth millions of euros — since a law was passed in 1998.

read more:
comments