Guarding the Historical Record from the Nazi-Era Art Litigation Tumbling Toward the Supreme Court
19 Pages Posted: 4 May 2011 Last revised: 9 Sep 2013
Date Written: May 1, 2011
The majority of Nazi-looted art litigation in U.S. courts has resulted in favorable outcomes for present-day possessors based on technical grounds, such as statutes of limitation, without even addressing the merits of the underlying claims. The claims themselves arise from the horrors of the Holocaust and, with the Nazis' obsession with the appearance of legality, often took the form of forced sales and "Aryanizations." Much of the information that theft victims needed to substantiate their claims remained buried in closed archives until the 1990s and the end of the Cold War, and, despite express U.S. post-war commitment to restitution, U.S. courts have generally allowed present-day possessors - including some prominent museums - to capitalize on the delay, distorting the historical record in defending their ownership. The Supreme Court is poised to review multiple writs of certiorari for Nazi art theft cases this year, and the time is ripe for the Court to intervene to correct the unfortunate course that these cases have taken thus far.
Keywords: Nazi, Art Theft, Looted Art, Art Litigation, Cultural Property
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