Swiss government votes to set up commission for illegally seized cultural property

The Swiss Federal Council approved a parliamentary motion calling for the establishment of an independent national commission  to make recommendations on the restitution to the original owners in cases of cultural property lost as a result of Nazi persecution.

The motion, which was submitted in December 2021, was a reaction to the fierce and persistent criticism of the exhibition of the controversial Emil G. Bührle collection in the Kunsthaus Zurich extension.

The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG) and the Platform of Liberal Jews in Switzerland PLJS welcome the fact that the six framework conditions envisaged for the commission by the motioner were also adopted in full.

In particular, the framework condition noted in the original motion text under point 3, according to which the distinction between looted art and escapee art is to be abandoned in favour of the term “cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution”, is a top priority for the SIG and PLJS.

This applies in particular to the federal government, but also to public and private museums, archives, private collectors, auction houses and libraries.

According to SIG and PLJS, only in this way the restitution of cultural assets that were seized from their owners as a result of National Socialist persecution could be guaranteed.

This would also be in line with the requirement for “fair and equitable solutions” as demanded by the Washington Declaration of 1998.

The declaration was also signed by Switzerland, which thereby committed itself to ensuring the location and restitution of works of art that had been confiscated by the National Socialist regime.

The motion will now be dealt by the Council of States.

SIG and PLJS will continue to campaign for the whole motion, including the framework conditions, to be adopted by parliament.

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