Jewish Owed Art Reparations

A Painting named Stole.

A Painting named Stole.

In 1953, the Washington Principles, or Weidergutmachung were enacted by the German government which agreed to pay reparations to the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. In 1998, 44 countries agreed to the Washington Principles. Over the course of many years the reparations have added up to over 50 billion dollars. This, along with the recent Terezin declaration, were made to promote restitution to the victims of the holocaust.

In a recently released report, the Italian government has recently been identified by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the World Jewish Restitution Organization as one of the countries not doing any research to find art and other cultural remnants that were stolen from Jews during the second world war. This is the same government that made international pleas to repatriate its art after World War II. Russia, Poland, Argentina, Spain, and Hungary were also reported to not have put forth enough effort to research the history of many works of art in their countries. However, Italy was especially negligent, even refusing to post information tracking items’ ownership during and before the war.

There remains much art that was either bought in unfair circumstances or outright stolen from Jews during World War II that is either missing or has not been returned. Of the 44 countries that agreed to find and return stolen works of art only a third have done sufficient work towards that end, per the report.

Germany is also an interesting case as they were mentioned in the report released yesterday to have done sufficient work, but just a year ago a man named Cornelius Gurlitt, 80, was hiding hundreds of works stolen or bought under pressure. In total, the art was valued at $1.4 billion, and included works by Matisse and Picasso. Reportedly, the German authorities had known about the pieces two years prior. In fact, the investigation had started in 2010 when Gurlitt was caught with over $12,000 dollars in crisp notes.

As far the United States, they are reported as being somewhere in between good and bad. There was one case that the report mentioned where the United States actually seized a famous 16th century painting while it was in the US on loan. Italy had claimed it was not aware of any evidence that it was ill-gotten.