SYDNEY, Australia, Feb. 28 (JTA) – Australia will investigate whether nine paintings at a government-run museum were looted by the Nazis.
The paintings, housed at the New South Wales Art Gallery, include two highlights of the gallery’s European collection, George Braque’s “Landscape with Houses” and Ernst Kirchner’s “Three Bathers.”
New South Wales Premier Bob Carr, who announced that digital representations of the works in question would be placed on an Internet site, said the paintings “may have been stolen from people during the greatest crime that humanity has ever borne witness to.
“Theft of Jewish-owned art is minor when compared to the atrocities committed by the Nazis against world Jewry,” he added. “However, 55 years later, it is an issue that must be honorably redressed.”
George Foster, president of the Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants, said that even if the paintings were stolen, the chances of finding their owners would be slim because so much time has passed.
National galleries in North America and Europe have been tackling the issue of provenance of paintings with gaps in their ownership records during the Nazi period.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales looked into the ownership records of more than 40,000 works before concluding that the nine paintings from its 20th-century European collection may have been looted.