Returning the looted art
Our special investigation today into the growing pressure for the restitution of art looted by the Nazis raises an urgent moral question for British parliamentarians. Without an effective restitution law in Britain to assist the heirs of those who lost their artworks to the Nazis, this country risks falling behind the higher ethical standards of many of its peers. Of more immediate concern, the government’s planned “anti-seizure” law will give our own museums and galleries immunity from claims when they display artworks known to have been looted. However pragmatic the law’s intentions — and it is easy to understand why prospective lenders of artworks are concerned to minimise their risks — this cannot, on any moral grounds, be right. Six decades on, the British government should do only what makes it easier for heirs to obtain what is, in truth, rightfully theirs.