JUSTICE - No. 68

33 Summer 2022 ntroduction and Case Study This is historical in France: a law was unanimously adopted on February 21, 2022 (hereinafter: “New Law”),1 both by the National Assembly and by the Senate, allowing the restitution of fifteen works of art looted during the Second World War belonging to French public collections.2 As a result of this law, four separate families were able to recover their looted artwork. The New Law was comprised of four articles (one per family) and drafted in the same way: in derogation of the inalienability principle (to be explained below) of assets belonging to national collections, the painting ceases to belong to national collections. This vote reflects the Parliament’s view on the restitution of Nazi looted art as well as the commitment of the French government to justice and fair reparation to despoiled families. The New Law is also a consecration of the declaration made by the former President of France, Jacques Chirac, on July 16, 1995, acknowledging the responsibility of France for the deportation of French Jewish citizens, in line with the Washington Principles ratified by France in December 1998.3 Among these works was a painting by Marc Chagall, The Father, painted in 1911 and looted by the Nazis from David Cender, a Polish Jew, luthier, musician, and art collector. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, David Cender was forced out of his apartment in Lodz as it was raided and sealed by the Germans, and deported with his wife and two-year-old daughter. The Father, purchased in 1928 from Abe Gutnajer, a merchant in Warsaw, was despoiled by the Nazis. Cender’s wife and daughter were killed in Auschwitz, but he survived, and in 1959, initiated proceedings in Germany to recover his stolen painting. At that time, the painting was unable to be located, despite investigations conducted by the German authorities. David Cender died in 1966 without knowing the whereabouts of his artwork. It was only in 1972 that the German authorities officially recognized that David Cender was despoiled of his painting. Meanwhile, Marc Chagall himself managed to recover the painting, most probably between 1947 and 1953, after his return to France from the United States. Uncertainty remains as to how and where he found the painting. The painting was exhibited in the collections of the Museum of Art and History of Judaism (Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme) in Paris and entered the Public Collections of the French State through the dation of Marc Chagall's heirs in 1988. David Cender's heirs were informed of their rights by a Canadian company that specialized in the recovery of looted art, leading them to initiate proceedings to recover their artwork. This restitution, qualified by the French Ministry of Culture as historical, raises the following issues: n Why was a dedicated law needed? n What is the status of restitutions in France? n What is the future of restitutions in France, and would a framework law be necessary? What challenges would that raise? I. Why Was a Dedicated Law Needed? The legal capacity to recover looted artwork in France is affected by a series of factors such as when and where the spoliation took place; the current location of the painting; and whether the current possessor is a public institution, a private museum, or a collector. There are three ways to recover a looted artwork: n If the artwork is already classified as a “Museums National Recovery” (“MNR”) work, the restitution is automatic and does not require legal action or a vote on a specific law. The MNR works are constituted of artworks brought back from Germany after the Second World War. They are not the property of the French Restitution of Nazi Looted Art in France: A Historic Law Adopted I MélinaWolman 1. Law no. 2022-218 of February 21, 2022, relating to the restitution or return of certain cultural property to the heirs of their victim owners of anti-Semitic persecution. 2. Public collections are the property of the French State. 3. Washington Conference Principles on Nazi Confiscated Art released in connection with The Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets, Washington, DC, Dec. 3, 1988.