Private International Law, Art and Cultural Heritage

Private International Law, Art and Cultural Heritage

Christa Roodt

In this timely book Christa Roodt demonstrates how the structure and method of private international law can be applied in its expanding relationship with cultural heritage law. In particular, she explores the use of private international law in the context of ownership claims and the illicit trafficking of cultural objects. She shows how, in decisions about classification and the public policy exception, and in the application and treatment of foreign public law, value-rationality and mutuality can defeat the dogmatic underpinnings of conflicts and jurisdiction rules that frustrate the achievement of global solidarity.

Chapter 6: Deciding claims for restitution of Nazi spoliated art on their merit: Towards value rationality

Christa Roodt

Subjects: law - academic, cultural heritage and art law, private international law


The ‘Final Solution’ demanded the deliberate extermination of the culture of European Jews who were in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. The theft of paintings was ‘relatively low on the totem pole of Nazi atrocities’, but the plundering of cultural property in possession of European Jews between 1933 and 1945 was a national policy that was given high priority. Art was programmatically and methodically looted from German, French, Dutch, Austrian and Belgian Jews, and from Poles and Russians of any faith. This plunder occurred at the behest of Adolf Hitler, Reichsmarshall Hermann Göring and the Minister of Art and Culture, Alfred Rosenberg. The Nazis considered the ideologically motivated looting a ‘safeguarding’ of art treasures. Their main project was the pursuit of art which they considered valuable in a classical sense. ‘Shopping catalogues’ were put together so that Hitler could choose which artwork and furniture he desired from across Europefor a Führer Museum in Linz, his hometown in Austria. Linz was set to become the cultural centre of Europe. Various other museum collections were to be expanded, and the personal collections of the Nazi elite soon became impressive. Modern and abstract works of art were collected for a different purpose. Hitler and his regime believed these works to corrupt the German people and insult German sentiment. ‘Degenerate art’ by Jews, non-Jews, German and non-German modern artists in public ownership in Germany was destroyed in order to eradicate their wider impact and democratic message.

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