Following the judgement at the end of last week, there has been extensive media coverage of this case both in the British & International press.
I’ll post a summary / analysis of this shortly.
The Guardian 
Ruling tightens grip on Parthenon marbles
Friday May 27, 2005
The British Museum is barred by law from handing back four Old Master drawings looted by the Nazis, the high court decided today, in a ruling that may obstruct Greek efforts to reclaim the Parthenon marbles.
The vice chancellor, Sir Andrew Morritt, ruled that the British Museum Act – which protects the collections for posterity – cannot be overridden by a “moral obligation” to return works known to have been plundered.
The attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, had asked the high court to rule on the drawings after concerns that their return to the heirs of the original owners could create a legal opening for Greece to pursue its claim to the Parthenon marbles.
The four drawings were stolen from the home of Dr Arthur Feldmann by the Gestapo in 1939 when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. Dr Feldmann was tortured and murdered by the Nazis and his wife Gisela died at Auschwitz. All the drawings were acquired by the British Museum shortly after the second world war.
The museum had argued that the case of art looted by the Nazis is highly exceptional and would not create a precedent
A spokeswoman for the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, which is representing Dr Feldmann’s heirs, said it regretted today’s decision and that it was now three years since the museum agreed to the family’s claim.
“The ruling is significant for all claimants of looted art from the Nazi era, setting aside any possibility of restitution being achieved in this way, and showing that the government ought now to legislate in order to achieve clarity for all claimants,” she said.
“The commission very much regrets that this avenue to achieve the return of the drawings is not now open.”
She said the family remained confident that a way would be found for them to reclaim the drawings “in accordance with the British Museum’s long-standing commitment so to do”.
The commission said the claim had been put before the government-appointed spoliation advisory panel that had been awaiting the outcome of this case before proceeding.
Sir Andrew said in his judgment that no moral obligation can justify the museum trustees departing from the law protecting objects forming part of the collections. Sir Andrew said: “In my judgment only legislation or a bona fide compromise of a claim of the heirs of Dr Feldmann to be entitled to the four drawings could entitle the trustees to transfer any of them to those heirs.”
The drawings, for which the museum paid a total of nine guineas in 1946, are now estimated to be worth £150,000.
The Parthenon marbles, are a large collection of sculptures that were brought to Britain between 1801 and 1805 after they were removed from the Parthenon in Athens. Since 1939 the marbles have been housed in the Duveen gallery in the British Museum.
Greece demands the collection be returned.
The Guardian 
Judge blocks return of pictures looted from victim of Nazis
Saturday May 28, 2005
Relatives of a Jewish art collector whose drawings were bought by the British Museum after being looted by the Nazis expressed “distress and disappointment” yesterday when a judge ruled that the museum had no powers to return them despite wishing to do so.
In a test case in the high court, Sir Andrew Morritt, the vice-chancellor, said that “no moral obligation” could justify the restitution of objects in the museum’s collection because it would be in breach of the law.
Three years ago, trustees of the museum told the family of Albert Feldmann there was a compelling case for the return of four Old Master drawings looted by the Nazis from his home in Brno, Czechoslovakia, in 1939.
The museum had hoped for a special dispensation from the law if an exceptional moral case could be proved for their return. But the judge rejected this yesterday, saying only a change in the 1963 Museums Act would allow them to do so.
The government was told five years ago that the law must be changed so that families who had a rightful claim to work stolen from them by the Nazis were not frustrated by legal barriers. But no legislation has been brought forth.
A spokesman for the Feldmann family said: “They are very distressed and disappointed that it is taking so much time to return these paintings … You can imagine how difficult it is for the family to understand why it has not been possible for them to have the drawings returned to them yet.”
Dr Feldmann’s collection of 750 drawings was considered one of Europe’s finest. When the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, his home was raided and he and his wife were seized and sent to a concentration camp, where he died.
Three of the drawings were bought by the museum at Sotheby’s in 1946. The fourth was bequeathed to its collection three years later.
