Austria launches online database to find owners, heirs of art looted by Nazis

International Herald Tribune 17 October 2006

VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- Austria launched an online database Tuesday to find owners of artwork and other objects of cultural value that may have been looted during Nazi times and are now in some of the country's museums.

The database — accessible at — contains information about objects that are likely to have been expropriated between 1938 and 1945 and which are now in museums and collections owned by the Republic of Austria or the City of Vienna, said Juergen Schremser, spokesman for the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism.

The database was put together by the fund in cooperation with museums and special commissions tasked with tracing the origins of artwork obtained during the Nazi era.

It also contains items where the origin is still in question and where it remains to be determined if they were in fact looted.

"This measure aims at clarifying whether or to whom the objects should be restituted," a statement said.

According to Austrian law, art looted by the Nazis shall be returned to the original owners or to their legal successors, the statement said.

However, the law doesn't automatically establish a claim and only opens the possibility for the government to return the object, Schremser said.

The National Fund, established in 1995, is tasked by law with selling those items for which no rightful owner can be found and to distribute the proceeds to victims of the Nazi regime. It hopes that the online database will provide an opportunity to identify owners of the artwork before such a sale happens.

Currently, the database is only available in German. An English version is expected to be online next year.


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