Nazi Looted Art

So when reading this story about Nazi looted art:
http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/11/10/21393057-germany-under-pressure-speeds-investigation-of-nazi-looted-art?lite

The question of course is, should Stolen goods be returned to their rightful owners? If those owners cannot be found should they be returned to the nation or families of those that they were stolen from?

Yes, this opens the can of worms in relation to museums and their stolen treasures as well.
If we say Germany should return the stolen works, should we not also say all Egyptian, African, Greek, Native American artifacts should be returned as well?

When someone breaks in to your home and steals what belongs to you, you surely would want it returned if it were found. If you had family heirlooms stolen that had been in your family for generations, most would also likely want those returned to their grandchildren would they not?

Is this any different? And why should they be returned or not?

Are those that were stolen from still alive? If so, it should be returned.
Only their remote relatives? Then case by case basis.
Just 'cultural heritage', like old Greek statues or artifacts? No. Things have been 'stolen' as plunder for the entirety of human existence. What stops a nation from demanding back land? Or the nation that 'held' said land before the first nation?
Or the gold that was stolen by viking raiders, should it be returned? The rapes that they carried out, should they be paid for?
It quite quickly turns absurd.

Realitycrash:
Are those that were stolen from still alive? If so, it should be returned.
Only their remote relatives? Then case by case basis.
Just 'cultural heritage', like old Greek statues or artifacts? No. Things have been 'stolen' as plunder for the entirety of human existence. What stops a nation from demanding back land? Or the nation that 'held' said land before the first nation?
Or the gold that was stolen by viking raiders, should it be returned? The rapes that they carried out, should they be paid for?
It quite quickly turns absurd.

I would think time would be a factor to a certain extent, but also what it actually means to the people it was taken from. If it has great significance and is very important to them, that should also weigh in to consideration. For example, say one of these paintings is a picture of a woman's grandmother, and the only picture she would have of her. If she wishes to have the picture of her grandmother, that should be given back to her. In regards to land though that should also be up for consideration on a case by case basis. For example, the DA illegally arrests people and has the city take their land while they are in jail, he gets a cut of the profits, The DA later goes to jail for his corruption and the person is released. Now if they cannot give back the actual land that was stolen, the city very well could be required to compensate plus damages for those actions.

Lets also look at the situation of the Lakota Sioux, and their situation with Wounded Knee, a well known massacre site of documented historical significance and contains the remains of their ancestors. Now they have this guy trying to extort millions out of the poorest people in the United States for them to keep a portion of wounded knee, where their ancestors remains are. I see this as something that the government could intervene with due to the laws in regards to selling human remains since there are human remains on the site. The US could either buy the land and return it to the Lakota Sioux, who obviously cannot afford such things or they could black the sale. but sometimes land should be considered as well on a case by case basis. I think it would depend on what the significance of the item is to the people that had it stolen from them, and what it would actually mean to have it returned.

Case-by-case basis, I reckon, taking into account time elapsed, historical importance, and what difference returning the item(s) would actually make.

Yeah, it's a bit awkward when long periods of time have gone by. I can't think of any hard and fast rules.

Lil devils x:
So when reading this story about Nazi looted art:
http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/11/10/21393057-germany-under-pressure-speeds-investigation-of-nazi-looted-art?lite

The question of course is, should Stolen goods be returned to their rightful owners? If those owners cannot be found should they be returned to the nation or families of those that they were stolen from?

Yes, stolen goods should be returned to the rightful legal owner, following inheritance if necessary.

If there are no legal inheritors, the art/goods/wealth may as well be fall under standard laws of discovered treasure, whatever they may be under that jurisdiction.

What you mention in a later comment is the point where something can perhaps be so distant from the original owner that even if we could track it to a descendant, they lose claim to it anyway. This would have to be pretty distant.

thaluikhain:
Yeah, it's a bit awkward when long periods of time have gone by. I can't think of any hard and fast rules.

Yep, it's impossible to define a set of rules for this kind of thing.
For example, there are numerous calls for various Egyptian exhibits at the British Museum to be returned to Cairo. Which sounds entirely fair on the face of it, but Cairo Museum does have a history of break-ins, and by some accounts lacks the funding, technical equipment (decent dehumidifiers for example), and expertise to preserve some of these things.
So if it's a choice between the status-quo of colonial unfairness, and the loss of priceless artefacts, the historian in me will probably vote for the status quo.

All other things being equal, returning things is desirable, especially when the theft was recent and/or there are surviving close relatives.
I would consider territory an entirely separate issue to possessions for the sake of the argument - possession disputes are comparatively easy to resolve because things can be moved. Territorial disputes also have to consider displacement and culture, which is a whole other dimension of difficulty.

 

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