The family made a claim for the art after documents located by the London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe revealed conclusive evidence that the drawings, said to be worth about £150,000, had been stolen by the Nazis. Museum trustees agreed that there was a “compelling case” for their return. But, under the 1963 law, they were barred from breaking up the collection without the permission of the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith.
The attorney believed that the return of the drawings could set a precedent that would leave the door open to other moral claims – including one from the Greeks for the Parthenon (or Elgin) marble sculptures. He asked the high court for a ruling.
The judge said the issue of the marbles was “irrelevant”, but ruled that a legal change was still required for the return of the Feldmann pictures.
Anne Webber, of the looted art commission, said a parliamentary committee had warned the government five years ago that the law needed to be changed. The committee chairman, Gerald Kaufman, said: “Where a claim has been upheld and restitution seen as appropriate it is essential that the legislative barrier is removed. It would be absurd if restitution was not possible in those circumstances due to the dilatoriness of ministers.”
A British Museum spokeswoman expressed disappointment that the pictures could not be returned in this “exceptional” case without a law change. A Department for Culture, Media and Sport official said the judge’s ruling had clarified the issue, adding: “We will now look seriously at the case for legislative action.”
The drawings are: St Dorothy with the Christ Child (1508), by a follower of Martin Schongauer; Virgin and Child Adored by St Elizabeth and the Infant St John, by Martin Johann Schmidt; An Allegory on Poetic Inspiration with Mercury and Apollo by the 18th century English artist Nicholas Blakey; and the Holy Family by the 16th century Bolognese artist Niccolo dell’Abbate.
Daily Telegraph 
Court prevents return of art stolen by Nazis
By Joshua Rozenberg, Legal Editor
The British Museum is barred by law from handing back four Old Master drawings even though there is no doubt that they were looted by the Nazis, a senior High Court judge ruled yesterday.
Sir Andrew Morritt, the head of the Chancery Division, held that the legislation under which the museum operated could not be overridden by a “moral obligation” to return plundered works.
There was concern that if the case had gone the other way, it could have led to the return to Greece of the Elgin Marbles, although the British Museum does not accept that there is a moral claim to the Parthenon Sculptures.
The British Museum Act of 1753 requires its collections to be preserved “for public use to all posterity” though later legislation allows the museum to sell duplicates, objects made after 1850 and others unfit to be retained.
Those exceptions did not cover the drawings, three of which were bought in 1946 for less than £10. They are now valued at £150,000.
Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, is allowed to authorise a payment out of charitable funds to meet a “moral obligation”. He sought guidance from the court on whether this principle allowed the British Museum to override its statutory obligations and return items it lawfully owned.
It is accepted that the four drawings were stolen by the Gestapo in 1939 from the home of Dr Arthur Feldmann in Czechoslovakia.
The museum said that the case represented “a unique moral claim which they wish to meet”. But yesterday’s ruling meant that the drawings could not be returned without an Act of Parliament, unless Dr Feldmann’s heirs could prove that the museum had not validly purchased them.
The Commission for Looted Art in Europe, which is representing Dr Feldmann’s heirs, said after the ruling: “The commission very much regrets that this avenue to achieve the return of the drawings is not now open to the museum.”
Sir Andrew said in his judgment that neither the Crown nor the Attorney General had any power to dispense with “due observance” of Acts of Parliament.
He concluded that no moral obligation could justify the museum trustees departing from the law protecting objects forming part of the collections.
William Henderson, representing the Attorney General at the hearing on Tuesday, told Sir Andrew that if the Act could be overridden, the “door would be open” to claims against any museum.
The Scotsman 
Sat 28 May 2005
Art stolen by Nazis ‘cannot be returned’
IT WOULD be illegal for the British Museum to return art- works looted by the Nazis to a Jewish family, despite its “moral obligation” to do so, a High Court judge ruled yesterday.
Vice-Chancellor Sir Andrew Morritt ruled that the British Museum Act – which protects the collections for posterity – cannot be overridden by the ethical merit of a claim involving plundered art.
The heirs of the art’s original owners, Dr Arthur Feldmann, a Czech lawyer, and his wife Gisela, who died at the hands of the Nazis, said they were “very upset” at the ruling.
