France fast-tracks Jewish claims on artwork stolen during WWII

France passed a law on Thursday to make it easier to return to Jewish owners art confiscated by Nazi Germany that ended up in French museums.


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France’s culture minister said the law, passed unanimously by both houses of parliament, would allow “concrete legal action” to return artworks from the German occupation of France during World War II.

According to the Ministry of Culture, Nazi Germany implemented a policy of seizing art in occupied territories as part of its persecution of Jews, taking an estimated 100,000 works of art from France alone.

After the war, some 60,000 objects from the collection were recovered in Germany and brought back to France, most of which were returned to their owners or heirs. However, 2,200 works are in the collections of French national museums.

Returning the 2,200 items to their rightful owners was made more complicated by French legislation giving museums “inalienable” ownership.

That means parliament has to pass a law to return every piece of the collection.

Under the new law, reparations could be made more quickly, with the government simply having to seek authorization from a special commission.

“This is an operational law that ensures that the duty of remembrance and vigilance is translated into concrete legal action,” said Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak.

It will help “to illuminate our history and our future,” she added.

If the rightful owners of the stolen artwork prefer compensation rather than return, they can now reach an amicable settlement with the museum.

Senator Beatrice Gosselin said the law was “historic and deeply symbolic.”


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