A painting looted by the Nazis from a Jewish family was discovered in the Royal Library of Belgium recently. The painting, known as The Absinthe Drinker, was stolen from the Dorville family, who were compensated earlier this year for three stolen pieces of art stolen during the Holocaust. Following the discovery, the library announced that it was investigating the situation and planned to compensate or return the painting to the family if the Dorville family had not been previously compensated for the theft.
Sara Lammens, the library’s interim art director, told the Brussels-based Le Vif magazine that the library bought the painting in “good faith,” and was unable to verify its origins at the time of the purchase.
Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Science Policy David Clarinval, who oversees the national library, has announced that he was ready to start the procedure for restitution or compensation if necessary and that he "has complete confidence" in the library to make the proper decision. German cultural authorities have encouraged the library to return the painting to family, according to the Brussels Times, saying that while it was “no longer possible” to compensate the Dorville family for their suffering during the Holocaust, it would be an “important gesture of historic justice” for the painting to be returned.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder has been a fierce advocate and leader of the restitution movement. In June of 2016, President Lauder testified in front of a Senate committee about ensuring Holocaust victims rights to recover art confiscated from them during the Holocaust, calling the theft “probably the greatest in history.”
Later that month, President Lauder voiced his displeasure with the results of an investigation alleging that the German state of Bavaria sold over 10,000 Nazi-looted art to high-ranking Nazi officials, rather than returning the art to its rightful Jewish owners, calling the allegations “absolutely shocking” and “a great slap in the face to the victims of the Holocaust and their families.” President Lauder called for the efforts to be “made to ensure that the families of the rightful heirs to be fully compensated or receive full restitution of the property.”