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Sep 2010 Journal

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The Austrian National Library

At a commemorative ceremony at the Austrian National Library in June, the Austrian National Fund symbolically accepted three of 8,363 books seized during the National Socialist era, the previous owners of which were unable to be traced. The works were handed over in compliance with the Art Restitution Law.
Accepting the books, Secretary General Mag. Hannah Lessing said: ‘Since the enactment of the Art Restitution Law … in 1998 art objects are now being transferred to the National Fund for the first time and their proceeds can been used to benefit the victims of National Socialism.’
The transferred books were subsequently repurchased by the National Library for 135,000 euros. Hannah Lessing announced that ‘[T]he proceeds from these one-time looted objects will be received by those people who are most entitled to them - those who, like the former owners of these books, were persecuted by the National Socialist regime. Those who, unlike the former owners, were lucky enough to survive particularly require our assistance in their old age.’
The publications which were transferred are ‘objects which without exception bear no indications as to the identities of their former owners,’ the National Library stressed in a press release. The provenance report, which was completed in December 2003, listed 52,403 objects which had been acquired by the National Library during the National Socialist regime. On the basis of this report and of the examination by the Art Restitution Advisory Board, in recent years 35,217 individual objects have been restituted to the rightful heirs of the persecuted former owners.
In 2006, in order to reach out to the rightful owners of looted property, the National Fund set up its own art database at www.artrestitution.at This has enabled a targeted online search for art and cultural objects today located in the museums and collections of the Republic of Austria or the City of Vienna which, according to the current status of the provenance research, were possibly seized during the National Socialist era.
It has also emerged that since the beginning of the year, the holdings of the parliamentary library have also been subject to examination with regard to their provenance and potential restitution.
Written enquiries should be sent to the AJR, Jubilee House, Merrion Avenue, Stanmore, Middx HA7 4RL or to mnewman@ajr.org.uk
 

Michael Newman

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