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Holocaust looted art bill will allow de-acessioning of some artefacts

More coverage of Andrew Dismore’s bill [1] to allow museums to over-ride their governing charters & return artefacts looted during the Nazi era.

Hendon & Finchley Times [2]

Looted artwork from the Second World War could be returned under new bill tabled by Hendon MP Andrew Dismore
12:31pm Tuesday 10th November 2009
By Kevin Bradford

A LAW allowing artwork looted by the Nazis to be returned to families is set for royal approval this week.

A number of historic items, which were taken by the regime from homes during the Second World War, are on display in galleries and museums in Britain, but are prevented by current laws from being handed back to those families.

The Holocaust (return of cultural objects) Bill was tabled by Hendon MP Andrew Dismore, who announced in Parliament its purpose “is to meet our moral, if not legal, obligations to provide a mechanism for the return to their rightful owners of cultural objects held in national collections that were looted during the Nazi period.”

The law would cover items such as painting and drawings by renowned masters worth thousands of pounds, some of which are displayed in institutions such as the British Museum and the Tate.

A government spoilation advisory panel would be set up as part of the Bill to oversee claims made by families, recommend whether they should be returned, and detail any level of compensation.

Mr Dismore told Parliament best estimates suggest there are about 20 certainly looted items in UK museums, but admitted there could be more that would benefit from the legislation.

He said: “A the moment, museums don’t have the power to make restitution. The laws don’t allow the galleries to de-acquire the objects and this bill aims to rectify those problems.

“Nobody knows how many cases will come out of it, because as the law stands, nobody is making any claims, but I don’t expect there to be hundreds.”

The Bill has completed its passage in the House of Lords, and only awaits Royal Assent to become law.

But Mr Dismore, who camped out overnight on the floor of the House of Commons in January to ensure he was first in line to submit the Private Members’ Bills, added he did not anticipate a flood of claims leading to public collections being cleared of the looted artefacts.

“Most people will be satisfied to have a note of heritage, or attribution on the object when it is displayed,” he said.

“Hopefully it closes another chapter on the evils of the holocaust that haven’t been resolved and helps right a number of the wrongs.”