New York museums now required to disclose artwork looted by Nazis

written by Zoe Sotille, CNN

Museums in New York must now disclose that Artifacts Stolen Europe during the Nazi era, thanks to new legislation signed last week by Governor Kathy Hochul.
The legislation is part of a package of legislation designed to honor and support Holocaust survivors, According to a news release from the New York Department of Financial Services.

During World War II the Nazis stole and confiscated hundreds of thousands of works of art, mostly from Jewish communities. The new law states that museums “prominently place a placard or other signage” on artifacts.

Jack Kliger, CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City, said in a statement shared with CNN, “More than 600,000 paintings were stolen from the Jewish people during World War II, decimating Jewish culture from the Nazi regime. enriched it.”

“Over the years, many of these paintings have been exhibited in institutions, yet without any acknowledgment of their origin,” he said. “This law allows institutions in New York to honor those who lost their lives and whose personal property was stolen for profit.”

Artifacts stolen by the Nazis continue to face controversial public debate about their ownership.

earlier this year, Supreme Court heard arguments The rights to a French Impressionist painting of a Jewish family, confiscated by the Nazis in 1939 and eventually ended up in a public museum in Spain. In 2019, the FBI A painting recovered from the Arkel Museum in New York Because it was stolen by the Nazis from a Jewish family in 1933.

Additionally, many museums have taken steps over the years to examine the dark history of some of their objects.

In 2000, the Museum of Modern Art began the Provence Research Project to identify stolen artifacts. The museum is home to approximately 800 paintings that “were from or may have been in continental Europe during the Nazi era,” according to a statementAlthough the museum maintains that most were either obtained directly from the artists or otherwise ownership records show they were not stolen by the Nazis.
and New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage is held restoration function To celebrate returning Nazi-stolen artifacts to their rightful owners.

In addition to new requirements for museums, the law also includes measures to improve Holocaust education in New York schools and the publication of a list of financial institutions that waive fees for Holocaust repairs.

Greg Schneider, executive vice president at the Claims Conference, a nonprofit that helps provide compensation and support for Holocaust survivors, tells CNN that the three laws are part of a much-needed effort to improve New York’s Holocaust education. Huh. a Survey of Holocaust Awareness Among Millennials and Gen X Published by the organization in 2020 found that New York ranked 41st out of 50 states.

The convention is “very pleased” with the law, Schneider says.

“It is very important that there is a range of legislation that helps survivors and promotes education around their experiences,” he said.

For Schneider, the education bill, which would require an audit to determine whether New York schools are meeting the state’s mandate for Holocaust education, and the museum bill are part of the same project that New Yorkers need. To improve awareness of the impact of the Holocaust.

“We learn history by looking at the artwork,” he said. “History is part of what happened with this piece. It’s an opportunity to open up to another audience, another perspective, on the history of the Holocaust.”

“Not only was [the Holocaust] The largest, most sophisticated industrial massacre of the Jewish people, it was also the largest theft in world history,” Schneider said. “The scale of thefts of property, art, insurance policies, bank accounts, property of all kinds, and Jewish cultural Objects are capricious.”

He noted that the bill would also help claimants seeking the return of artifacts stolen from their families by the Nazis.

“It continues to put pressure on museums to do research, to establish chains of ownership,” he said.

While the law represents a step forward for museums, Schneider says that many pieces of art stolen by the Nazis are in private hands, a kind of “black hole” that often evades regulation.

“The commonality of these three pieces of legislation is that they highlight important aspects of ongoing issues for survivors’ support and education about the Holocaust,” Schneider said. “It’s not new to Holocaust education for New York State, but it puts pressure on school districts to support their teachers and figure out what’s going wrong. It’s not new, the idea that museums should do proven research, but it puts additional pressure on museums and says it’s important, keep doing this, we haven’t forgotten.”