France Begins to Take Nazi Restitution Seriously

Bloomberg reports that the French government under Francois Hollande has finally begun to seriously address the issue of Nazi-looted art. They’re launching a campaign:

Almost 70 years after World War II, France is making one of its biggest efforts to trace the Jewish owners of artworks stolen by the Nazis, recovered by the Allies and sent to the country after the war. President Francois Hollande’s government is setting up a group of historians, regulators, archivists and curators to actively track down families, instead of waiting for claimants to come forward. The group starts working in March.

A French Senate report calls for the government to make the archives on looted art at the foreign ministry and the Louvre museum more accessible, including the scanning of thousands of relevant documents still sitting in cartons.

“It may be one of our last chances to find the owners,” said Jean-Pierre Bady, a former director at the culture ministry, who’s a member of a 1999-created Commission for the Compensation of Spoliation Victims and who was instrumental in the formation of the group. “Seventy years is a long time, but it’s never too late to make things right.”

Bruno Saunier, who runs France’s National Museums’ Agency, added:

“We believe that most of the major works that we will seek to return belong to families from Central and Eastern Europe, like Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, Austria or Hungary,” Saunier said in an interview.

Nazi-Looted Art’s Jewish Owners Sought by France (Bloomberg)