New York museums are now required to identify works of art on display that were stolen by the Nazis

In a remarkable effort to do what’s right, New York Governor Kathy Hochul just signed a new bill that will officially require all local museums to identify exhibits of art that have been stolen from Jews by the Nazis during World War II.

What is particularly honorable about the new guidelines is that they also apply to forced sales of works of art.

According to an official Press releaseduring the war, the Nazis looted approximately 600,000 paintings from Jews, “enriching the Third Reich and eliminating all vestiges of Jewish identity and culture”.

Until now, New York museums exhibited the pieces without being transparent about their origins. Current law requires works created before 1945 that changed hands in Europe during the Nazi era to be listed on the art loss register so victims can track down what was stolen from them. This measure has obviously never been sufficient.

As reported by gothamistin 2018, “the Guggenheim family returned a painting titled ‘Artillerymen’ to the surviving family members of German-Jewish art dealer Alfred Flechtheim”, who fled Berlin after Adolf Hitler came to power.

Given that New York is home to one of the largest populations of Holocaust survivors in the world, the recently announced changes have been a long time coming.

Photography: Shutterstock

“As New Yorkers, we are united in our solemn commitment to Holocaust survivors: We will never forget,” Governor Hochul said in an official statement. “These are people who endured untold tragedy but who nonetheless persevered to build lives of meaning and purpose here in New York. We owe them, their families and the six million Jews who perished. in the Holocaust, to honor their memory and ensure future generations understand the horrors of that time.”

According to the new bill, the work must be accompanied by a prominent sign or other form of sign indicating its provenance. It is important to note, however, that the new legislation does not apply to works of art stolen from non-European countries.

The new law is part of a legislative package that also requires the New York State Department of Financial Services to publish a list of financial institutions that voluntarily waive fees for paying Holocaust reparations. According gothamistthe legislation also seeks to “ensure that New York schools educate students about the Holocaust.”

“Unfortunately, studies have shown that far too many youth and young adults in our state – and across our country – are unaware of the Holocaust, have never visited a Holocaust museum or spoken with a survivor of the Holocaust. Holocaust,” Bruce Ratner, chairman of the board of trustees of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, said in an official statement. “We must do everything in our power to ensure that the Holocaust is never erased from our memory. Teaching and learning about the Holocaust not only commemorates the victims, but helps create a forum to examine the history and evolution of antisemitism at a time when we continue to witness xenophobia, ongoing genocides , the current refugee crisis and threats to democratic values.

Almost 80 years have passed since the Holocaust, but recent events clearly show that the problem of anti-Semitism is still an integral part of society as a whole. While Governor Hochul’s new measure is obviously a step in the right direction, we hope even more positive changes are on the way.

Christopher S. Washington