Actor Helen Mirren and former U.S. Ambassador to Austria and philanthropist Ron Lauder appear Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee on a visceral issue that has troubled many for seven decades: the repatriation of art stolen by the Nazis before and during World War II.
Both will testify in support of the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act - bipartisan legislation introduced in April by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas, and Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
The legislation is meant to help Holocaust survivors and their families recover the looted works. The act also would ensure that U.S. law encourages the resolution of claims on Nazi-confiscated art “in a fair and just manner,” and in concert with U.S. foreign policy.
Monica Dugot, international director of restitution for Christie’s, will also appear at the hearing, along with Simon Goodman, author of “The Orpheus Clock,” which documented his quest to recover his family’s stolen art; and Agnes Peresztegi, director of the Commission for Art Recovery, an international organization founded in 1997 and affiliated with the World Jewish Congress.
According to the commission, Nazis looted 20 percent of the Western art collections located in Europe during World War II. “Tens of thousands of items remain displaced, missing or destroyed,” the organization noted in its mission statement.
“The phrase ‘never forget’ is more than a slogan. ‘Never forget’ means working to right all the terrible injustices of the Holocaust, even if many decades have passed. The Act will empower the victims of this horrific persecution, and help ensure that our legal system does everything it can to redress the widespread looting of cultural property by the Third Reich as part of its genocidal campaign against the Jewish people and other groups,” said Mr. Cruz after introducing the legislation two months ago.
“71 years after the end of the holocaust and Hitler’s terrifying regime, victims are still identifying possessions that have been missing all these years,” Mr. Schumer also noted at the time. “When a family discovers a piece of art that was stolen by the Nazis they deserve their day in court. This legislation helps provide these families their day in court, ensuring that the heirs of holocaust victims are given the opportunity to bring their art back home.”
• Jennifer Harper can be reached at email@example.com.
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