Amsterdam Mayor Wants State to Return Nazi-looted Painting Now in the City's Museum

Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA
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Visitors queue to enter Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, last year.
Visitors queue to enter Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, last year.Credit: Peter Dejong/AP
Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA

The mayor of Amsterdam has asked a Dutch committee to reassess its decision on a Holocaust restitution claim that keeps a $22 million painting looted by the Nazis in the city’s hands.

Mayor Femke Halsema said the Dutch Restitutions Committee should “re-evaluate” its 2018 ruling on “Painting with Houses,” a work by Wassily Kandinsky, which is now the property of the city-owned Stedelijk Museum. The committee said the “public interest” of having the painting on display there outweighs that of the family trying to retrieve it.

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The painting was illegally taken from its original Jewish owners.

“Returning this artwork will mean a lot to the victims and is important for acknowledging the injustice perpetrated,” Halsema wrote.

The committee’s decision, which was upheld in court, diverges from international restitution norms. It provoked international pressure and protests.

The family of a Holocaust survivor named Irma Klein has been fighting for about a decade in court to retrieve the painting. Klein and her husband sold “Painting with Houses” in the 1940s for the modern-day equivalent of about $1,600 because they needed money to survive the Holocaust.

Last year, an independent commission of inquiry into the progress in the restitution of looted art published an 86-page report titled “Striving Toward Justice,” which concludes that the Netherlands was an early leader in addressing the issue of stolen art, but “its reputation in recent years has been damaged by a limited number of refusals,” including the Kandinsky.

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