At Least 42 Dutch Museums Contain Art Stolen From Jews During WWII, Report Finds

83 paintings, 26 illustrations and 13 Judaica objects were probably taken from their owners between 1933 and 1945, according to the Dutch Museums Association

Maya Asheri
Maya Asheri
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Forty-two museums in the Netherlands appear to have at least 170 stolen works taken from Jews during World War II, according to a report by the Dutch Museums Association published Wednesday.

The Association’s website contains a complete list of all the stolen items that have been identified thus far. These include 83 paintings, 26 illustrations and 13 Judaica objects that were probably taken from their owners between 1933 and 1945. Works whose original owners were identified and confirmed by a committee were returned to the families.

In 2015, the Dutch royal family returned a painting by Joris van der Haagen to its original owners. The former queen of the Netherlands, Juliana, bought it in 1960 without knowing its source. A palace investigation was carried out as part of the Dutch Museums Association project and revealed that it had apparently been taken by force and transferred to a Nazi bank. In another case, a statue of Moses by the artist Alessandro Vittoria was recently restored to the heirs of Emma Budge, who died in 1937. According to the Association’s investigation, the statue is part of an art collection owned by Budge, captured by the Nazis after her death and sold at an auction.

Other works on the list include paintings by Kandinsky and Matisse that form part of the collection of the Stedelijk Museum, a painting by Jan Adam Kruseman of the Rijksmuseum, a painting by Max Liebermann at the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam, Hans Memling’s painting ‘De Bewening,’ two paintings by Isaac Lazarus Israëls and others. Among other works, illustrations by Jan Toorop that appear in the list seem to belong to the extensive Goudstikker collection, parts of which were already returned to his descendants in 2006.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is the only one yet to complete its examination, although around 25 works from its collection have already been added to the list. A five-person team has been working since 2012 to review all the works at the museum, but the size of the collection – the largest in the country – is causing delays.

According to the website, those who think they may be legal heirs to one of the identified works can file a claim with the committee established to examine the matter. Since 2002, 460 works in Holland have been returned to their Jewish owners from museums, private collections and public institutions. The project involved 163 museums, 42 of which included works that found their way to the list. “This research is important for reaching historical justice,” said Chris Janssen from the Association’s project. “A museum should only show a piece of work if it knows its story and history. It is the only way it can provide its visitors with accurate information.”