They called on the government to introduce legislation that would allow the pieces – four Old Master drawings stolen from the family home in Brno by the Gestapo in 1939 – to be returned to them swiftly.
Lawyers for the British Museum, which had agreed in principle three years ago to the restitution of the drawings to the family, also said they were “disappointed” by the outcome of the test case.
Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, had asked for clarification of the law after warning that if a moral obligation to restore such objects could override the act, it might allow Greece to reclaim the Elgin Marbles.
However, the judge said this case would have no implication for other claims.
Anne Webber, the co-chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, which is representing Dr Feldmann’s heirs, said the ruling had “prolonged the agony of a family who have already suffered”.
She said: “The looting of these drawings was over 60 years ago, the claim was three years ago and the British Museum acted with alacrity. They never expected it would take so long.
“The family are very upset by the outcome but nevertheless they have confidence in the British Museum’s commitment to restitution. The government needs to move swiftly.”
The museum’s trustees had asked the Attorney General if they had permission to return the artworks under the terms of the Snowdon principle – a legal test that permits charities to give back items judged wrong to keep.
Ms Webber said the ruling was significant for all claimants of looted art from the Nazi era, as it set aside any possibility of restitution being achieved without further legislation.
Sir Andrew said in his judgment that neither the Crown nor the Attorney General had any power to dispense with “due observance” of acts of parliament.
A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: “We welcome clarification in this important area, which will contribute to our consideration of a Spoliation Advisory Panel recommendation that the Secretary of State consider legislation to return the spoliated items.
“The case confirms that legislation is necessary. We will now look urgently at this issue.”
Dr Feldmann was tortured and murdered by the Nazis and died in prison.
Mrs Feldmann died at Auschwitz, but their children survived.
The drawings, for which the museum paid a total of nine guineas in 1946 at auction, are now estimated to be worth £150,000.
Financial Times 
This article adds nothing not covered in other articles already.
BBC News 
This article adds nothing not covered in other articles already.
ABC News (Australia) / AFP 
Last Update: Saturday, May 28, 2005. 12:00pm (AEST)
Law prevents UK museum from returning stolen art
The British Museum is prevented by law from returning four Old Master drawings looted by the Nazis, even though it wants to hand them back to their Jewish owners’ heirs, a judge has ruled.
Senior High Court judge Sir Andrew Morritt says that the 1963 British Museum Act, which protects the famous London-based institution’s collections for posterity, could not be overridden.
Not even by a “moral obligation” to return works known to have been stolen.
The ruling was requested by Attorney-General Lord Peter Goldsmith, the Government’s chief legal officer.
He had asked for clarification after warning that if there was a moral obligation to restore such objects it could give Greece a method by which to reclaim the Elgin Marbles.
The marbles are hundreds of marble sculptures taken from the Parthenon in Athens in 1801 and 1802 by British diplomat Lord Elgin, who later sold them to the British Museum.
Greece has long demanded the sculptures’ return, something Britain is resisting.
Justice Morritt was asked to rule on the museum’s obligation to return the four drawings by artists including Nicolo dell’Abbate and by Nicholas Blakey.
The paintings were stolen from the home of Dr Arthur Feldmann in 1939 when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia.
Dr Feldmann and his wife died at the hands of the Nazis, and the four drawings were acquired by the British Museum shortly after World War II.
A spokesman for the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, which is representing Dr Feldmann’s heirs, says the judgement shows that Britain’s Government should amend the law.
“The commission very much regrets that this avenue to achieve the return of the drawings is not now open to the museum,” he said.
The museum agreed three years ago to return the artworks.
Court ruling rejects return of art looted by Nazis
Fri May 27, 2005 3:57 PM BST
LONDON (Reuters) – A court ruled on Friday the British Museum could not return four artworks looted by the Nazis, a judgement which closed off an avenue that could have helped Greece get back the Elgin Marbles from Britain.
The government’s top legal advisor, Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith, had asked the High Court to establish whether the British Museum — home to treasures like the Marbles and the Rosetta Stone — had a moral duty to return property obtained improperly.
