Germany to Improve Restitution for Nazi-looted art

Reuters 21 November 2006

Germany pledged on Monday to improve the way it deals with claims for art looted by the Nazis following criticism from museums that the restitution process is too complicated and lacks sufficient funding.

Culture Minister Bernd Neumann vowed to make the return of art works more transparent, coordinated and comprehensible after a meeting with museum representatives and legal experts.

He said small museums, in particular, needed more help with restitution cases.

"Germany stands unreservedly by its moral obligations towards the restitution of Nazi stolen art," said the minister in a statement after the meeting.

He also said Germany would strengthen provenance research, which traces the origins of a work of art, in response to criticism from some German museum directors.

In the late 1990s the German government and its federal states promised to help people track down looted works of art but many curators and experts say little money has been put into provenance research.
Neumann called the meeting after several valuable restituted art works were sold on quickly in the last few years.

Earlier this month the expressionist painting "Berlin Street Scene" by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, which had been returned to the heirs of its Jewish owners in the year, was sold in New York for $38.1 million.

Neumann said he had set up a working group to come up with concrete recommendations.
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