The Netherlands 400 museums are mounting a major investigation into all acquisitions made since 1933 to try to establish if any works of art were taken from Jewish families, news agency ANP quoted museum association chief Siebe Weide as saying on Monday.
Speaking at the association’s New Year drinks party, Weide said almost all of the Netherlands 400 museums would take part in the project, which would run for some four years. In 2013 a list of objects with doubtful origins would be drawn up, allowing their original owners to make claims.
Many works of art were left behind by Jewish families who fled the Netherlands just before World War II. And during the occupation by Nazi Germany, many Dutch Jews were also forced to sell their possessions. Many of these works of art ended up in the art trade or museums.
The project was suggested by the culture ministry, which is also funding the research.
The most famous case of stolen art in the Netherlands is that of the Goudstikker collection, sold for a bargain price to the Nazi occupiers. In 2006, the collection was finally returned to the heirs of Jacques Goudstikker, a prominent Dutch art collector, who died while trying to reach exile ahead of the Nazi invasion.
Goudstikker left his collection in the hands of his staff, who sold the stock of at least 1,113 paintings for just 2.5 million guilders to German art dealer Alois Miedl and field marshall Hermann Goering.
After the war, the paintings ended up at museums around the world. Last year, the Dutch authorities agreed to return 202 pieces to the family.
The descendants of Jewish art collector Nathan Katz are also demanding some 227 works of art back from Dutch museums. Katz ‘sold’ the works to the Nazis in 1940 before escaping with his family to Switzerland. After the war, the paintings were recovered by the Dutch state.
Last year, the NRC reported that private art collectors are increasingly being targeted by people claiming art was stolen from their families during World War II. Most of them bought the art in good faith, the paper says, but are being put under increasing pressure to hand back the work or reach a deal with the claimants.
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