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Belgium & looted Nazi artworks

Discussion in 'WWII Today' started by GRW, May 24, 2023 at 9:03 PM.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    A thought-provoking piece.
    "Nearly 80 years after the end of the second world war, a new book, Kunst voor das Reich, argues that Belgium has yet to reckon with that legacy.
    For the book’s author, Geert Sels, the quest began in 2014 after the sensational discovery of 1,500 modernist masterpieces in the flat of an 80-year old man in Munich, the son of the Nazi art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt. Sels, the cultural editor of Belgium’s De Standaard newspaper, was intrigued. He wanted to know if any of the works had come from Belgium. But when he went to consult official records, he was disappointed: Belgium had no public database of lost or orphan art works.
    According to the Belgian government, that was because everything was in order. A government commission into plundered Jewish assets had completed its work in 2001. “The answer was, everything in Belgium has been researched,” Sels told the Observer. “I thought, well, it’s a lie.”
    Sels was convinced Belgium fell far short of the 1998 Washington principles, when 44 countries agreed to establish a central registry of art stolen by the Nazis and publicise confiscated works to help trace the original owners or heirs. “A lot of countries, including Belgium, agreed to do research, to make the information public, to establish databases but Belgium hasn’t done it."
    So he began his own search, which led him to Hartveld’s scattered collection. His library – 29 boxes of art books and auction catalogues – was carted away by the Nazis......
    In a statement, Belgium’s state secretary in charge of museums, Thomas Dermine, said the previous government commission had restored a large number of looted works, but subsequent restitutions had been “too sporadic”. He was, the statement said, creating a department that would charge federal museums with considering “a process that allows a more proactive approach to this issue” because “humanity must always end up defeating barbarism”.
    The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (RMFAB) said further research into the unknown provenance of some of its paintings “must be carried out” and could lead to new restitutions. The museums, which last year returned an expressionist work to the descendants of a German Jewish couple, said it was studying the works from the Seegalls as part of a larger, four-year project into the provenance of its collections acquired since 1933. “The RMFAB strongly hopes that this project will allow it to complete the provenance of art works in its collection… and will ensure greater transparency.”
    LRusso216 likes this.

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