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Recent judicial decisions in nazi-era looted art cases


Lucille Roussin

It is now internationally acknowledged that vast quantities of artworks were looted during World War II, not randomly, but as official policy of the Nazi government. Any estimate of the numbers of stolen artworks must remain speculative, however, some estimates put the figure at 600,000 works of painting, sculpture and tapestries, of which anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 works are still missing. Although many claimants in the U.S., either in court or through settlements, have been successful in their efforts to gain restitution for artworks lost through confiscation or forced sales, there are some U.S. court decisions that have denied claims on various legal grounds. These decisions denying restitution of works of art to the original owners or their heirs are complex and problematic, and there are legal doctrines emanating from the immediate post WWII international agreements and litigation that should prove decisive in these cases.


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