Restitution of Nazi Looted Art
English Version 2008
German Version 2007
English Version 2008
Nazi Looted Art
A Handbook of Art Restitution Worldwide
German Edition, 2007
By Gunnar Schnabel and Monika Tatzkow
The time is ripe for the first comprehensive guidebook on Nazi-looted art. The process of art restitution that has been going on worldwide for the last ten years recently hit its peak, with decisions in favor of the former owners on cases involving Klimt and Kirchner paintings as well as the Goudstikker collection, which comprises hundreds of Old Masters.
In the international media coverage of these restitutions, there has been a unique lack of emphasis on the persecuted collectors and how the paintings survived. Instead, the accent is on the proceeds from the return of the art.
This focus completely obscures the real significance of art restitution. The price that a work of art may fetch has suddenly become what determines the moral question of whether art lost through Nazi persecution should be returned to former owners and their heirs in the future, or whether their claims should be denied.
In order to respond to the difficult questions on how restitution should be handled today, or indeed if it should be handled at all, we must know what happened to these works of art from 1933 Nazi Germany and World War Two through postwar Europe. An understanding of the history of the paintings, their provenance and the stories of their former owners can provide us with the answers to many questions.
The biggest loss of cultural treasures in human history occurred in Europe during and after Nazi rule. For the first time, works of art were not only confiscated, stolen, and expropriated, but their collectors were persecuted, blackmailed and murdered. Even today, thousands of stories remain untold.
The asset losses that occurred under Nazi persecution had to be reversed, and this is why 44 countries signed on to the Washington Principles in December 1998. Since then, participating states have passed various laws (some of them expiring in 2006 and 2007), regulations, decrees, guidelines, and declarations of their own obligations. For the first time, all of these are explained together in a detailed survey.
The handbook also sets out the legal requirements in the nine most important countries: those who have enshrined restitution in their civil law in favor of the former owner, or who have created obligations for good-faith acquisition on the part of the present owner.
All of the chapters include examples from a unique collection of more than a hundred real-life cases. They also feature brief histories of the paintings and collectors, as well as offering a comprehensive overview of the latest developments in art restitution worldwide.
This handbook is an essential reference for former and present owners, buyers and sellers, art dealers and auction houses, exhibit curators and museum suppliers. It is an indispensable guide for any art lover who wants to understand why cultural treasures lost in the Nazi era have yet to be returned.