Nazi-Looted Art Still Unreturned

During WWII, the Nazi regime was responsible for the organized looting and theft of art. The Third Reich amassed hundreds of thousands of pieces of artwork -- worth billions of dollars. The Kunstschutz, “art protection,” were the military unit responsible for these activities. These authorities would often take art from Jews or have them trade the art for freedom. After the war, the plight of returning Nazi-looted art began. However, the locations of many pieces remained unknown. The first international campaign to recover these pieces was not launched until 50 years after WWII. In 1997, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder created the Commission for Art Recovery, which has become the leader in art restitution. In 1998, 49 countries pledged to identify art stolen from Holocaust victims and to compensate their heirs. In 2013, about 1500 artworks were discovered across Europe including works by artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall . Last September, Germany identified four drawings the Nazis stole from a Jewish home and returned them to the family. This March, a cathedral in Germany agreed to return a Nazi-looted painting after 80 years. In June, France created a task force to return cultural artifacts taken from Jews during WWII to their rightful owners. However, not all cases have been smooth sailing. A Jewish family recently lost a 15-year battle to recover a painting that was exchanged with Nazis so they wouldn't be sent to concentration camps. Today, many pieces can be found on the walls of museums, never to be returned. Although there has been an international effort to return the art to their rightful owners, many artworks are still missing. It is estimated that over 100,000 pieces of Nazi-looted art are still missing today.