• Germany's news in English
 
Nazi looted art law could aid returns
Max Liebermann's Riders on the Beach, found in Gurlitt's collection, of uncertain provenence. Photo: DPA

Nazi looted art law could aid returns

Published: 12 Feb 2014 09:04 GMT+01:00

Nearly 70 years after Hitler's defeat, the bill will be presented on Friday in the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat -- which represents the 16 federal states at the national level -- with the aim of helping the restitution of art that was extorted or stolen from Jewish collectors.

If enacted, the Bavaria-drafted bill would eliminate a statute of limitations applied to stolen property, usually 30 years, that some art collectors have used to protect their holdings from claims.

The move comes three months after news broke that around 1,400 long-lost works by the likes of Picasso, Cezanne and Degas had been discovered in the Munich flat of an elderly German recluse.

Another 60-odd artworks, including pieces by Monet and Renoir, have also been unearthed at the Salzburg house in Austria of 81-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt, his spokesman said in a surprise announcement Tuesday.

The proposed law has been dubbed the "Lex Gurlitt" after the son of a Nazi-era art dealer in whose apartment the art hoard was found in 2012, a discovery which authorities long kept quiet.

Mixed reception

So far the reception has been mixed to the new push to right past wrongs.

"In principle this draft law is a positive sign," said Markus Stötzel, lawyer for the descendants of Alfred Flechtheim, a leading 20th century German Jewish art dealer.

"It shows that the political conscience is in the process of waking up in Germany after lapses in the past. The Gurlitt case has got things moving," he told AFP.

However Sabine Rudolph -- representing the heirs of a Jewish lawyer from Dresden, Fritz Salo Glaser, who are demanding the restitution of at least 13 artworks from the Gurlitt trove -- was more sceptical.

"In my opinion this draft law is just a case of 'action for show'," she said.

She took aim in particular at a clause that victims' heirs must prove the work's current holder acted in bad faith, by knowing the item's origin or having clear evidence for it.

"How do you want them to do that?" she asked.

Stötzel also underscored the practical difficulties of such a condition after so many years and said the draft law, which would also have to pass the lower house, was only "a first step".

"After 70 years, in many cases, knowledge about the fate of paintings is very basic. Many documents have been lost," he said.

Culture Minister Monika Grütters has acknowledged the hurdles and predicted "some difficulties in its implementation" in recent comments to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily.

She said she was pondering, together with the justice minister, "legal possibilities" that could help.

'Evidence of good faith'

Germany in 1998 signed the Washington Declaration which commits its 44 signatory nations to track down and return art stolen by the Nazis to its rightful owners.

But the non-binding agreement applies only to states, public institutions and private museums, not to individuals.

Soon after World War II, then West Germany planned to pass legislation to tackle the issue of Nazi-looted art found in the country's museums but the Allies -- Britain, France and the United States -- rejected the move, fearing it would prove chaotic.

The head of the World Jewish Congress Ronald S. Lauder last month urged Germany to introduce a law to specifically facilitate the return of Nazi-looted art and welcomed the draft law as "evidence of good faith".

He noted in a Berlin speech that Germany, in atoning for its past, had already negotiated compensation on slave labour, stolen bank deposits and insurance policies.

 "I encourage Germany to deal with Nazi-looted art in the same comprehensive manner," he said, calling the works "the last prisoners of World War II".

And he said the onus should be on museums, not the victims of Nazi plundering, to search through their collections for stolen works and track down their rightful owners.

"Austria has done this. France and Holland have made steps in this direction and the UK has a commission that is available to examine claims and advise the government on restitution," he said.

"But this is Germany, where the crime began. More is required."

