Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act

HEAR Act Signed Into Law Download the Act

On December 16, 2016, President Barack Obama signed the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act into law. The legislation was passed earlier this month by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

Former Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, Chairman of the Commission for Art Recovery (CAR) and Chairman of the Council of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), led the effort to secure passage of the HEAR Act and released the following statement after President Obama signed the bill into law:

"The HEAR Act will end an enduring injustice for Holocaust victims and their families," said Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, Chairman of the Commission for Art Recovery and Chairman of the Council of the World Jewish Restitution Organization. "For too long, governments, museums, auction houses and unscrupulous collectors allowed this egregious theft of culture and heritage to continue, imposing legal barriers like arbitrary statutes of limitations to deny families prized possessions stolen from them by the Nazis."

"Thanks to President Obama's signature of the HEAR Act, the recovery process can move forward. This important law will help victims of Nazi looting find justice and peace. No longer will legal technicalities bar families from having their claims heard on their merits. President Obama; Senators Schumer, Cornyn, Cruz, and Blumenthal; Chairman Goodlatte; and Representative Nadler have shown great leadership on this issue and deserve a hearty yasher koach — congratulations — for their actions."

President Obama Signs Law to Aid Recovery of Nazi-Looted Art, PR Newswire, December 19, 2016

HEAR Act Passes Congress

Statement from Ambassador Ronald Lauder, Chairman of the Commission for Art Recovery (CAR) and Chairman of the Council of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), on the passage of Senate Bill S.2763, the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act

“Thanks to the Senate's approval of the HEAR Act, victims of the Holocaust and their families will finally have their day in court to claim what is rightfully theirs. This important legislation will allow those seeking to recover art and other heritage stolen by the Nazis a fair opportunity to have their cases judged on the facts, rather than be undercut by legal technicalities. Senators Schumer, Cornyn, Cruz and Blumenthal, as well as Senators Grassley and Leahy have shown commendable leadership on this issue by advancing this bill through the Senate. I urge President Obama to sign this bill into law without delay.”

Statements from House Co-Sponsors

Nadler and Goodlatte Praise House Passage of Bill to Recover Art Stolen During the Holocaust, December 7, 2016
Congressman Nadler Statement Supporting Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, December 8, 2016

Statement from Senate Co-Sponsors

Sens. Cruz, Cornyn Praise Unanimous Passage of the Bipartisan HEAR Act, December 10, 2016

About the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act

During their rise and reign, the Nazis stole millions of pieces of art throughout Europe. When victims of Nazi-era persecution and their heirs have turned to the U.S. courts to seek recovery of this art, they often lose their cases on procedural grounds — typically with regard to expired statutes of limitations. Current possessors are not motivated to engage in negotiations and settle cases out of court, as they know that the claimants will not be able to successfully pursue their claim in a U.S. court. The effect of this has been to deny victims of the Holocaust and their families a fair hearing on the merits of their case in an attempt to recover their heritage.

For more than 70 years, governments, museums and art dealers have prevented the restoration of art stolen by the Nazis being addressed by the courts with various legal roadblocks. But this issue is not confined to Europe. This is unquestionably a U.S. issue, affecting U.S. citizens.

With as many as 6.8 million Jews living in America, many of the families of those affected are U.S. citizens entitled to equal access to our court system. That this issue is of integral importance to the United States is highlighted by the fact that the HEAR Act has Republican and Democratic sponsors.

The Holocaust Era Art Recovery Act (HEAR Act) would provide victims of Nazi-era persecution and their heirs a fair and just opportunity to recover art stolen from them.

The HEAR Act is consistent with longstanding U.S. policy and commitments. These include the Washington principles, which called for nations to develop national processes to deal with dispute resolution. This bill will enable that commitment to be upheld in the United States.

What the HEAR Act will do

  • Ensure claims to Nazi-confiscated art are not unfairly barred by statues of limitations, and instead are resolved on their merits.
  • Create a uniform six-year statute of limitations for cases involving artwork lost because of persecution during the Nazi era.
  • Expand discovery to include both the identity and location of the art, as well as sufficient information to indicate a possible claim can be made.
  • Include any previous cases that were dismissed based on the expiration of the statute of limitations and where a final judgment has not been entered and where those cases were previously barred by State law.
  • The statute of limitation changes end on December 31, 2026
For more information on the HEAR Act, including the full text of the bill, visit Congress.gov.

Supporters

Statement from Ronald Lauder, Chairman of the Commission for Art Recovery(CAR) and Chairman of the Council of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO):

“I applaud the bipartisan leadership Senators Cornyn, Schumer, Cruz and Blumenthal have displayed in their unyielding support for this cause. Their commitment to passing legislation that will allow victims of Nazi plundering to reclaim stolen property nearly a century later is admirable,” said Ronald Lauder, Chairman of the Commission for Art Recovery (CAR) and President of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO). “The HEAR act will enable Holocaust survivors and their families to fairly pursue claims for property that was stolen from them during the Holocaust. I'm gratified these Senators have introduced this historic and bipartisan legislation and urge a vote on this bill without delay.”

