Trouw: The interest of the museum does not count in the restitution of looted art

[THIS IS AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE ORIGINAL DUTCH ARTICLE “Minister Van Engelshoven: Het belang van het museum telt niet bij de teruggave van roofkunst” PUBLISHED ON THE TROUW ON MARCH 2, 2021. (

Eric Brassem March 12, 2021 , 6:35 PM

The interests of museums possessing looted art from the Nazi era should not play a role when heirs request restitution. Minister Van Engelshoven (culture) has adopted these and other recommendations issued by the Kohnstamm Committee in December.

‘Restitution is more than just the return of a cultural object,’ Van Engelshoven writes in a letter to the Lower House. “It is the recognition of the injustice done to the original owners and a contribution to remedying this injustice.”

“That is more than moral support in my client’s case”, attorney Axel Hagedorn responds to the news. Hagedorn represents the interests of the Lewenstein family, who are claiming a painting by Wassily Kandinsky, Bild mit Häusern .

The restitution committee ruled in 2018 that the importance of the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum where the canvas hangs outweighed that of the family. The family filed a lawsuit but lost it last December. Just yesterday, Hagedorn appealed against that decision.

Perhaps it is no longer necessary to use a judge at all, because, the minister writes, the new rules may ‘under certain circumstances’ also apply to requests ‘on which it was decided earlier’.

The Minister also adopted other policy recommendations from the Kohnstamm Committee, such as more actively tracking down possible Nazi looted art and possible rights holders.