France has launched a campaign to return around 2000 artworks, including works by Monet, Renoir and Rubens, looted from Jews by the Nazis over 70 years ago, to their rightful owners and their descendants.
Paintings that have decorated the walls of the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay and other major French museums over the past years were been stolen between 1933 and 1945 and later recovered by the Allies.
According to Bloomberg, the French government has arranged a group of experts who will try to track down the families of the art owners, contact them and return the works. The group is scheduled to start their task in March. This will be France’s first attempt to find the victims of the Nazis instead of waiting for them to come forward.
“Seventy years is a long time, but it’s never too late to make things right,” Bloomberg quotes Jean-Pierre Bady, a former culture ministry director and one of key members in the new group of experts. “It may be one of our last chances to find the owners.”
Hundreds of thousands of artworks were seized by the Nazis from Jewish collectors as part of the state racial policy. This phenomenon is stil regarded as the biggest art heist of its kind in history.
A significant amount of the stolen art has already been recovered and returned, with unclaimed artworks ending up in national museums.