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The years 1933-1945 witnessed the most convulsive shift in human population since the Great Plague. Millions were displaced by events in Europe alone. Families, communities and races were decimated and dispersed: through deportation, conscription, evacuation, slavery, flight and death. Accompanying this human displacement was a colossal deprivation of property, both private and institutional.
So much emerges from the sufferings of Jewish people alone. The agents of the Holocaust liquidated bank accounts, jewellery, insurance policies, gold, furniture, businesses and land holdings, as well as people. They razed synagogues and sold sacred objects. By far the greater part of the revenue was destined for State or party funds, but much found its way into private pockets.
This book examines the fate which befell some of the great artistic works taken during the Nazi era. It explores the ways in which such things are being regained or retained and the modern initiatives that are being taken to assist claimants. It has something to say about the role of lawyers. And it asks, what does all this tell us about our relationship to history, and is it too little too late?