06 January 2007

Repairing Injustice...Part 3

Hungary has made it look as though they are trying to make restitution for works taken during WWII. Their efforts have thus far been lip service at best. In 1991 Hungary adopted a compensation law for property losses between 1944 and 1989. The sums were not generous. The average voucher issued for a man's wedding ring was the equivalent of $1.25, and the law was not designed to cover cultural property because of the complications connected to the valuation of artworks.

Hungary is also making claims on cultural property and demanding that work be returned to them, even though they had joined the Germans in the war.

So far they have been slow with information, restitution and have appealed several of the courts rulings against them.

The Netherlands, since 2002 has returned more than 500 artworks to original owners or their heirs. They have changed their laws in order to re-open some cases that had been settled years earlier. They seem to be going out of their way trying to make things right.

France has all but said that the restitution for looted property is not a priority. Of the 60,000 objects returned to France after the war, 45,00 were returned to Jewish dealers and collectors. More than 10,000 objects deemed unimportant by the government were auctioned. The remaining property was marked MNR, Musees Nationaux Recuperation, and distributed among the five national museums.
Anyone with a claim was for the most part on their own.
France appears to be unwilling to dredge up the past preferring to leave things where they are move on.

The United Kingdom has committed itself to resolving claims for artworks looted during the Nazi era that are now in public collections. The claims have been so few that in most of the cases, instead of returning the art they are giving compensation to the heirs and leaving the art on display.

All countries seem to be undecided about putting deadlines on claims or how to handle them.

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How do you change history? Can you?
What good comes from making restitution or compensation to people who were not directly involved in the first place? Does that really change things? Does it make anything better?

For the suffering and deaths of people 65 years ago. We will pay your grand children. What does that fix?

It doesn't stop there.

Our government has talked about giving compensation to the descendants of slaves. Are they entitled to money because someone in their family tree was enslaved? Would it make anything better? Would it change history? Where do you draw the line once you start trying to re-write what has been done? When do payments stop for things already done? 50 Years? 100? 200?

If you look at history like this. There are far more victims than not. When do we learn from our mistakes instead of trying to buy our way out?

What is the right thing to do?

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