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World - Europe

France publishes catalogue of looted Nazi art

Photographs from the catalogue  
November 10, 1998
Web posted at: 11:41 a.m. EST (1641 GMT)

PARIS (CNN) -- The French foreign ministry on Tuesday published a catalogue of world-famous artworks -- including paintings by Rubens, Velazquez and Bruegel -- that were stolen by the Nazis during World War II and ended up in a special museum set up by Adolf Hitler.

The catalogue, issued three weeks before an international conference in Washington on the restitution of Holocaust-era assets, featured paintings from the Adolphe Schloss collection, said to have been one of the best of its kind in France.

Out of a total of 333 paintings, 171 still remain in private and public collections outside France, the ministry said.

It said the catalogue, published in 5,000 copies and soon to be put on the Internet, was made public for two reasons: To alert potential buyers that they could face legal proceedings by those seeking restitution of the works, and in order to clarify the rightful ownership worldwide.

Schloss left the collection of mostly Dutch and Flemish paintings to his wife in his will. When World War II broke out, the Schloss family hid the paintings in a French castle, where they were discovered by occupying Nazi forces in 1943. Most of the artworks were transported to Hitler's collection at the Linz museum.

French law states that the artworks were illegally confiscated and were therefore also sold illegally. And those who bought these works could therefore face legal action.

On Monday, the World Jewish Congress released its own list of 2,000 people who allegedly took part in the Nazis' massive looting of art.

That list contains the names of people from 11 countries, including museum curators, gallery owners, art experts and other intermediaries whom the Nazis allegedly used during their occupation of Europe to steal art in general. Jewish collections were specifically targeted.

Among the names listed were many German and Austrian collaborators, as well as 400 names from France alone.

French government documents show that nearly 16,000 artworks that were returned to France after the war were not given back to their original owners. Of this number, 2,058 are currently being held in French museums, including the Louvre.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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