Netherlands to return dozens of Nazi looted works of art to rightful owners

NL Times 12 September 2023

One year after the Dutch government set up a special committee to investigate Nazi-looted art in its possession and whether they could be returned to their rightful owners, the committee has identified dozens of works for which this may be possible. “The results have already exceeded all expectations,” Dolf Muller of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands said to RTL Nieuws.

“We had thought that we would eventually be able to return a handful of works to the original owners, but we have now already found more than 30 pieces for which this can happen. Almost all of them are Jewish families. And the research will continue until the end of 2025,” Muller said.

The team from the Cultural Heritage Agency is investigating hundreds of pieces of art, furniture, and tableware appropriated by the Nazis in the Second World War and returned to the Netherlands by the Allied nations afterward. The works currently form part of the Dutch Art Collection.

The Nazi regime did untold and unimaginable damage to the Jewish community. “We will never be able to undo that suffering, but we can do as much as possible about it,” origin researcher Simone van Wijk of the Cultural Heritage Agency said. “By returning as many objects as possible to them. A piece of family history.”

The team has examined some 800 objects so far. Sometimes, it takes months to trace the origin of an object, and in many cases, it proves impossible. “We will never know who the owner or heirs are of many objects. If you think you are on the right track, but an archive document is missing, you have to leave it at that. That is sometimes quite difficult. You want as many pieces as possible put back where they belong,” Van Wijk said.

A special returns committee will eventually return the objects to the rightful owners where possible.
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