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Museums mull Nazi restitution

November 21, 2006|From the Associated Press

Germany's culture minister and top museums called Monday for more transparency in the return of paintings stolen by the Nazis, responding to concerns that the nation's galleries risk losing scores of valuable and popular works.

The government insists it stands by a 1998 agreement signed in Washington to identify and return to the rightful owners works illegally taken under the Nazis. Museum directors, however, have expressed concern over losing paintings acquired in good faith with the intention of showing them in public.

Culture Minister Bernd Neumann and museum directors agreed Monday to form a working group that would consider how to better handle restitution cases. The goal, he said, is "to make the currently rather emotional discussion more businesslike."

Dozens of German museums face restitution claims, and many feel ill-equipped to carry out the necessary and costly research required to trace the ownership of the artworks. Art experts estimate the ownership of as many as 100 paintings by German Expressionists could be in question.

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