Monday, 18 November 2013

Art Theft: The Last Unsolved Nazi Crime

The Atlantic just published my piece on the murky legal situation around Nazi-looted art: 
Thanks to the Internet, more and more Jewish families are tracking down paintings that were stolen by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. But in many cases, the art has simply become the private property of its new owners.

It's a difficult situation as the new owners may by now feel equally entitled to the pieces (eg if they bought them quite recently in good faith). Often, a discreet private settlement between the two parties seems like the most acceptable solution. On the other hand, as one expert noted, restitution does not mean compensation: it means handing back the physical object.

There are obvious similarities to the claims over forced labour and other painful struggles for late justice, or at least some acknowledgement of past suffering. The real question: why did it take governments, companies and institutions so long to address these issues?

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