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Schumer’s HEAR Act Will Help Return Artwork Confiscated During Holocaust to Rightful Owners & Heirs

Schumer: It Is Our Moral Duty to Help Holocaust Survivors & Their Families Achieve Some Justice

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act (HEAR) Act. Specifically, the HEAR Act will help facilitate the return of artwork lost to Nazis during the Holocaust to their rightful owners or heirs, and will ensure that American law encourages the resolution of claims on Nazi-confiscated art on the merits, in a fair and just manner. Doing so is consistent with long-standing U.S. foreign policy, as demonstrated in the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art and the 2009 Terezin Declaration. The legislation was introduced by Schumer and Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). 

“Decades after the Holocaust, families of victims and survivors alike are still seeking their belongings that were stripped away from them. While we can never right the wrongs of the Holocaust, it is our moral duty to help those survivors and their families achieve what justice can be found. This legislation is a drop of justice in what was an ocean of injustice – but it is our duty as legislators to give these families the opportunity to have their day in court,” said Sen. Schumer.

“Nothing will make up for the terror and pain suffered by the victims during such a dark and horrific time in history,” said Sen. Cornyn. “For the families of those who lost everything at the hands of the Nazis, hopefully today serves as an important and symbolic step to reclaiming not just artwork, but familial legacy.”

"Although more than 70 years have passed since the Holocaust, it is never too late to do the right thing.  The quest to reunite the families of Holocaust victims with their stolen heritage is ultimately a quest to help them reclaim a tangible link to a happier time in their family’s history—a time before the darkness of the Holocaust. That is far more valuable than whatever economic value the works of art or cultural artifacts might have today. Indeed, that is priceless,” said Sen. Cruz.  “The HEAR act sends a clear signal that we continue to reject every noxious vestige of the Nazi regime.  I appreciate the leadership of Sens. Cornyn, Schumer, and Blumenthal on this issue and am looking forward to continuing to work with all my colleagues in Congress to pass it into law." 

“The theft of art by the Nazi regime was more than a pilfering of property—it was an act of inhumanity,” Sen. Blumenthal said. “Today’s action brings us one step closer to providing simple justice to families whose cherished art was brazenly stolen by the Nazis. It is long past time to return the ill-gotten gains of one of history’s vilest villains.”

Ambassador Ronald Lauder said, "The Senate Judiciary Committee’s passage of the HEAR Act is a great moment for all those invested in delivering justice for victims of the Holocaust and their families,” said Ronald Lauder, Chairman of the Commission for Art Recovery (CAR) and President of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO). “The commitment of Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Leahy, Senators Cornyn, Schumer, Blumenthal, Cruz, and all the bill’s sponsors to pass legislation giving families the ability to recover their stolen heritage is inspiring. The HEAR Act will ensure survivors of the Holocaust and their families can have their day in court to pursue claims for property stolen from them during the Holocaust. I applaud the Committee for passing this historic, bipartisan legislation and urge the Senate’s leadership to allow a vote on this bill without delay. Our discussions also produced a commitment between the Commission for Art Recovery and the Association of Art Museum Directors to collaborate on projects to further improve provenance research and establish alternative mechanisms to address provenance disputes and help resolve future claims.”