New York law requires museums to identify European art stolen by Nazis

Anyone looking at a work of art in New York museums will now know immediately if it was stolen by the Nazis during World War II in Europe, under a new state law passed this week.

Governor Kathy Hochul has signed a series of bills aimed at raising awareness of the atrocities of the Holocaust and the Nazi regime by requiring museums to identify works of art stolen – especially from the Jewish community – during the Nazi era . The laws also aim to ensure New York schools educate students about the Holocaust and require the New York State Department of Financial Services to maintain a list of banks that waive wire transfer fees for reparations payments. of the Holocaust.

The Nazis looted about 600,000 paintings from the Jewish community during World War II, according to state officials. New York has one of the largest populations of Holocaust survivors in the world.

“As New Yorkers, we are united in our solemn commitment to Holocaust survivors: We will never forget,” Hochul said in a statement. “These are people who endured untold tragedy but nonetheless persevered to build lives of meaning and purpose right here in New York City.”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum and Brooklyn Museum did not reveal plans to credit Nazi-looted art and did not immediately respond to inquiries. requests for comment on the new state law.

In 2018, the Guggenheim family returned a painting titled “Artillerymen” to surviving family members of German-Jewish art dealer Alfred Flechtheim, who was forced to flee Berlin after Adolf Hitler came to power.

Bruce Ratner, chairman of the board of trustees of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, said Holocaust education is key to individual and collective responsibility.

“Teaching and learning about the Holocaust not only commemorates the victims, but helps create a forum to examine the history and evolution of anti-Semitism in a time when we continue to witness xenophobia, genocides ongoing, the ongoing refugee crisis, and threats to democratic values,” Ratner said in a statement.

However, these new state laws do not address art stolen from non-European countries, especially during the colonial era.

Following the racial toll that shook the country in 2020, some American museums have started working to repatriate their works to their countries of origin. For example, 16 museums that hold short-style artwork from the Kingdom of Benin said they were in the process of repatriation. Last year, the United States returned more than 17,000 contraband artifacts to Iraq.

Experts estimate that thousands of African artworks are still in museums around the world.

The governor’s office did not respond to questions about stolen art from non-European countries.

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