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Major European countries haven't followed up on post-WWII treaty

Photo By: NY Times


Kyle McCoy, Staff Writer

It's been nearly 75 years since the second world war came to an end bringing a close to one of the most chaotic and violent chapters in world history. After the war was over the countries involved started to rebuild and attempt to move on from the bloodshed. However, the scars of war will never be fully healed until everything that was stolen during the war is returned.

While the lives taken can be never be restored the symbols of their countries pride and history can be. During the war, the Nazis seized many items of great value and cultural importance ranging from artwork to Gold and Silver to books and even religious artifacts. This effort began in 1933 and has become known as the Nazi plunder.

Ever since the war ended there has been an immense international effort to find these lost relics. Immediately following the war operatives from the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) program nicknamed monuments men were tasked with the herculean assignment of recovering all the looted artwork. The MFAA was originally formed in 1943 for the purpose of protecting artwork from being stolen by Nazis.

After the war, the MFAA became the main organization in charge of finding and recovering stolen artwork. They were successful in recovering a large amount of the stolen art but still much of it remains lost even to this day. In 1998, several countries got together and signed the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art act. This treaty, which was signed by forty four countries, outlined eleven principles designed to help with the recovery and identification of artwork stolen during World War 2.

One of the major principles of the treaty was that the countries that signed should establish their own task force with the goal of locating the stolen art within their country and returning to its proper owner. Several of the countries that signed the treaty, including France, Germany, and Austria, have taken the treaty seriously and established their own task force on the matter. While the act has been somewhat successful, it has rarely ever been enforced, which has allowed many countries to get away with not making much of an effort in returning any missing artwork. In fact, there are several countries who have not fully lived up to their end of the agreement.

In November of this year, a panel met to determine the effectiveness of the treaty. The panel outlined five countries that have not lived up to their end of the deal these five countries are Hungary, Italy, Russia, Poland, and Spain. According to the panel, these countries have put forth very little effort in trying to find and identify any stolen artwork that may be residing in their countries. The recent panel also called upon France to determine the rightful owners of 2,000 works that were never claimed after World War 2. They currently reside inside museums across the France. The committee has estimated that of the 600,000 works that were stolen, 100,000 still remain unfound; and unless these countries start taking this effort a little more seriously, they may never be found.