After decades of deflecting claims for artworks looted in the Holocaust, the Croatian government is taking steps toward returning art to the heirs of Jews whose collections were plundered by the Ustase regime, which ruled a puppet state allied with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany during World War II.
The changed attitude is evident in a study the government has published in cooperation with the World Jewish Restitution Organization that chronicles the theft and lists some of the stolen collections — many of which are still held by Croatian museums.
The new report, called “Restitution of Movable Property in Croatia,” demonstrates that the government “shares the wish to provide Holocaust survivors and their heirs with a fair measure of justice,” according to Croatian minister of culture Nina Obuljen Korzinek.
Her ministry has set up an expert group on provenance research, with the aim of “allowing indisputable attribution of looted property to their rightful owners,” she said. She also intends to seek “improvement to the legislative framework” for claimants, she said.
The joint report by the restitution organization and the Croatian government is “a major turning point” that reflects a growing willingness to address the crimes of the Holocaust, said Sara Lustig, the country’s first Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for Holocaust Issues and Combating Antisemitism.
“A whole new chapter is opening in how Croatia deals with the Holocaust,” Lustig said by phone. “We are just now getting started.”