139 Artworks Stolen From Jews During WWII Found in Dutch Museums

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | October 30, 2013 12:14 PM EST

A woman looks at the pictures called 'The Apocalypse' by German Renaissance painter Albrecht Duerer during a preview of the 'Duerer' exhibition at the Staedel museum in Frankfurt October 22, 2013. The exhibition opens tomorrow and runs until February 2, 2014. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach (GERMANY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

At least 139 of the artworks seen in various Dutch museums were determined to have been stolen from the Jews during the 1933 to 1945 World War II invasion by the Nazis.

A probe into the country's art acquisitions conducted by the Netherlands Museums Association yielded some 69 paintings, two sculptures, 31 decorative art objects, 13 Jewish ritual objects and 24 drawings have "potentially problematic history."

"These objects are either thought or known to have been looted, confiscated or sold under duress," Siebe Weide, director of the Netherlands Museums Association, said. Among the paintings the Nazi included in their loot were from painting masters Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky.

Coinciding with the launch of the Web site http://www.musealeverwervingen.nl that details the artwork pieces and their histories, the aim is eventually to contact family members or heirs of the original owners.

The Web site is initially available in Dutch. An English translation will be launched by end 2013.

Returning the precious artworks to their rightful owners is "both a moral obligation and one that we have taken upon ourselves," Mr Weide said.

Tourists look at artwork based on images of revolutionary leader Che Guevara at an artisans' fair in Havana October 8, 2013. Forty-six years after he was captured by soldiers in a Bolivian jungle and executed the next day, the Argentine-born Ernesto Guevara De La Serna, also known as "Che", is still a national hero in Cuba where he joined Fidel Castro in an armed uprising that ousted a U.S.-backed dictator in 1959. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan (CUBA - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS ANNIVERSARY TRAVEL)

The investigation probed a total of 162 Dutch museums. The 139 questionable objects came from 41 different museums. Out of the total, only 61 so far have been linked to their original owners.

Among the potentially questionable artworks are:

  • Kandinsky's "View of Murnau with Church"
  • Kandinsky's "Painting with Houses"
  • Matisse's 1921 "Odalisque"

As to museums, the Gemeentemuseum, Hague's main modern art venue, has the most number of questionable artworks at 19 pieces. It was followed by the Stedelijk, Amsterdam's main modern art museum, with 16 pieces, and Amsterdam's celebrated Rijksmuseum with nine pieces. The latter has the 17th-century silver salt cellar by Johannes Lutma.

"It was no easy task, but our museums always realised the importance of the research. The fact that much time has passed since the end of the Second World War should not be a reason not to do the research."

"The Museum Acquisitions research from 1933 gets to the heart of what museums do: studying their collections and telling the story to the public," Mr Weide said.

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