How to return property looted by the Nazis? The Senate is considering the issue – France

The objective of the bill examined on Tuesday by the Senate is to set a framework for removing goods from museums in order to return them to their legitimate owners or assigns, without having to resort to legislative texts in the event per case. After the Senate, it will be debated in the National Assembly.

“To do a work of justice, but also a work of memory”

“To identify and find these cultural assets and return them to the heirs of the victims, today means doing a work of justice, but also a work of memory, to allow the descendants of looted Jewish families to find their history”, estimated the Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak.

The property concerned – works of art, paintings, books, etc. – were stolen by the Nazis between Adolf Hitler’s accession to power on January 30, 1933 and the German surrender on May 8, 1945. One hundred thousand works of art are said to have were seized in France during the Second World War, according to the Ministry of Culture. 60,000 goods were found in Germany at the Liberation and returned to France. Among them, 45,000 were quickly returned to their owners.

About 2,200 were selected and entrusted to the custody of national museums, so-called MNR (National Museums Recovery) works. The rest (approximately 13,000 objects) were sold by the administration of the Domains in the early 1950s. Many of these works of art thus returned to the market.

In 2019, the Ministry of Culture created the Mission for the Research and Restitution of Cultural Property whose owners were spoliated between 1933 and 1945. Preserved by the Musée d’Orsay, the painting “Rosiers under the trees” by Gustav Klimt, was thus returned to the heirs of its owners. It was one of the 15 works concerned by a law of February 21, 2022 allowing them to be removed from public collections.

Contrary to MNR works, the State can so far only initiate the restitution of works that have entered public collections by adopting a specific law making it possible to derogate from the principle of inalienability of these works. collections.

Amicable agreement on compensation terms other than restitution

The framework law now submitted to parliamentarians creates in the heritage code a derogation from this principle of inalienability of works and cultural property kept in the public domain. The decision to leave the national collections can only be made after consulting a specialized commission. The victims will be able, if they wish, to negotiate an amicable agreement on the terms of reparation other than restitution.

The draft law also authorizes the owners of private museums that have received the designation “Musée de France” to return, after consulting the commission, the property in their collections that is the result of spoliation by the Nazis.

“Repair Policy”

For the rapporteur of the text in the Senate, Béatrice Gosselin (relative to LR), “this must be a new step in our policy of repairing anti-Semitic spoliations”.

In committee, only two amendments were adopted by the senators, to specify the mechanism applicable to private museums.

184 works and objects returned since 1950

The last restitution of property looted by the Nazis took place on April 18. The Minister of Culture presented two paintings to the beneficiaries of Agathe and Ernst Saulmann, as well as a sculpture to the beneficiaries of Harry Fuld junior. The three works were part of the so-called MNR assets. A total of 184 MNR and similar works and objects have been returned since 1950.

This bill is part of a work of memory and a policy of restitution undertaken in recent years. Emmanuel Macron has thus promised another framework law to proceed with the restitution of African cultural property, sometimes acquired under questionable conditions.

In June, the Senate will also examine a proposed cross-partisan law to set the general framework applicable to the return of “human remains belonging to public collections”, such as the Maori heads returned in 2010 to New Zealand.

letelegramme Fr Trans

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