The museum wants to return four Old Master drawings stolen by the Nazis from Jewish collector Arthur Feldmann in 1939, but British law prevents it disposing of anything in its collection.
However, Judge Andrew Morritt found that no moral obligation could override the British Museum Act.
“In my judgement only legislation or a bona fide compromise of a claim of the heirs of Dr Feldmann to be entitled to the four drawings could entitle the Trustees (of the British Museum) to transfer them to any of those heirs,” Morritt said.
If the court had ruled that Goldsmith could give permission for the works to be returned, it might have given fresh impetus for efforts to get the museum to hand back other works whose ownership is in dispute.
The Elgin Marbles, a series of statues and fragments, were removed from the Parthenon in Athens by British ambassador Lord Elgin in the early 19th century and sold to the British Museum.
Greece has demanded them back almost ever since, most recently for last summer’s Olympic Games. The museum said at the time that returning the friezes would rip the heart out of a collection that tells the story of human civilisation.
“The British Museum Trustees do not accept that there is a moral claim to the Parthenon Sculptures, nor to any objects in the collection other than the Feldmann drawings,” it said in a statement on Friday.
The Commission for Looted Art in Europe (CLAE), which represents the Feldmann family, said it regretted that the museum had no legal way of returning the paintings.
The CLAE said the court decision made it clear that in the vast majority of cases the only way for Nazi-looted art to be returned would be through legislation. The government committed itself to a change in the law five years ago.
© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.
Bloomberg  (revised from original article with response from British Museum.)
British Museum Can’t Return Looted Works, Court Says (Update1)
May 27 (Bloomberg) — The British Museum, which holds antiquities including the Rosetta Stone and sculptures from Athens’ Parthenon, is barred from returning art looted by the Nazis to the heirs of a Jewish collector, a London court ruled.
The museum can’t override a law blocking it from disposing of pieces in its collection, the U.K. High Court said today. Peter Goldsmith, Britain’s Attorney General, had asked the court to determine whether the institute’s trustees could be permitted to return four drawings it suspects were stolen from Czech doctor Arthur Feldmann in 1939 on the grounds of “moral obligation.”
“No moral obligation can justify a disposition by the Trustees of an object forming part of the collections of the museum,” Justice Andrew Morritt said in the judgment. Feldmann, whose collection was seized from his home when the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia, later died in a Nazi prison.
Museums worldwide are facing growing pressure to return art works to their original owners. Greece has repeatedly asked to reclaim the Parthenon sculptures, known as the Elgin Marbles after the U.K. ambassador who removed them, from the British Museum. In Egypt, authorities have called for Berlin’s Egyptian Museum to return a 3,000-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti.
Lawyers representing Lord Goldsmith earlier this week said allowing the museum, which has more than 5 million visitors annually, to return the four Old Master drawings to Feldmann’s descendants could pave the way for claims on other works.
The British Museum said in a statement after the ruling that the drawings presented “a unique moral claim,” which it had wished to meet.
“It is now beyond doubt that, when there is a claim for an object in the British Museum collection which can be proved to have been stolen from a Jewish family by the Nazis, the object cannot be returned without the authority of an Act of Parliament,” it said in the statement.
The institute said it will now refer the claim to the U.K. Department for Culture, Media & Sport’s Spoliation Advisory Panel and seek its advice as to the most appropriate action to take in response.
The panel was set up in February 2000 to help resolve claims from people or their heirs who lost cultural objects during the Nazi era that are now held by British collections.
The Feldmann drawings, estimated to be worth around 150,000 pounds ($274,000), are “St. Dorothy with the Christ Child” by a follower of Martin Schongauer; “Virgin and infant Christ, adored by St. Elizabeth and the Infant St. John,” by Martin Johann Schmidt; “An Allegory on Poetic Inspiration with Mercury and Apollo” by Nicholas Blakey; and “The Holy Family” by Niccolo dell’Abbate.
The British Museum bought the drawings in good faith in the late 1940s, without knowing their origin, according to the judgment. It’s barred by the British Museum Act 1963 from disposing of any works in its collection, unless they are duplicates or found to be “useless.”
