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Rutgers Law Journal


art law, looted artwork, Nazis, Cleveland Museum of Art, replevin, National Stolen Property Act, Holocaust Assets Commission Act


This Article begins with some historical background surrounding the Nazi pillaging of several family collections which may have found their way into American museums. The Article then focuses on what legal and equitable doctrines should be employed in the search for justice in ownership of art works in the United States. The Article advocates that American lawmust prevail. It must be modified to reject the due diligence rule for replevin. Replevin maintains that good intentions alone cannot abrogate the doctrine of bona fide purchaser: a thief can never pass clear title to stolen property to any subsequent transferee no matter how far down in the chain the transferee is or how innocent. Finally, the Article examines the efforts of Congress, as well as private organizations such as the American Association of Art Museum Directors and Art Recovery of the World Jewish Congress, to devise fair and equitable inquiry into the legitimacy of claims. Cultural property stolen by the Nazis during World War II should be returned to the rightful owners. A fair and equitable way of investigating the legitimacy of ownership claims can and must be found. Voluntary efforts are not enough to satisfy the expediency of replevin. Such legislation is necessary and has been implemented by Congress. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States must use its power to provide expedient justice for legitimate claims of Holocaust survivors or their families. It is time for American museums to become allies in the investigation of art thefts and to do the right thing.


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