New Law Will Speed Recovery of Art Lost to Nazi Looting

AP 16 December 2016
By Mary Clare Jalonick

Heirs trying to recover artwork lost to Nazi looting during World War II will get some help from legislation signed Friday by President Barack Obama.

The legislation will extend statutes of limitations for the recovery of that art so the heirs can have their day in court. In recent years, courts have sided with several museums on the issue and blocked family members who believe the art is theirs.

"The systematic theft of property by the Nazis during the Holocaust robbed victims and their families of important parts of their heritage," said Sen. John Cornyn, who sponsored the legislation with fellow Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. "Allowing them the opportunity to recover part of their history is a small but significant step that's long overdue."

Earlier this year, a judge ruled in favor of a Southern California museum in its 10-year legal battle over the ownership of two German Renaissance masterpieces that were seized by the Nazis in World War II. The judge said that because the art dealership decided not to seek restitution for the works after the war, the family thereby abandoned its claim to the art.

In 2009, the United States and other countries agreed to ensure that their own legal systems "facilitate just and fair solutions with regard to Nazi-confiscated and looted art." The senators said this legislation is to fulfill that promise.
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