Museums and the Holocaust


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by Norman Palmer

Published in 2000
322 Pages.

The years 1933-1945 witnessed the most convulsive shift in human population since the Great Plague. Millions were displaced by events in Europe alone. Families, communities and races were decimated and dispersed: through deportation, conscription, evacuation, slavery, flight and death. Accompanying this human displacement was a colossal deprivation of property, both private and institutional. So much emerges from the sufferings of Jewish people alone. The agents of the Holocaust liquidated bank accounts, jewellery, insurance policies, gold, furniture, businesses and land holdings, as well as people. They razed synagogues and sold sacred objects. By far the greater part of the revenue was destined for State or party funds, but much found its way into private pockets.

This book examines the fate which befell some of the great artistic works taken during the Nazi era. It explores the ways in which such things are being regained or retained and the modern initiatives that are being taken to assist claimants. It has something to say about the role of lawyers. And it asks, what does all this tell us about our relationship to history, and is it too little too late?

About the Author
Norman Palmer was Professor of the Law of Art and Cultural Property (Emeritus) at University College London; Chairman of the Illicit Trade Advisory Panel, Chairman of the Treasure Valuation Committee, and Member of the Spoliation Advisory Panel. He passed away in 2016.


1. Art and the Nazi Terror
2. The Modern Upsurge in Claims
3. The Museum Perspective
4. Anti-Seizure Statutes
5. The Futility of Litigation
6. Original but not Enduring Title
7. Restitution, Recoupment and Indemnity
8. Solutions other than Litigation
9. Post-War Restitution Laws
10. Current National Initiatives
11. A Special Jurisdiction: France
12. A Special Jurisdiction: Australia
13. Conclusion


1. Austrian Legislation
2. French Legislation
3. Schiele Litigation
4. City of Gotha Litigation
5. Gentili di Giuseppe Litigation
6. Council of Europe Resolution
7. Washington Conference Statement of Principles
8. AAMD Statement of Principles
9. AAM/ICOM Guidelines
10. NMDC Statement of Principles
11. Museum Association Statement of Principles
12. Spoliation Advisory Panel Terms of Reference
13. London Declaration 1943
14. Recording, Retrieval and Tracing Agencies
15. Culture, Media and Sport Committee Report

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