NEW YORK - World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said this week that he is dismayed by an investigation alleging that the German state of Bavaria had sold or given Nazi-looted art to high-ranking Nazi officials, rather than returning the art to its rightful Jewish heirs.View of a Dutch square, by Jan Van der Heyden, one of the artworks in question
The investigation by the London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe relates to more than 10,000 pieces of art. Thousands of these works, looted by the Nazis were recovered by American forces and entrusted to the Bavarian state government in 1949, which was tasked with the restitution efforts.
“The recent investigation alleging that the state of Bavaria callously subverted restitution efforts by returning art looted by Nazis to the Nazis that stole it, or even keeping the property for itself rather than returning it to its rightful Jewish owners, is absolutely shocking. If the allegations prove to be as severe as presented, it is one of the most scandalous incidents related to the subject to date,” said Lauder.
“For decades, Germany has deserved praise for accepting responsibility for the crimes committed during the Nazi period, for denouncing manifestations of anti-Semitism, and for criminalizing Holocaust denial,” Lauder added. “If the allegations derived from the records investigated are substantiated, this would be a great slap in the face to the victims of the Holocaust and their families. Returning stolen property to the criminals guilty of the theft is nothing short of a crime itself."
“The very idea that the state would negotiate with the families of high-ranking Nazi officials, rather than insisting on restitution to those whose lives and property were upended during the Holocaust, is dismaying,” he said.
“It is incumbent upon the State of Bavaria to demonstrate full transparency on this matter, and clarify any and all of the questions presented in this investigation. All documents pertaining to this time, from the State Art Collection and every other relevant governmental organization, must be made accessible. All efforts must be made to ensure that the families of the rightful heirs are fully compensated or receive full restitution of the property stolen from them.”