An American heir of art dealers Benjamin and Nathan Katz who sold art to Nazi officials during the World War II occupation is taking the Dutch government to court in New York in an effort to have 143 works of art returned to the family, the New York Times reports.
The Katz heirs maintain that the works in question, which include paintings by Rembrandt and Jan Steen and which are now held by the Dutch government, were sold under duress and should be returned. In one case, a painting was exchanged for exit visas so 25 Jewish relatives could escape, the paper writes.
But according to an earlier decision made by a Dutch government-appointed panel the paintings were sold ‘under circumstances that could not be considered involuntary’.
‘The Dutch have a vested interest in keeping this art, the United States only has a vested interest in what’s fair,’ the NYT quotes Katz heir Bruce Berg’s lawyer Joel Androphy as saying.
The Dutch minister of culture told the paper it had not received any official notification about the case.
Last month research by the Dutch Museums Association showed that Dutch museums have at least 170 works of art in their collections which may have been stolen from their Jewish owners during World War II.
In total 42 different museums, including the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk museum in Amsterdam appear to have stolen art in their collections, according to a list of all potentially stolen works identified to date.
The probe into potential stolen art was started in 2009 when the Museums Association asked museums in the Netherlands to investigate the provenance of their collections after earlier research suggested just a few works of art were wrongly held.
Between 1933 and 1945 many Jewish collectors and dealers were forced to sell their works of art by the Nazi occupiers. Other paintings were simply confiscated or stolen and many ended up in museum collections after the war ended.
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