British institutions to return art looted by the Nazis
The Times, 29 July 2005By Dalya Alberge
FOUR Old Master drawings in the British Museum, and a 12th-century manuscript in the British Library, are among treasures that will be returned to their original owners under new legislation.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, having dragged its heels for five years, confirmed yesterday that the law will be changed to allow the restitution of works of art looted during the Second World War.
Although the legislation will be limited to the period between 1933 and 1945, it will be seen as setting a precedent for other claims, notably the Elgin Marbles, which Greece says the British Museum should return.
Five years after the Culture Select Committee called for new legislation, a Culture Department spokesman said yesterday that it was now ironing out the details. The main question is whether the ultimate decision should be left to directors of individual museums or to the relevant minister.
The British Museum drawings belonged to Arthur Feldmann, a Czech Jewish lawyer whose house in Brno was occupied within hours of the Germans crossing the border in 1939. He was murdered.
The 12th-century missal in the British Library was looted from a cathedral near Naples. The independent Spoliation Advisory Panel ruled in March that it must be returned.