Better late than never… Fifteen works of art of great value are being returned to the heirs of Jewish families looted by the Nazis during the Second World War. After deputies, senators voted unanimously on Tuesday, February 15, in favor of a bill described as “historic” by Culture Secretary Roselyne Bachelot.
The heirs of the affected families were on hand to applaud this long-awaited decision. “It’s a first step” tempered the culture minister. “Spoiled works of art and books are still kept in public collections. Objects that shouldn’t have been there should never have been.”
Thanks to this “historical” voice, the “The government is taking steps to enable the return of works from public collections that were looted during World War II or obtained in difficult circumstances during the occupation as a result of anti-Semitic persecution”, says the minister. An essential law to be able to deviate from the principle of inalienability of public collections.
The senators themselves welcomed this vote, which moves restitutions “towards reconciliation” and “ends too long a process”, AFP reports.
Where are the webs?
Rose bushes under the trees, by Gustav Klimt, must find its way back to its rightful owner. Until now, the canvas, the only one by the Austrian painter to belong to the national collections, has been kept in the Musée d’Orsay. The State had taken it over from a merchant in 1980.
Rose bushes under the trees bear witness to those lives that a criminal will has stubbornly wanted to destroy.
The impending restitution is an acknowledgment of the crimes committed by the Zuckerkandl and Stiasny families, and the just return of property belonging to them #climb pic.twitter.com/27oo7Wr81H
— Roselyne Bachelot (@R_Bachelot) March 15, 2021
Prior to the restitution phase, an entire investigation into the provenance of the collections had to be carried out. According to the Ministry of Culture, 100,000 works of art were seized from their owners between 1939 and 1945. More than half were found in Germany during the liberation and sent back to France. Of the 60,000 units, 45,000 were immediately returned to their rightful owners.
The others met a very different fate. 2,200 of these have been deposited at state museums under the name ” Restoration of National Museums These “labelled” works can be returned by a simple administrative decision. The rest, on the other hand, some 13,000 objects, were sold in the early 1950s. Many looted works ended up on the art market.
Thanks to this new law, it will now be much easier to allow legitimate heirs to get their tainted property back.