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May 24, 2022 3:07 pm

The Netherlands Searches Art Collection for Nazi-Looted Works in Government Buildings, Museums

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

The Dutch parliament building. Photo: Michiel Jelijs/Flickr.

The Netherlands is probing whether there are any Nazi-looted artworks from World War II in its national holdings, including government buildings, according to a report Monday by the Dutch-language RTL News.

The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands will examine all the works in the Netherlands Art Property Collection that were returned to the country from Germany by Allied forces after World War II, including paintings that are currently in museums, the Senate, House of Representatives, embassies and other government buildings. A team has been set up to conduct the investigation, which is expected to take roughly four years.

The Dutch government began a similar investigation last year, and the present inquiry began after questions surfaced about the painting “Fishing boats off the coast” by Dutch painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag, which has hung in the Dutch parliament for decades.

Speaker of the Dutch House of Representatives Vera Bergkamp said as soon as she discovered concerns that the Nazis may have stolen the painting from a Jewish family during World War II, she had the artwork taken down. “When I read that, I immediately said it should be investigated as soon as possible. It is my moral responsibility to cooperate with this,” Bergkamp told RTL News.

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The Netherlands Art Property Collection includes 3,500 works of art, Dolf Muller, of the Cultural Heritage Agency, told the Dutch broadcaster. He added, “If the researchers discover looted art in the Dutch collection, they’ll do everything they can to find the original owner.”

Since World War II, the Dutch government has returned nearly a thousand Nazi-looted artworks to their original owners, which are mostly Jewish families, according to RTL News. Last week, the Netherlands returned two paintings to a Jewish family that was discovered to have stolen by Nazi forces. Jacob Kohnstamm, who chairs the restitution committee that assesses claims about looted art, noted, “the price of the two works is less than 500 euros ($536), but the emotional value is indescribable.”

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