READ MORE: Germany doubles funding to return Nazi art

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Amazon 'paying local tax on sales in Germany'
Photo: Uli Deck/dpa

Amazon 'paying local tax on sales in Germany'

According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, online retailer Amazon has started paying tax on profits from its sales to German customers in Germany instead of in Luxembourg READ  

German woman, 65, has quadruplets
Photo: DPA

German woman, 65, has quadruplets

A 65-year-old German woman, who already has 13 children, has given birth to quadruplets after undergoing an artificial insemination procedure in Ukraine. READ  

German WWII remains exhumed in Bosnia
Photo: DPA

German WWII remains exhumed in Bosnia

The remains of about 20 people, thought to be German and Italian soldiers killed in Bosnia during World War II, have been exhumed in the east of the country, officials said Friday. READ  

Sotheby's sells Nazi-era art trove find
Some 1,600 works of art were found behind this door in 2012. Photo: DPA

Sotheby's sells Nazi-era art trove find

A painting by Max Liebermann from a Nazi-era art trove found in Germany last year will go on sale in London next month, the first from the collection to be sold off, Sotheby's said on Friday. READ  

Family's ten-year quest for truth about dead son
Jeremiah Duggan. Photo: Justice for Jeremy

Family's ten-year quest for truth about dead son

The family of a British student killed in Wiesbaden over 12 years ago made a fresh step towards justice on Thursday, after a London coroner disagreed with German authorities' belief that he killed himself. READ  

Property of the week
Property of the Week: May 22nd
Photo: Mr Lodge

Property of the Week: May 22nd

Modern and sophisticated: This week’s property combines classic architecture with chic furnishings to create an elegant and luxurious living experience. READ  

83-year-old gets second drug dealing sentence
The judge said, given his age, he was not the ideal candidate for therapy. Photo:DPA

83-year-old gets second drug dealing sentence

An 83-year-old man was handed a six month suspended sentence on Thursday after being caught carrying seven bags of heroin in Düsseldorf. READ  

Carnival of Cultures in Berlin: six top picks
The dazzling colour of 2014's festival parade. Photo: Karneval der Kulturen

Carnival of Cultures in Berlin: six top picks

This weekend Berlin will be lit up by the vibrancy and colour of the Carnival of Cultures, an annual four-day urban festival that celebrates the diversity of Germany's capital. Here are six things not to miss. READ  

Bayern fans bring club's earliest years to light
FC Bayern's first team in 1925, the year of the commemorative publication. Photo: Jewish Museum

Bayern fans bring club's earliest years to light

For decades the early history of FC Bayern München was forgotten, but FCB fans have re-discovered a book from 1925 documenting the club's founding moments. READ  

Top spy admits: We're 'dependent' on NSA
Gerhard Schindler admitted that the BND had made mistakes in its handling of NSA requests. Photo: DPA

Top spy admits: We're 'dependent' on NSA

The head of the German Intelligence Agency (BND) told a special parliamentary committee on Thursday that his agency is 'dependent on' the American National Security Agency (NSA). READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Why the train strike is bad for passengers and workers
National
Meet Germany's Eurovision hope
Business & Money
Is 2015 a new moment for jobsharing?
Features
How the LGBT rights movement was born in Germany
National
Why you don't make bomb jokes at the airport
National
Why Germany needs a little less tipple
National
Who Germans and Americans trust... and don't
Politics
What the UK election means for Germany
National
Why Germany is great for mums
Features
The Germans with GI dads
Five ways Germany falls short on gay rights
Travel
Giant tortoise found riding Munich rail
National
FCK CPS? A-OK with court
Politics
Opinion: Brexit's dangers for Germany
Features
Smart kids all want to work for BMW
National
Minister shows off top Denglisch
National
Germany's 'other genocide' in Africa
National
Arms firms get a 'must do better' mark on ethics
Sport
Bayern's anticlimactic 25th Bundesliga win
Politics
A Greek learning politics in Germany
Features
The battle of the "Gates of Berlin"
National
Germany's 'very poor' lobbying record
National
Germany's favourite baby names of 2014
Politics
Merkel's 15 years at the top of German politics
Travel
Lowest of the low: how woman exploited Germanwings crash
Features
Spice up asparagus season with The Local's serving suggestions
Sport
Football and the €30,000 firework
Technology
Why scientists oppose killer robots
National
'Cannibal cop' gets 8 years
National
Which city is Germany's worst for drivers?
Technology
Electrifying 'Ostalgia'
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,744
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd