Austria Promises to Return Art Looted by Nazis to Jewish Owners

The Committee for Jewish Claims on Austria expressed satisfaction today with the government’s promise to restore paintings and other art objects looted by the Nazis to their rightful Jewish owners or their heirs and to use the proceeds of an auction of unclaimed property for the benefit of surviving Jewish persecutees in Austria.

Dr. Israel Miller, president of the Committee, said after a meeting with Chancellor Fred Sinowatz, that he was assured that the government has no wish to profit from Nazi thefts. Sinowatz said the government shortly will prepare and make available a full inventory of artworks in its possession. Procedures for filing claims will be announced and a valuation of the objects will be undertaken.

Many looted items were restored to their owners shortly after World War II. But a substantial collection of unclaimed items remains in government hands. Most of these are presently stored in a former monastary in Mauerbach, near Vienna or are on display in State museums.

Some unclaimed paintings hang in Austrian embassies in various parts of the world. Some art experts who were allowed recently to inspect the items in Mauerbach said they were mostly of mediocre quality and relatively low value.

PLEASED BY CHANCELLOR’S RESPONSE

Miller said he assured the Chancellor that the Claims Committee will use all of its resources to inform potential claimants of the Austrian government’s decision. “We are pleased with the Chancellor’s response to our specific representations and to his acceptance of the principle that heirless Jewish property should be utilized for the benefit of Jewish survivors of Nazi persecution in Austria,” Miller said.

The Committee for Jewish Claims on Austria, founded in 1952, represents 22 major international Jewish organizations throughout the world. It is headquartered in New York. Representatives of several of those organizations accompanied Miller at his meetings with Sinowatz.

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