PRAGUE (Jan. 16)
Jews across the world may be granted unlimited time to claim works of art confiscated by the Nazis that are now in Czech hands.
Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky said he would submit to the Czech Cabinet an amendment to the current law, which expires at the end of this year, with the goal of pushing the new law through Parliament before the summer recess.
A special government commission set up two years ago has identified thousands of paintings and art objects in the hands of state galleries and museums across the Czech Republic that belonged to Jews before World War II. They include works by Gustav Klimt and Auguste Renoir.
Lobbying by the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, which argued that more time was needed for the claims process, convinced the government to consider amending the law, which was passed in 2000.
Tomas Kraus, executive director of the Federation, welcomed the move.
The search for works of art in museums and galleries has not been completed, and there still are many people who don’t realize they can ask for the return of such property, he said.
It also has been very difficult for foreign citizens to find relevant documents in support of their claims.
Kraus said the claims process has become more difficult as some museums and galleries refuse to hand over works because they have papers showing the art had been donated to them. During the war, however, any such statement would have been written under pressure, Kraus said.
The Czech Ministry of Culture has set up a list of artworks identified as confiscated by the Nazis, at www.restitution-art.cz. Unlike other Czech restitution laws, non-Czech citizens are permitted to make claims.
Original owners or their heirs can submit claims if their property was confiscated between Nov. 29, 1938, and May 4, 1945.