Netherlands Review Body Urges More ‘Humanity and Goodwill’ Toward Heirs of Art Works Looted by Nazis
A new report from an official body in the Netherlands has urged the Dutch government to show more “humanity and goodwill” in dealing with the restitution of art works looted from Jewish families during the Nazi occupation.
The report by the Dutch Council for Culture argued that a new “unambiguous assessment framework” was needed by the country’s national restitution committee, which was described as overly “remote” in its handling of a string of recent claims involving works of art stolen from Jewish owners and now on display in the country’s art museums.
The report — titled “Striving for Justice” — observed that the Dutch reputation as a role model for other countries on art restitution “has been undermined by a limited number of requests…that have been rejected in recent years,” while the government had a duty to actively research looted art and reach out to heirs.
The report emphasized that the independent interests of museums in retaining works of art should not be taken into consideration at all.
One descendant of Dutch Jewish family who has been trying to recover a $25 million Wassily Kandinsky work, “Painting with Houses,” from Amsterdam’s Stedelijk museum, said he was encouraged by the report’s conclusions.
“It has got to be positive for our case and for everybody else who is trying to get artwork repatriated,” Rob Lewenstein told the Dutch News website on Tuesday. “The way things were going, they didn’t really care: they wanted to keep the value [of the works] but I think it is going to change how all this is handled in the future.”
Lewenstein said that his family, who fled from the Netherlands in 1940, had owned an extensive art collection.
“Art means a lot to us, and when something gets stolen it’s like a slap in the face. You feel very violated when things are taken from you, especially with the Nazi regime,” he reflected.