U.S. Senate Co-Sponsors

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD)

U.S. House of Representatives Co-Sponsors

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)

Letters of Support

WJRO Letter of Support
WJC Letter of Support
B'nai B'rith Letter of Support
AJC, B'nai B'rith, CAR, WJC, WJRO Letter of Support

The HEAR Act in the House of Representatives

The HEAR Act passed the House of Representatives on December 6, 2016. The bill was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on September 22.

Ambassador Ronald Lauder Statement on House of Representatives Passing Bill to Help Restore Art Stolen by the Nazis to Holocaust Survivors, December 7, 2016

House Bill Introduction Press Release

Goodlatte and Nadler Introduce Legislation to Help Recover Art Confiscated During the Holocaust
September 22, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Judiciary Committee Member Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) introduced the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act (H.R. 6130) to help return to the victims' artwork and other cultural property that was stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

By establishing a six-year federal statute of limitations for these claims, the bill will help facilitate the return of Nazi-confiscated artwork to its rightful owners or heirs. The legislation will ensure that American law encourages the resolution of claims related to Nazi-confiscated art on the merits, in a fair and just manner. Doing so is consistent with long-standing U.S. foreign policy, as demonstrated in the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art and the 2009 Terezin Declaration.

Companion legislation, S. 2763, was introduced in the Senate by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Chairman Goodlatte and Rep. Nadler issued the following statements upon the introduction of the bill:

Chairman Goodlatte: "Over 70 years have passed since the horrors of the Holocaust ended, but the survivors and their families are still trying to recover some of their most prized possessions. During the Holocaust, the Nazis stripped so many priceless works of art and heritage from the homes of so many across Europe."

"While we can never erase the horrors of the Holocaust from human history, we can do our part to bring these treasures back to the families of those who suffered and sacrificed so much during that dark time."

Congressman Nadler: "I am pleased to join Chairman Goodlatte in introducing this bill to help facilitate the return of stolen artwork and heritage lost to the Nazis. This legislation will ensure that the rightful owners and their decedents can have their claims properly adjudicated. Among the many horrific crimes and atrocities committed during the Holocaust, the Nazis also engaged in comprehensive, systematic theft of art and property all across Europe. The scope of their deeds was massive, and the damaging effects remain with us today — still seeking justice and some form of recompense. While no legislation or act of contrition will ever reverse the many horrors committed by the Nazis, one thing we can do is establish a fair judicial process so that claims can be properly addressed."

The HEAR Act in the Senate

Senate Judiciary Committee Markup

On September 5th, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to send the HEAR Act to the Senate floor for a vote. More information about the Committee vote, including statements from Chairman Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Leahy (D-VT) can be found here.

Senate Markup Press Release

Cornyn, Cruz, Blumenthal, Schumer Bill to Help Recover Nazi-Confiscated Art Passes Judiciary Committee

9/15/16

Today the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act (HEAR) which was introduced by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The HEAR Act will help facilitate the return of artwork lost to Nazis during the Holocaust to their rightful owners or heirs, and will ensure that American law encourages the resolution of claims on Nazi-confiscated art on the merits, in a fair and just manner. Doing so is consistent with long-standing U.S. foreign policy, as demonstrated in the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art and the 2009 Terezin Declaration.

"Nothing will make up for the terror and pain suffered by the victims during such a dark and horrific time in history," said Sen. Cornyn. "For the families of those who lost everything at the hands of the Nazis, hopefully today serves as an important and symbolic step to reclaiming not just artwork, but familial legacy."

"Although more than 70 years have passed since the Holocaust, it is never too late to do the right thing. The quest to reunite the families of Holocaust victims with their stolen heritage is ultimately a quest to help them reclaim a tangible link to a happier time in their family's history—a time before the darkness of the Holocaust. That is far more valuable than whatever economic value the works of art or cultural artifacts might have today. Indeed, that is priceless," said Sen. Cruz. "The HEAR act sends a clear signal that we continue to reject every noxious vestige of the Nazi regime. I appreciate the leadership of Sens. Cornyn, Schumer, and Blumenthal on this issue and am looking forward to continuing to work with all my colleagues in Congress to pass it into law."

"Decades after the Holocaust, families of victims and survivors alike are still seeking their belongings that were stripped away from them. While we can never right the wrongs of the Holocaust, it is our moral duty to help those survivors and their families achieve what justice can be found. This legislation is a drop of justice in what was an ocean of injustice — but it is our duty as legislators to give these families the opportunity to have their day in court," said Sen. Schumer.

