Bloomberg reports that the Dutch government has rejected claims by the descendants of two Jewish art dealers, who say that Nazi occupiers plundered their family’s flourishing dealership in the early 1940s.

The government cited lack of evidence.

The art dealers’ descendants demanded the restitution of 189 work, which now reside in a national collection. The court has ruled that only one — Ferdinand Boll’s ‘Man With a High Cap” — need be returned.

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Adolf Hitler liked his art.

In 1905, Hitler dropped out of highschool, and spent several years doing not much at all in the city of Linz. But he dreamed of earning his pennies by his brushstroke, and spent many days hold up in museums or sketching by candlelight. (Those sketches have since been sold in auction.) Eventually, Hitler applied to study at the Vienna art academy; but after sitting several days of exams, he was promptly rejected.

Distraught, Hitler up and moved to the capital, and spent his time selling hand-painted reproductions. He grew poor and despondent. Hitler would apply to school again, and be rejected a second time.

Much has been made of this period in Hitler’s life. Some speculate that the man’s anti-Semitism was rooted in his inability to get into art college; the story goes that it was a Jewish professor who rejected him. And naturally, counter-history buffs will imagine a 20th century in which Hitler indeed became an artist: and spent his days painting nudes, instead of slaughtering his continent.

An absolutely outstanding documentary to see on this subject is ‘The Rape of Europa.’

The film explains how fine art became a kind of currency within the highest Nazi circles. Currying favour with Hitler often meant giving a gift of art–or else building up a personal collecting grand enough to win Hitler’s admiration. Before invading European cities, Hitler would draw up lists of art and architecture items which were not to be protected from shelling and troop movement.

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Amazingly, Allied troops had the foresight to keep fine art in mind when liberating Occupied Europe. A special team of “Monument Men” — “mostly American art historians and museum curators who, drafted into military service” — was put together with the explicit purpose of locating looting art, and protecting it from damage or theft.

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The documentary also gives some background on this recent trial before the Dutch government:

According to U.S. estimates, the Nazis stole one-fifth of all the known artworks in Europe. While the Allies returned most of the displaced art in the decade following the war, much of the loot is still missing.

By the mid-fifties the initial, massive restitution effort by the Allies had lost its priority and momentum to the pressures of the Cold War. Hundreds of works of art, their owners unidentified, still lay in government storerooms across Europe, or remained in the hands of unscrupulous dealers who waited for years before disguising their origins and feeding them slowly into the market.

But this long quiet period is over. The end of the Cold War and the opening of the archives of Eastern Europe revealed that many works believed lost had survived. The commemorations marking the end of World War II and the development of Holocaust scholarship also led to the re-examination and declassification of forgotten records, inspiring those who had long since despaired of finding their lost possessions to search again.

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