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Banker’s kin suing Hungary for return of artworks

(JTA) — The heirs of a Jewish banker sued the Hungarian government demanding the return of artwork valued at $100 million that allegedly was confiscated during World War II.

The heirs of Hungarian banker Baron Mor Lipot Herzog are seeking the return of more than 40 works by masters such as El Greco, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Zurbaran, van Dyck, Velazquez and Monet, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The paper called it the world’s largest unresolved Holocaust art claim.

The suit was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Washington against the government of Hungary and several museums it oversees.

Herzog’s heirs have been petitioning the Hungarian government for more than two decades to return the art, most of which has been hanging in Hungarian museums after being left there for safekeeping during World War II, according to the Times.

"It’s a very emotional subject," David de Csepel, a great-grandson of Baron Herzog, told the newspaper.

The requests have been rebuffed, as have appeals to the government from current and former U.S. senators over the years, including Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton and Edward Kennedy.

A Hungarian court ruled in 2008 that the government was not required to return the art, according to the Times.

Gabor Foldvari, Hungary’s deputy consul general in New York, told the Times in a telephone interview that "it was not the government’s decision but the court’s decision" to keep the art.

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