"The theft of art by the Nazi regime was more than a pilfering of property—it was an act of inhumanity," Sen. Blumenthal said. "Today's action brings us one step closer to providing simple justice to families whose cherished art was brazenly stolen by the Nazis. It is long past time to return the ill-gotten gains of one of history's vilest villains."

Statement from Sen. Grassley

Grassley Statement at an Executive Business Meeting Sep 15, 2016

9/15/16 US Senator Chuck Grassley

We had three bills and two judicial nominees on the agenda. The nominees on the agenda are ripe for a vote. They are: Lucy Koh, 9th Circuit and Florence Pan, District of Columbia. I'll have more to say about the nominees when we turn to them. The three bills on the agenda are ready to be reported. The first bill, S. 2763, the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act (HEAR Act), will aid the recovery of artwork and other property stolen by the Nazi regime and return it to its rightful owners and families.

It's been said that the artwork and other property the Nazi regime stole from their rightful owners represents "the greatest displacement of art in human history." So this important bipartisan legislation seeks to remove some of the time-based defenses that unfairly bar the rightful owners from reclaiming their family's artwork.

The Sponsors have been working very closely with the various stakeholders and I appreciate all the hard work of Senators Cornyn, Schumer, Cruz and Blumenthal, as well as the stakeholders, to reach an agreement on this important legislation.

I look forward to supporting this bill and sending it to the Floor today. And I ask consent that my name be added as a co-sponsor. Without objection, it'll be added.

Today, we'll also consider another piece of legislation related to artwork, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act. This bipartisan legislation is critical for art museums across the country, including in Iowa, to be able to bring artwork from around the world here to the United States to be displayed in art exhibits. I also look forward to supporting this bipartisan bill. And I ask that my name be added to the list of co-sponsors. Without objection, it'll be added.

The next bill on our agenda is S. 3270, the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act. Senator Blumenthal and I collaborated closely on its development. Earlier this year, I chaired a hearing before this Committee in which we learned that fraud and scams targeting seniors are widespread and growing.

This bill tackles the financial exploitation of older Americans, which has been called the crime of the 21st century. It calls for enhanced training of federal investigators and prosecutors, and it would ensure that each judicial district has at least one prosecutor who is tasked with handling cases of elder abuse. The bill would require the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to each appoint an elder justice coordinator, giving states and victims a visible point-of-contact in the federal government. Finally, the bill adds stronger criminal and civil penalties for those convicted of defrauding seniors. This will send a strong message to other would-be fraudsters.

Better information sharing, stronger enforcement, and increased public awareness will make society a safer place for our loved ones who deserve to be treated with dignity after a lifetime of service to their families and communities. Groups supporting this bill include US Against Alzheimer's, the 60 Plus Association, the 3,000-member Elder Justice Coalition, SIFMA, the American Bar Association, and Consumers Union, the National Center for Victims of Crime, as well as the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators. I have a number of letters of support here that I'd like to have included in the record, without objection.

With that I'll turn to the Ranking Member and then we'll turn to the agenda and to any Senators wishing to offer amendments or speak on any agenda items.

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on The HEAR Act

On June 7th, 2016, members of two Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittees held a hearing on the HEAR Act.



Witnesses

Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, Chairman of The Council
World Jewish Restitution Organization, New York, NY
“The fundamental question posed by the HEAR Act is, have we here in the United States done enough to ensure fair and equitable solutions? I believe we have done a great deal, but we still could and should do much more.”
Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder's Testimony

Dame Helen Mirren, Actress
New York, NY
“Restoring physical parts of lost heritage to Holocaust victims and their families is a moral imperative.”
Dame Helen Mirren's Testimony

Ms. Monica Dugot, International Director Of Restitution
Christie's Inc., New York, NY
“Just as the scope of Nazi looting was enormous to the point of being unimaginable, the scope of these legacy issues is also enormous.”
Ms. Monica Dugot's Testimony

Ms. Agnes Peresztegi, President
Commission for Art Recovery, New York, NY
“Just like the prosecution of genocide should never be barred by statute of limitations, in the same manner works of art and valued property taken during a campaign of genocide should be deemed as forever tainted. These works of art need to be restituted without further delay to their rightful owners.”
Ms. Agnes Peresztegi's Testimony

Mr. Simon Goodman, Claimant
Beverly Hills, CA
“I would like to think that I represent all claimant families in saying that the removal of any unfair restrictions, which hinder the claims of Holocaust victims and their heirs, would be long overdue but most welcome.”
Mr. Simon Goodman's Testimony

Media Coverage of the HEAR Act

Social Media Highlights:

Kelly Crow, WSJ
NBC News
New York Times
Ted Cruz
CSPAN
The Hill
The Hill
Morning Consult
Newsweek Europe

ABC News Reporter Jessicca Hooper Tweet
Washington Post Emily Heil Tweet