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Article
The New Battleground of Museum Ethics and Holocaust Era Claims: Technicalities Trumping Justice or Responsible Stewardship for the Public Trust?
Oregon Law Review (2009)
  • Jennifer Kreder
Abstract
How should museums, collectors and governments handle the ever-increasing number of claims that art in their collections had been looted or subject to a forced sale? Museums can restitute art only if presented with solid proof of looting or else they would violate fiduciary obligations to manage their collections in trust for the public. The current wave of claims attempts to expand the definition of “forced sale” to include all property sold as a result of discriminatory economic persecution during the Nazi era. If courts hearing the many currently pending claims adopt such a definition, the number of art objects potentially subject to restitution will be astronomical. Out of fear, U.S. museums have begun filing declaratory judgments to defeat such claims, and they are asserting technical defenses instead of defending the claims on the historical merits as was contemplated by the 1998 Washington Principles and museums’ ethics codes. The article offers compromise solutions, including a statute to create a Nazi Era Claims Commission, which was an agenda item during a March 2, 2009, meeting at the State Department to prepare for the June 2009 diplomatic conference on the subject to be held in Prague. Legislation affecting the topic is currently being drafted.
Keywords
  • museum,
  • Nazi,
  • Holocaust,
  • art,
  • painting,
  • personal property,
  • State Department,
  • Washington Principles
Disciplines
Publication Date
2009
Citation Information
Jennifer Kreder. "The New Battleground of Museum Ethics and Holocaust Era Claims: Technicalities Trumping Justice or Responsible Stewardship for the Public Trust?" Oregon Law Review Vol. 88 (2009)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jennifer_kreder/4/