Recovery Experience by Country
About the Cases
The Nazis looted about twenty percent of all Western art during the Second World War, and now ― more than sixty years later ― tens of thousands of items remain displaced, missing, or destroyed. Right after the war’s end, many of the looted works of art and items of cultural value were found and returned to nations that Germany had occupied, with stipulations that they should be returned to individual pre-war owners or members of their families. After the initial years of returns, instead of continuing the work of finding and returning collections and works of art to their rightful pre-war owners, some museums and governments chose to keep these materials (in storage, government offices, or on public display) and to effectively appropriate them as their own.
During the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, the 44 governments represented endorsed a set of principles, which called on nations and current possessors to research and identify art that had been confiscated by the Nazis and not yet returned to the rightful owners, to make these findings public, and to encourage pre-war owners and their heirs to make claims for these works. Despite the good will generated by the meeting ten years ago, many of the participating countries have been slow to set up programs and committees to comply with the Washington Principles. Today there is a wide array of behaviors and outcomes from restitution claims, ranging from decade-long legal proceedings to resolution through mediation or arbitration. A follow-up conference of nations took place in Prague in June of 2009 (see Events).
Clicking on the countries listed above will lead you to introductions to restitution in each of them. The cases, resolved and pending matters in different countries, can be found at the left of this page where you may search by country, family name, or the name of the artist. You can search by one, two or all three categories to learn more about those cases.