Report: Little or no progress in restitution of Nazi-era looted art in many countries

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BERLIN — Fifteen years after the first international agreement on the restitution of Nazi-era looted art, more than half of the countries that endorsed such accords have done "little or nothing" to implement them, the Jewish Claims Conference said in a report released Thursday.

In the report, the Claims Conference and the World Jewish Restitution Organization analyzed the activities of some 50 countries and concluded that only four — Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands — have made "major progress" in implementing agreements on returning art and other cultural property plundered during the Nazi era.

The Nazis stole hundreds of thousands of objects of art from Jews, museums and other institutions in occupied Europe. Many found their way into the hands of the Soviets, Western Allies or others, and are scattered around the world today.

The countries analyzed in the report are all signatories to either the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art or the 2009 Terezin Declaration, or both.

All have also signed a resolution calling for museums to establish the full provenance of items in their collection, but only a minority of museums have implemented this code, the report said. The groups called for the creation of an international panel of experts to help "guide museums toward more actively and professionally investigating the histories of items in their collections."

"As we approach 70 years since the end of World War II, and 15 years since the Washington Conference, action and restitution must take the place of talks and agreements," said Greg Schneider, Claims Conference executive vice president, in a statement.

The report concluded that in addition to the top four, another 11 countries had made "substantial progress," but seven were listed as only having taken some steps and 23 as having made no significant progress. Several others weren't ranked for lack of information.

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