Fair and just solutions? Alternatives to litigation in Nazi looted art disputes: status quo and new developments, The Hague, 27 November 2012

Events and Conferences
International Conferences

The Symposium focused on the five national commissions that have been set up since the 1998 Washington Conference, their achievements and the possibility for claimants of achieving fair and just solutions either through the commissions, courts, mediation or directly. The five commissions are the Austrian Beirat and Commission for Provenance Research, the British Spoliation Advisory Panel, the Dutch Restitutions Committee, the French Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation (CIVS) and the German Advisory Commission. The proceedings of the Symposium will be published next year.

Following the Symposium, the Dutch Restitutions Committee published a press release, available here. They also published their 'impression of the day' available here.

The speech of the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker, given at the Symposium, is available here..

The full details of the programme are available by clicking here.  For background and general details see below.

Fair and just solutions? Alternatives to litigation in Nazi looted art disputes: status quo and new developments, 27 November 2012

‘If the pre-War owners of art that is found to have been confiscated by the Nazis and not subsequently restituted, or their heirs, can be identified, steps should be taken expeditiously to achieve a just and fair solution, recognizing this may vary according to the facts and circumstances surrounding a specific case’.
Washington Conference Principles On Nazi-Confiscated Art, 3 December 1998, no. VIII

 Today, fourteen years after the signing of the Washington Principles, the debate about Nazi-looted art is still topical. The call for just and fair solutions and alternative dispute resolution in ownership disputes has led a number of countries to set up advisory committees or panels. For the first time, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Dutch Restitutions Committee, five European advisory committees will meet in the Peace Palace in The Hague. 

The Restitutions Committee is taking this opportunity to organise a one-day symposium to evaluate the status quo of dispute resolution in Nazi-looted art cases in and beyond the countries that have installed advisory committees. Leading experts from different countries will participate in an interdisciplinary discussion to explore the question of how to reconcile the different interests of former and present owners. Attention will be focused on disputes involving one or more private parties, i.e. a natural person or a private-law entity, as opposed to problems relating to intergovernmental disputes.

Programme: morning session

The morning session of the symposium will highlight the existing situation in Europe and the USA. The British jurist Norman Palmer, a leading expert on the issue, will give an introduction to the main themes of the day. A panel consisting of the chairs of advisory committees from Austria, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands will subsequently discuss the possibilities for current possessors and former owners of Nazi-looted art in the respective countries to go to court or to have access to the committees. This panel discussion will be followed by a speech by Douglas Davidson, the US Special Envoy on Holocaust Issues, on the status quo and new developments in the field of Nazi-related art disputes in the USA.

Programme: afternoon session

In the afternoon, scholars on art and cultural property law will conduct a more theoretical review of the main themes of the day by offering a comparative analysis of international practice and current trends. The key elements of fair and just solutions will be explored, as well as the means and mechanisms best suited to get there. The second afternoon session will focus on the more ‘practical side’ of the matter. A panel of representatives from the parties concerned (representatives of former owners, museums, the art trade/auction houses) and (art) historical experts/researchers will explore the main themes of the day. The panel will discuss a.o. the following themes:

Fair and just?
Whose interests and what circumstances should be taken into account in order to come to a ‘fair and just solution’?

How to get there?
Is there a stagnation? What are the practical problems for museums and the art trade? Is there a need for an international forum to create more unity?

Time limitations and relation to other restitution claims
How long should this go on? Are ownership disputes regarding Nazi-looted art, in essence, any different from ownership disputes regarding other spoliated art?

The last session of the day is meant as a moment to summarise and comment on the discussions and share thoughts on future developments.

The audience will have the possibility to influence and participate in the discussion, first of all, by completing this questionnaire on the main issues of the day and return it to the Restitutions Committee (by e-mail: or by regular post: PO Box 556, 2501 CN THE HAGUE). Also there will be several possibilities during the day to participate in the discussion and to ask questions.

For practical information and contact details, please click here.

To attend this International Symposium, please click here for the registration form

© website copyright Central Registry 2024