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World Briefs II

Panel Told of Efforts To Deal With Art Plundered by Nazis

The Washington Post

Directors of America's leading art museums told a congressional committee Thursday that they are searching for ways to resolve the thorny issues around art stolen by the Nazis.

In recent years a number of high-profile cases have put a spotlight on the issue of looted art and its acquisition, unwittingly in most cases, by museums. Even though the number of public cases is said to be small they have shaken the art world.

Rep. James A. Leach, R-Iowa, chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services, has been looking into restitution for victims of the Holocaust and said the basic notion of justice prompted his attention to "the greatest theft in history."

"The operative principle is simple: Stolen property must be returned. Pillaged art cannot come under a statue of limitations," Leach said.

The issue has been gaining attention because more information is available. With the end of the Cold War, archives are being opened in Eastern Europe, documents are being declassified and collections are being posted on the Internet.