Shalom Life | March 11, 2015

Dutch Investigation Hits Nazi Gold

Major investigation of Dutch museum collections turns up 139 works suspected of being Nazi loot; critics wonder what took so long

By: Emily Brewes

Published: October 30th, 2013 in News » World

Tuesday's announcement that 139 works from museums across the Netherlands may have been acquired from ill-gotten Nazi gains has raised more questions than answers.

First among them being why it has taken nearly 70 years for this kind of systematic investigation to take place.

London-based lawyer, Chris Marinello, who assists clients in looted art cases said, "While I applaud the Dutch for doing this, I also have to say: where were you all this time?"

He added that more should be done to recover looted art across the globe.

Following a 2006 investigation of works bought and sold during World War II, the current endeavour focused on works acquired immediately before the war. Similar reviews have been done in other countries by individual museums, following a conference on looted art held in 1998 in Washington, but few on a nationwide basis.

A government-led review of museums in Germany is currently underway.

The head of the Dutch investigating commission, Rudi Ekkart, said "We’re not the first with this investigation, but thanks to this investigation we’re not far behind." He also acknowledged that while further investigations will most likely uncover more looted artwork, "you'll never again have a hundred at once."

Despite criticism insisting such surveys of museum collections come decades too late, some countries disregard, or outright deny, the Washington Principles - the "non-binding principles to assist in resolving issues relating to Nazi-confiscated art." Russia insists that artworks taken during World War II are "trophies"; Switzerland acknowledges the Principles, while simultaneously avoiding discussion of whether their nation's bank vaults house their own caches of looted art.

A website has been launched by the Dutch Museums Association to publish their findings so far, and to facilitate the process of returning the works to their rightful owners. The site, listing works by masters like Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky among others, went live on Tuesday.

An English translation of the site is slated for 2014.

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