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Senate committee advances WWII art recovery bill

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] on Thursday advanced a bill that would extend the statute of limitations for Holocaust families and heirs trying to retrieve artwork seized by Nazis during World War II. The Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act [materials] was introduced [Dallas Morning News report] in April and co-authored by Texas senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz [official profiles] with the intention of allowing rightful heirs to have their day in court. In support of the bill, Cornyn has stressed the importance of bringing further justice to Holocaust victims and restoring their lost culture. Cornyn also amended the bill to not retroactively apply to those that have already declined the opportunity to pursue a claim for any artwork of interest. The bill was passed by the committee on a unanimous vote and is expected to be approved by the full senate.

The new bill is meant to fulfill a 2009 agreement made between the US and several other countries to fairly resolve disputes over Nazi-seized artwork. Should the bill pass, it will aid families who have often struggled with museums to reclaim their lost artwork. In June Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, claimed [Dallas Morning News report] that museums and collectors have demonstrated a pattern of "running the clock" to keep Holocaust artwork away from their rightful owners. Courts have also tended to side with museums [AP report] in court disputes over such artwork. Last month a California judge sided with a museum in a 10-year dispute over Nazi-seized art after determining that the family abandoned the art by not seeking restitution.

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