The Guardian 15 July 2003
A new German commission began work yesterday to help find "fair and just solutions" in ongoing disputes over the rightful ownership of art seized by Nazis, mostly from Jewish victims.
Germany's culture minister, Christina Weiss, said in a statement: "It is not that we have just discovered the issue. We have cleared up legal matters, but that does not end our ethical and moral responsibility."
Germany has paid around £3bn to survivors of Nazi slave camps, and £30bn to victims of the Holocaust, but the issue of stolen property has not been resolved.
The eight-member panel was set up after an agreement between the federal, state and local governments on its powers, but it can intervene only if both sides agree to let it act as an arbitrator.
The Jewish Council welcomed the initiative, saying that restitution was far from complete. A spokesman said: "We appeal to the museums to check objects dating back to the period 1933 to 1945 and not just in Germany, but throughout Europe and the United States."
Uta Haug, an expert in looted art at Hamburg's main exhibition centre, said: "I am a little sceptical of the commission. It depends if they will ask the hard questions."
Between 1999 and 2002, German museums returned only 18 works or collections of art. http://arts.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,11711,998453,00.html