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Dutch restitution group to carry on for three more years

Former vice-president of the Dutch Supreme Court is named chairman

The Dutch government committee charged with evaluating claims for the restitution of Nazi-looted art which is held in national collections has been given an extended mandate to continue its work for another three years. The Restitutions Committee marked its fifth anniversary in November 2006, and assumed it would be its last. But on 23 December 2007, the committee was reappointed for a further three years, to be chaired by a former vice-president of the Dutch Supreme Court, Richard Herrmann.

Since its inception in 2002, the committee has received 91 restitution applications, and has advised the Minister of Education, Culture and Science on 50 of them. It continues to handle 41 claims.

Thousands of works of art stolen in the Netherlands by the Nazis, most taken from Jewish owners, remain in Dutch government custody. The original deadline for owners to file claims had been set to expire in April 2007, but has been extended. However, the government will no longer actively seek to locate the art’s original owners.

The Restitutions Committee publishes all of its recommendations on individual claims and its annual reports on its website. A database allows searches of lost art by the name of the artist or original owner, yielding, for example, three works by Rembrandt.

Most of the claims to date have involved art held by the Dutch government. The Restitutions Committee has evaluated claims for works varying from a silver Kiddush cup and porcelain to paintings by 17th-century Dutch old masters, and recommended the restitution of over 200 paintings seized by Hitler’s deputy, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering from the collection of Dutch Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker.

Consistent with government policy, the committee has recommended restitution for art which it has determined was sold by Jews involuntarily, for example in efforts to flee the Nazi regime or survive.

o The restitutions committee website is at www.restitutiecommissie.nl

o A searchable database of art held by the Dutch government is at www.herkomstgezocht.nl