Blumenthal: Nazi theft of Art Was More Than Pilfering of Property - It Was an Act of Inhumanity

Today, Senator served as Ranking Member of a hearing on the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act that included testimony from actress Helen Mirren, star of “Woman in Gold,” and experts on art recovery and restitution

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), joined a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues in an effort to “assure simple justice for victims, survivors, and their families whose art was looted and brazenly stolen by the Nazis.” Blumenthal served as the lead Democratic Senator at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act, legislation that Blumenthal has co-sponsored to facilitate the return of artwork stolen by Nazis during the Holocaust to their rightful owners or heirs.

“Decades and generations overdue, Congress can provide some measure of peace and justice to families whose cherished art was brazenly stolen by the Nazis,” Blumenthal said. “The time is well past to return the ill-gotten gains of that long-ago horror. Financial recovery can never compensate for the unspeakable inhumanity and tragedy of the Holocaust, but it helps recognize, at least, the courage and strength of survivors.”

Photos from today’s hearing are available here.

Video of Senator Blumenthal’s remarks during today’s hearing is available on YouTube here and for download here.

Today’s hearing was titled “Reuniting Victims with Their Lost Heritage,” and included testimony from Academy Award-winning actress Dame Helen Mirren; Ambassador Ronald Lauder, Chairman of the Council, World Jewish Restitution Organization; Monica Dugot, International Director of Restitution, Christie’s Inc; Agnes Peresztegi, President, Commission for Art Recovery; and Simon Goodman. The hearing was chaired jointly by U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), chairman of the Subcommittee on The Constitution, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts.

It is estimated that the Nazis confiscated or otherwise misappropriated tens of thousands of works of art throughout Europe as part of the genocidal campaign against the Jews and other persecuted groups. This has been described as the “greatest displacement of art in human history.” But as Blumenthal said at today’s hearing, “that abstract characterization fails to do justice to the horror and unspeakable inhumanity of that era.”

Following World War II, the United States and its allies attempted to return the stolen artwork to their countries of origin. But despite these efforts, many works of art were never reunited with their owners and some of the art has since been discovered in the United States. 

The Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act would help facilitate the return of artwork stolen by Nazis during the Holocaust to their rightful owners or heirs. The Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act would ensure that American law encourages the resolution of claims on Nazi-confiscated art on the merits, in a fair and just manner. Doing so is consistent with long-standing U.S. foreign policy, as demonstrated in the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art and the 2009 Terezin Declaration.

The American government has long worked with other nations to ensure that victims and their families are able to recover art tragically stolen by the Nazis. To effectuate that policy, the HEAR Act gives claimants an opportunity to have their case decided on the merits by establishing a nationwide window of time within which such claims can be brought.