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Nazi-looted art may be returned

By The Associated Press
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 18, 2000
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Associated Press

LONDON-The government announced yesterday that it is setting up a panel to resolve disputes over artwork looted by the Nazis that is now held by British museums.

The Spoliation Advisory Panel will hear claims from people or heirs who believe works, such as paintings or furniture, were stolen during World War II.

The panel can recommend such works be returned to the original owners if they are found to have been stolen, though such recommendations would have no legal force. It also will be able to recommend paying compensation to claimants or that a museum display alongside a piece of looted artwork an account of its history.

"Dreadful things happened in the Nazi era," Arts Minister Alan Howarth said. "We can, even at this distance of time, do something to enable some justice to be done."

Howarth said the government was particularly keen that claimants, many of whom may now be very old, not have to go through expensive and lengthy legal proceedings.

The panel will be chaired by a retired appeal judge, Sir David Hirst, and likely be made up of historians, philosophers and lawyers.

A nationwide audit is being carried out to determine the amount of Nazi-looted materials in British museums, but it is not thought to be a significant amount.

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry announced yesterday that more than $2.4 million has been paid to victims of Nazi persecution whose property in Britain was confiscated during the war.

A panel of assessors has been considering the 948 claims.

"So far, they have considered more than 300 claims and reached a conclusion on about 160," Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers said.

The property was confiscated under the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1939, which empowered the British government to confiscate any property held in its territory by persons or businesses based in states with which Britain was at war.

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