Yesterday, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, spoke on the House Floor in support of the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act (H.R. 6130), which unanimously passed by voice vote. Congressman Nadler cosponsored the bill with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) in order to help return artwork and other cultural property that was stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust to their rightful owners.
Video of Congressman Nadler’s remarks on the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act can be found here, the full text of which is provided below:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 6130, the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act. This legislation will help restore artwork and heritage stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust to its rightful owners or heirs. I was proud to join Chairman Goodlatte in introducing this bill, and I appreciate his efforts in moving it forward.
“In addition to their crimes of genocide and mass murder, the Nazis engaged in comprehensive, systematic theft of art and property—mostly, but not entirely, from Jews—all across Europe. The scope of their theft was massive, and the damaging effects remain with us today – with victims still seeking justice and some form of compensation.
“Nearly twenty years ago, in 1998, the United States brought together 44 nations to produce a set of Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art. They agreed that “steps should be taken expeditiously to achieve a just and fair solution” to the outstanding claims. In 2009, the United States joined 45 other nations in Prague to issue what was known as the Terezin Declaration, which reaffirmed these principles.
“Unfortunately, today, 71 years after the defeat of the Nazis, many American victims are still unable to pursue their claims in court because of restrictive statutes of limitation in the states. These laws generally require a claimant to bring a case within a limited number of years from when the loss occurred, or should have been discovered. But, in many instances, the information required to file a claim regarding artwork stolen by the Nazis was not brought to light until many years later, forcing courts to dismiss cases before they could be judged on the merits. In some cases, the law would have required a claim to be brought even before World War II ended. This is obviously unjust.
“Some states have attempted to make an exception to their statutes of limitations to accommodate these claims, but such efforts have been ruled unconstitutional as an infringement on the federal government’s exclusive authority over foreign affairs. Federal legislation, therefore, is needed to bring justice to this area. This bill would set a uniform six-year federal statute of limitations for the claims of Nazi-confiscated art from the time that the identity and location of the artwork, and the ownership interest of the claimant, are actually discovered. It would also restore the claims of those claimants whose cases were dismissed previously because of a statute of limitations. This bill would finally ensure that the rightful owners and their decedents can have their claims properly adjudicated.
“I want to thank Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, for his determined efforts to see that this issue is resolved, and Chairman Goodlatte for working with me and our colleagues to bring this legislation forward.
“While no legislation or act of contrition will ever reverse the many horrors committed by the Nazis, one thing we can do is establish a fair judicial process so that some victims can achieve some small measure of justice.
“I urge strong support for this legislation and I yield back the balance of my time.”