Canada invests in Holocaust-era works of art
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance is (IHRA) is a global, intergovernmental body that is tasked with ensuring that political and social leaders make every effort to promote and invest in the research and education of this horrific genocide.
Founded in 1998, it uses the principles of the Stockholm Declaration to inform much of its work. It’s about not forgetting. The Holocaust, it explains, “fundamentally challenged the foundations of society” and the systematic, state-sponsored murder of Jews by the Nazi party “must be forever seared in our collective memory”.
The IHRA is made up of 31 countries, and each year sees a member state chair and lead the body in its efforts. This year sees Canada take up this important role for the first time and it has commenced its tenure with the kind of energy and resolve that makes it such an important entity.
The North American county’s government has announced that it is initially donating $200,000 (approximately £128,318) for its museums to conduct research into the provenance of Holocaust-era works of art.
“Our government is proud to support projects that enable Canadian museums and art galleries to further their research on the provenance of art,” commented Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism.
“It is an important initiative for researchers and heirs around the world who are trying to identify and locate artworks and other cultural artefacts displaced during the Holocaust.”
The Art Newspaper reported how the “renewed focus” on this specific kind of research is already producing the kinds of results that it strives for. For example, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts recently confirmed that it had returned a seventeenth century painting by the Dutch artist Gerrit van Honthorst to the grandson of the Jewish art collector Bruno Spiro.
Six museums have already been confirmed for the project, which is being led by the Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization. Its president, Josephine Mills, said: “With the support of the government of Canada, directors of Canadian art museums and galleries will develop their professional expertise and contribute to the international call for transparency, justice and closure, in one of the most sordid chapters of 20th-century history.”
The origins of efforts by leaders to returning Nazi-confiscated art to its rightful owners stretches back to the last few years of the Second World War. In 1943, the Inter-Allied Declaration against Acts of Dispossession Committed in Territories under Enemy Occupation and Control set out to return people’s property and assets to them.
Today, that determination to right wrongs is as strong as ever. Every work that is restored to its relative place and person of origin brings back a little piece of humanity that was lost during this violent conflict.
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