Mar 5, 2021

Holocaust-related claims for art: tactics observed

Reactions to claims for Nazi-looted art, forced sales and duress sales vary.

Some museums or private collectors, when they learn that a prized artwork belonged to an art collector who was plundered by the Nazis, immediately set out to research the history and return the artwork to the family.

Others fight with every weapon in their arsenal, not hesitating to make up perfectly false stories to explain how the artwork landed in their collection or even to sue the claimants.

Question: can one identify the different responses and classify each response accordingly?

This post is a first attempt to list a few of the tactics observed in the past:


  1. Deny that the artwork in the defendant's collection is the same as the artwork claimed
  2. Deny the claimant's ancestor owned the artwork
  3. Deny the context of the Holocaust by portraying events as a normal commercial transaction
  4. Deny or discount physical evidence of ripped labels, resized or otherwise distorted canvases  
  5. Conceal evidence that the defendant possesses
  6. Misrepresent and misinterpret evidence 
  7. Use false evidence previously inserted by bad actors, including Nazis and known looted art dealers among others
  8. Invent stories based on speculation creating alternative "facts"
  9. Use influence to plant and spread false information, including creating publications to spread false story
  10. On the legal front, mobilise any and all tactics to stop case while publicly proclaiming adherence to Washington Principles.
  11. In case of settlement, misrepresent the history of the case, and prevent claimants from revealing an accurate account with non-disclosure clauses 
This list is just a start. It will be an interesting exercise to attach the tactic to the case, based on the published public record.

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