Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged Congress to pass the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act. Schumer’s remarks were made at a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee’s hearing on the bill. The legislation, which Schumer introduced along with Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), aims to help facilitate the return of artwork stolen by Nazis during the Holocaust to their rightful owners or heirs. The Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act would 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.

Schumer’s prepared remarks are below:

  • For decades, survivors and family members of those who perished in the Holocaust have sought whatever small measure of justice they could for the crimes committed against them.
  • Even today, more than 70 years after those atrocities, there are still wrongs that need to be righted. And while there are so many things that we can never recover from the Holocaust – so many lives taken from us --  it is our moral duty to help those survivors and their families achieve what justice can be found.
  • For example, the Nazis not only sought to kill Jews in Europe, they sought to destroy their heritage: their temples were destroyed; their books were burned; their art was stolen. The Nazis tried to end European Jewry totally and irrevocably, including the rich intellectual, artistic, and cultural history of the Jews in Europe.
  • They failed. But there is still work to be done to help the survivors and their families reclaim treasured family heirlooms that were stolen from them. Pieces of art that were stolen from Jewish families by the Nazis have been passed down and sold on through the years, even though there are survivors and descendants out there who are the rightful owners.
  • The statute of limitations for these crimes has passed -- they occurred over 70 years ago – but the existence and location of these pieces of art are still being discovered.
  • The movie ‘Woman in Gold’ was about one woman’s legal fight to recover a piece of her stolen family history. And after seeing Dame Mirren’s incredible performance in the movie, I called up Ambassador Lauder and told him that I wanted to join in the effort to help these families, an issue on which he has been a real leader.
  • So we put together this legislation to allow victims the opportunity to have their day court – changing the statute of limitations to allow victims and their families to bring their claims to court once they identify the location of a piece of art that was stolen…instead of when the crime was committed.
  • This not only makes eminent sense, it is the morally right thing to do.
  • It is a drop of justice in what was an ocean of injustice – but it is our duty as legislators to give it to these families.
  • So I want to thank Senators Cornyn, Cruz and Blumenthal for working with me on this important legislation and also Chairman Grassley’s willingness to work with us. I thank also all the witnesses for lending their voices to this important issue and I urge my colleagues to pass this bill.


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