Justice Morritt today said that only new legislation or a “bona fide compromise” on the descendants’ claim to the drawings would allow the trustees to legally transfer the works.
The Commission for Looted Art in Europe, which has represented the Feldmann family on its case, said in a statement that it “regretted” the ruling and would continue to push for new laws permitting the drawings to be returned.
The British Museum said in its statement that its trustees “do not accept” that there is a moral claim to any objects in its collection other than the Feldmann drawings.
The case is HC04CO3885 Her Majesty’s Attorney General v The Trustees of the British Museum.
Last Updated: May 27, 2005 10:16 EDT
Macleans.ca (Canada) / AP 
May 27, 2005 – 10:35
Court rules British Museum has no authority to return art looted by Nazis
LONDON (AP) – A High Court judge ruled Friday that the British Museum cannot return four Old Master drawings to a Jewish family that lost them to Nazi looters in 1939.
The British Museum is not legally permitted to return the drawings, ruled Vice-Chancellor Andrew Morritt, a senior judge in the Chancery Division of the High Court. While sympathetic to the family’s claim, Morritt said it would require a change in the law.
An activist group representing the family making the claim called the ruling a setback for all people who lost art to Nazi-era looters.
The ruling also was likely to disappoint Greece, which has long demanded that the British Museum return the Elgin Marbles. The marbles, statues and fragments, were removed from Athens’ Parthenon in 1811 by Lord Elgin, and later sold to the museum. Greece has consistently demanded them back, most recently during last summer’s Olympic Games.
Under British law, trustees at Britain’s museums must maintain the integrity of their collections, including works obtained by the country when it was a 19th-century colonial power.
The British Museum, which obtained the four Old Master drawings at an auction after the Second World War, had sought permission to return them to the heirs of Czech lawyer Arthur Feldmann, under the terms of the Snowden principle.
The principle, set by a court ruling in 1970, permits charities to ask the attorney general for permission to return items it believes would be wrong for them to keep.
Lawyers for the British Museum had said the case of art looted by the Nazis is exceptional and would not create a precedent for other art work claims. Feldmann lost the art from his home in Brno, Czechoslovakia, when Germany invaded the country. He was tortured and killed by the Nazis, and his wife, Gisela, died at Auschwitz.
The drawings are St. Dorothy with the Christ Child, 1508, by a follower of Martin Schongauer, a German engraver; Virgin and Child Adored by St. Elizabeth and the Infant St. John by Martin Johann Schmidt, from the 18th century; An Allegory on Poetic Inspiration with Mercury and Apollo by the 18th-century English artist Nicholas Blakey, and The Holy Family by Niccolo dell’Abbate, the 16th-century Bolognese.
The drawings, which the museum bought for the equivalent of about $575 Cdn in today’s money, now are estimated to be worth about $345,000 Cdn.
During the case, lawyers for Attorney General Lord Goldsmith argued that a decision in favour of the Feldmann family could open claims to other art works in British museums, including the Elgin Marbles.
“Once the principle is established, then it could apply to any objects whatever their provenance,” Will Henderson, a lawyer for Lord Goldsmith, told the court. “Whether they were looted during the course of the Holocaust or whether they were acquired in unseemly circumstances at any other time. What if the moral claim were very different – if it were a cultural claim rather than a proprietary claim? . . . The door would be open.”
In his ruling, Morritt said no moral obligation can justify the British Museum trustees departing from the law protecting objects forming part of the collections.
“In my judgment, only legislation or a bona fide compromise of a claim of the heirs of Dr. Feldmann to be entitled to the four drawings could entitle the trustees to transfer any of them to those heirs,” Morritt said in his 13-page ruling.
The Commission for Looted Art in Europe, a group that represents the Feldmann family, criticized the decision.
“The ruling is significant for all claimants of looted art from the Nazi era, setting aside any possibility of restitution being achieved in this way, and showing that the government ought now to legislate in order to achieve clarity for all claimants,” the commission said in a written statement handed out in the High Court.