British museum may return Nazi-looted art
LONDON - The British Museum said on Wednesday it may return four Old Masters' drawings seized from a Jewish collector by the Nazis during World War Two in one of the first such claims against a British collection.
The 16th and 18th century artworks were said to have been part of the renowned collection of Dr. Arthur Feldmann, a Czech citizen who was persecuted and died after the 1939 Nazi invasion.
His surviving family has spent years searching for his collection of more than 750 drawings which was seized by the Gestapo.
The museum called the family's claim "detailed" and "compelling" on Wednesday.
British Museum spokeswoman Dr Carol Homden said the lost works may eventually be returned to the family or they may be paid compensation.
"It's going to take a number of weeks, perhaps months, to work through those issues," she said.
"The important thing is that the claim has been considered and we now have to work to achieve a speedy resolution."
In 2001, a government panel was set up to investigate the claims of former owners and their families about Nazi-confiscated art.
Since then, British national museums and galleries have received only one such claim, resulting in a 125,000 pound ($195,000) payout for a painting in the Tate Gallery's collection.
In acknowledging the claim by Feldmann's family, the British Museum said it recognised that "the atrocities committed during 1933-45 represent a distinct and brutal period of modern history".
Homden said the museum had acquired the four drawings in good faith - three of the works were bought at a Sothebys auction in 1946 and the fourth came through a bequest.
Anne Webber, co-chairwoman of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, which has helped Feldmann's descendants pursue their claim, praised the museum's findings.
"The return of these four drawings would be of immense personal significance to the family," she said.
"The (British Museum) director is extremely sympathetic to the needs of the family and the need to reach a resolution as soon as possible."
After the war ended in 1945, tens of thousands of artworks pillaged by the Nazis were scattered around the world.
In April, the Netherlands agreed to hand over 233 works of plundered art to the family of a man who was beaten to death in a concentration camp.