Looted Art

I went to a lecture at the London Jewish Cultural Centre last night. The chairman was David Glasser, who is chairman of the Ben Uri Gallery, and the main speaker was Howard Spiegler, a New York lawyer who specialises in acting for claimants. David Lewis, the chairman of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, also spoke.

The scale of the art seized illegally by the Germans before and during the War beggars belief. The task of getting any of it back into the hands of its rightful owners is also mind-boggling in its legal and practical complexity.

I have encountered the fringes of this vast world in my Watson research, as the contents of his Paris flat were seized in December 1940. The role of the Paris art dealers in helping the Germans to find valuable collections and then helping them to dispose of the modern pictures they didn’t want is a murky tale. An account of the process insofar as it affected Watson will be in the book.