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October 19, 2006
The Claims Conference announced that an initial list of art objects likely looted during the Nazi era and now in Austrian museums and public collections are now listed in an online searchable database, enabling victims of Nazism and their heirs to search more easily for artworks stolen during the Holocaust.
The Claims Conference has been working for several decades in pressing Austria on the issue of Nazi-era looted art, as well as on other Holocaust restitution and compensation issues. The database was established by the Austrian National Fund, a state institution that distributes restitution payments to Austrian Jewish victims of Nazism and that was created as a result of negotiations with the Claims Conference in the 1990s.
The German version of The Art Database of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria is at www.kunstrestitution.at. The English version of the database will be online in spring 2007
The art database contains information on 7,500 objects of art and on objects of cultural value that are located today in museums and in collections of the Republic of Austria or of the City of Vienna and which, according to current provenance research, are likely to have been expropriated during the Nazi era. Every object is listed with information regarding its restitution status.
It is expected that information on additional items of looted art in Austria will become available in the future. The database will be continuously expanded as museums provide more information on their holdings to the National Fund.
On the website, the National Fund announced the following concerning unclaimed objects:
“According to Austrian law, works of art, which were looted under National Socialism in Austria, shall be returned to the original owners or to their legal successors. It is a statutory task of the National Fund to sell those objects of which no rightful owner can be found and to distribute the proceeds to victims of the National Socialist regime. Before the actual sale of the objects, the National Fund offers the possibility to identify restitutable art-objects by providing an art database in the internet.”
Twenty years ago, following efforts by the Claims Conference, the Austrian government returned looted artwork that had been stored in a monastery in Mauerbach, near Vienna.
The Claims Conference and the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) have begun a comprehensive program toward the restitution of Jewish-owned art and cultural property lost and plundered during the Holocaust. Recently, a survey was completed of U.S. museums concerning their progress in provenance research, and underway is a digitization and publication of the records of the main Nazi organization responsible for pilfering and collecting art during the Holocaust. Information regarding restitution of art, including a list of searchable databases of potentially looted art, is at www.claimscon.org/art. — October 19, 2006