PARIS, March 2 (JTA) — Four French museums have announced special exhibits for next month of some 900 works of art that the Nazis took from France during World War II. Some of the works might have been looted from Jews, and organizers of the exhibits said they hoped that such pieces would be claimed by their rightful owners. The exhibits — which include works by Picasso, Cezanne and Matisse – – will open April 9 at the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, the Pompidou Centre and the Musee National de la Ceramique. The event comes in the wake of a report by France’s state spending watchdog accusing the national museum network of having made little or no effort to return some 1,995 works of art that were entrusted to them shortly after the end of the war. The museums were required by law to try to locate the owners or heirs of the art. In addition, the French government recently announced that it would conduct a probe into Jewish property seized during World War II. Jewish leaders welcomed the decision to hold the exhibits. “The fact that the state museums are exhibiting these paintings, whose origins remain unknown, and even shady, can be considered as a necessary step forward,” said Marcel Goldstein, vice president of CRIF, France’s umbrella group of secular Jewish organizations. French Jewish leaders had been astonished at recent revelations that French national museums had failed to seek the rightful owners of the precious works. The 900 works will be displayed with a record of historical background that might help in locating their rightful owners. Some of the works are believed to have been seized from Jews who were deported to concentration camps or fleeing persecution. Others might have been sold to German officers by art dealers who collaborated with the wartime regime.
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