Stolen artwork seized by the Nazis
Stolen artwork seized by the NazisReuters

A European curator found himself in hot water this week after suggesting there should be a time limit on claims for the return of artwork looted by the Nazis during World War II. 

Klaus Albrecht Schröder, the director of Vienna’s Albertina Museum, told Art Newspaper that at some point such claims would become obsolete. 

“If we don’t set a time limit of around 100 years after the end of the Second World War, then we should ask ourselves why claims regarding crimes committed during the First World War should not still be valid; why we don’t argue any more about the consequences of the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian war?” he pondered. 

According to Schröder, claimants have been assisted by the "Washington principles," which regulates the return of artwork looted by the Nazis. It was signed by 44 countries after a conference in 1998. 

“Until now we have done the right thing in Austria by disregarding statutes of limitations on art looted during the Second World War," he continued. 

"Nevertheless, without ever forgetting the ferocious crimes of the war, I think we must come to the point in which history is accepted as history and it can be laid to rest.”

The curators comments caused an immediate firestorm and he faced fierce condemnation from organizations for Holocaust survivors worldwide. 

Anne Webber, the co-chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, also attacked Schröder, saying "it is very premature to call for a time limit. We are receiving new cases every week.”

“To suggest that there should be a cut-off point when the information families were promised 17 years ago still isn’t in the public domain would be, for them, another sign of the continuing injustice they have faced for the 70 years since the end of the war.”