Adam Zamoyski: Restitution will benefit the public more than the heirs

The Independent 9 January 2009

I am entirely with Norman Rosenthal when he says that it is a little late for restitution of Nazi loot and that the issue should be laid to rest after all this time.

As he says, history is history, and a line does have to be drawn somewhere. The only problem is, where? Many direct victims of Nazi looting tried to reclaim their property in the late 1940s and early 1950s. But they came up against a wall of dishonesty and contempt on the part of collectors, auction houses, museum curators and dealers, who ducked and delayed in the hope that the problem would go away.

In many cases, that is still their attitude, and the reason claims are still being brought. If justice had been done then, there would be no cause for revindication now. Nor is it entirely fair to say, as he does, that the claimants are all rich people: many are living in very humble circumstances – and most claims are not made for reasons of material benefit.

As one of the heirs to the Czartoryska-Dzialynska Collection at Goluchów Castle in Poland, I can assure Rosenthal that our primary aim is to try to recreate that extraordinarily rich and interesting collection.

The material advantage to us would be negligible. The winners would be the art world and the public; the only losers would be the vaults of museums throughout Europe and a few dealers and collectors who know they are in possession of stolen goods and cannot respectably sell them, or even show them.

Adam Zamoyski is a distinguished historian living in London who has recovered only a few of the hundreds of works of art that were stolen by the Nazis in Poland from his family's collection.

Click here to read Sir Norman Rosenthal's article.
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