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Expert Centre Restitution

The Expert Centre Restitution is a knowledge centre for issues related to spoliated objects of cultural value and restitution. The ECR’s tasks include providing information, carrying out independent fact-finding in individual restitution cases, and conducting academic research into looting and restitution in the broadest sense of the word.

Fact-finding prompted by individual applications for restitution

The Expert Centre Restitution carries out independent fact-finding investigations in individual restitution cases. The centre conducts this research on request of the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War (the Restitutions Committee) or on request of the Cultural Heritage Agency, after a joint application by the current possessor of an object and a person requesting its restitution. These independent investigations are carried out by the Expert Centre free of charge. The website of the Cultural Heritage Agency provides information on submitting an application for restitution or a joint application for research, the proceedings, and the requirements.

Scholarly research into art theft and restitution

The Expert Centre also conducts research into the history and topicality of looted art and restitution, particularly in relation to the Nazi regime. In addition, it promotes awareness of the field of spoliation and restitution, for instance in higher education.

Information and questions

The Expert Centre Restitution handles requests for information from interested parties. Are you looking for information about works of art that were taken from your family during the occupation? Are you in possession of a work of art and do you want to know in which archives you can find more information about its potential ‘war history’? Or do you want to know more about restitution in general? If limited preliminary research is sufficient, we will try to answer your question straight away. Otherwise, we can help you conduct your own research. Please email your question to ECR@niod.knaw.nl.

The history of the restitution policy

Under the Nazi regime, from 1933 onwards, many persecuted private individuals and art dealers lost possession of cultural objects. During the occupation of the Netherlands, thousands of paintings, as well as books, Jewish cultural or religious objects, archives, and musical instruments fell into enemy hands. Immediately after the Second World War, the authorities tried to trace and retrieve these possessions. Thousands of objects were recovered. Some of these are still in the custody of the Dutch State as part of the so-called Nederlands Kunstbezit-collectie (‘Netherlands Art Property collection’), which is made up of cultural objects with different ‘war histories’.

In the years after the liberation, robbed owners or their heirs could reclaim their possessions from the Stichting Nederlands Kunstbezit (‘Netherlands Art Property Foundation’). The process was complex. Therefore, the NK collection still contains works of art that were looted from Jewish owners during the occupation.

Since the 1990s, there has been renewed attention to the issue of restitution of Nazi-looted art. In 1998, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science decided to investigate the provenance of the individual works in the NK collection. For this purpose, the Bureau Herkomst Gezocht (‘Origins Unknown Agency’) was formed. In 2001, the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War (the Restitutions Committee) was established to provide independent advice on individual applications for restitution. Since 1998, Dutch museums have been conducting their own investigations into possible cases of looted art in their collections.

In order to combine and embed all the knowledge and information acquired, the Expert Centre Restitution was set up under the auspices of NIOD in 2018. 

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