THE RESTITUTION POLICY OF THE JEWISH MUSEUM IN PRAGUE

The restitution proceedings in the Czech Republic are governed by Act No. 212 of 23 June 2000. In Article 3, Section 1 it is stipulated that:

“Artworks taken from individuals in the period between 29 September 1938 and 4 May 1945 as a result of a transfer or transfers of ownership which were declared invalid by Presidential Decree No. 5/1945 Coll. or by Act No. 128/1946 Coll. and which are under state ownership as of the day on which this Act comes into effect, shall be transferred free of charge into the ownership of the individual who owned them prior to dispossession, and if this person is deceased, they shall be transferred into the ownership of his or her spouse or, if the original owner and his or her spouse are deceased, into the ownership of his or her descendants.”

Although this Act relates solely to objects under state ownership, the Jewish Museum in Prague shall follow the spirit of the Act in similar cases. There have already been a number of valid cases prior to the introduction of this Act whereby the Jewish Museum in Prague returned private property based in its collections.

Artworks, in particular, are currently subject to detailed examination, as these are most likely to have been in private hands. In the autumn of 2000, the National Gallery returned some of the most valuable artworks in its collections to the Jewish Museum in Prague.

The Jewish Museum in Prague is fully prepared to collaborate in all possible ways to ascertain the original ownership of all the artworks in its care.

Amended terms for the filing of claims for voluntary restitution of objects in the collections of the Jewish Museum in Prague which were unlawfully seized during the period of Nazi occupation

  1. Objects housed in the collections of the Jewish Museum in Prague (hereinafter referred to as “the Museum”) that were taken from individuals in the period between 29 September 1938 and 4 May 1945 (the period of Nazi occupation) as a result of transfers of ownership which were declared invalid by Presidential Decree No. 5/1945 Coll. or by Act No. 128/1946 Coll. and which, as of 30 September 1994, with the exception of objects listed in Article 2 of these terms (hereinafter referred to as “objects”), were in the ownership of the Museum shall be transferred free of charge into the ownership of the individual who owned them prior to dispossession ( hereinafter referred to as “the original owner”).


    If this person has died or has been certified dead, the natural persons listed below (in order of precedence) are eligible to request the restitution of the object(s):
     

    • an heir who acquired the entire inheritance in accordance with a will that was submitted in the course of inheritance proceedings
    • an heir who acquired the object(s) in question in accordance with a will
    • the original owner’s child/children and spouse who shared his/her inheritance equally; in the event that a child of the original owner has died, his/her portion shall be shared equally among his/her children or, if they are not alive, by his/her grandchildren,
    • the parents of the original owner,
    • the brothers and sisters of the original owner; in the event that one of these has died, the latter’s entitlement passes on to his/her children
  2. In view of the exceptional historical value of the collection of Terezín children’s drawings and of Terezín artworks by adults, it is not possible, under these terms, to assert a claim with respect to the original drawings and artworks. This term is informed by an endeavour to maintain the unique collection in its entirety and by the fact that the collection would be in danger of imminent deterioration if handled or stored inappropriately.

    The Jewish Museum in Prague is not aware that an object for which a restitution request has been made by a natural person, is an object of cultural heritage declared as such in accordance with Act No. 20/1987 Coll. on state heritage preservation.

     

  3. Under these Terms, a restitution request may also be asserted with respect to an object or objects returned to the Museum under Act No. 212/2000 Coll. or under relevant restitution regulations to be issued in the future.
  4. The conveyance of an object or objects in accordance with the previous article shall be made free of charge by the Museum on the basis of a written application from the original owner or person listed in Article 1 of these Terms (hereinafter referred to as “application”) that is posted or delivered in person to the headquarters of the Museum at U Staré školy 3, Prague 1.
     

    The receipt of every application shall be reported by carrying the delivery date and information regarding the object in question on the website of the Jewish Museum in Prague and, if need be, in the next newsletter of the Museum and the monthly newspaper Rosh Chodesh.
     

    A decision regarding applications from persons listed in Article (1) with respect to a single object shall be made after the expiry of one year after the receipt of the first application being reported. Applications delivered at a later date shall not be taken into consideration.
     

  5. In order to deal with an application it is essential that the applicant should furnish credible proof showing that he was the owner of the object in question, or, alternatively, that the owner of this object was his/her spouse, ancestor, parents, brother or sister, or the testator who bequeathed the property to the applicant. If the object was originally owned by an ancestor of the applicant, the application must be supported by evidence showing the applicant’s family connection to the original owner (birth/marriage/death certificates etc.). If the applicant inherited the object from the original owner, the application must be supported by evidence showing that he/she succeeded to the property in question.
     
  6. If the object in question was originally owned by the applicant’s spouse, the application must be supported by a wedding certificate or other evidence showing that he/she was married to the original owner at the time of the latter’s death.
     
  7. Applications properly submitted within the time-limit stated in Article 4 shall be assessed by a committee of experts appointed by the Museum Director on the basis of a decision of the Museum Board. The results of their assessment shall be presented to the Museum Board, which shall make a decision regarding the application within the shortest possible time-frame.
     
  8. An application may be complied with only if the restitution of the requested object(s) is not prevented by the legislation of the Czech Republic in force at the time the application is assessed.
     
  9. A written appeal against a decision rejecting an application may be presented within 15 days of the delivery of the decision to the Supervisory Body of the Museum for assessment regarding the correctness of the decision. The Supervisory Body shall present the Museum Board with its final assessment regarding the compliance of the Board’s decision with the Museum’s statutes, its founder’s deed, these terms and generally binding legal regulations. On the basis of this assessment, the Museum Board may revoke its original decision.
     
  10. Applicants note that the restitution of an object is linked to obligation to pay tax since it is not an act of restitution prescribed by law.

Amended terms for the filing of claims for voluntary restitution of books from the library collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague which were unlawfully seized during the period of Nazi occupation

  1. Books in the library collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague (hereinafter referred to as “the Museum”) that were taken from individuals in the period between 29 September 1938 and 4 May 1945 as a result of transfers of ownership which were declared invalid by Presidential Decree No. 5/1945 Coll. or by Act No. 128/1946 Coll. and which, as of 30 September 1994, with the exception of objects listed in Articles 2 and 5 of these Terms (hereinafter referred to as “objects”), were in the ownership of the Museum shall be transferred free of charge into the ownership of the individual who owned them prior to dispossession (hereinafter referred to as “the original owner”).
     

    If this person has died or has been certified dead, the natural persons listed below (in order of precedence) are eligible to request the restitution of the book(s):
     

    • an heir who acquired the entire inheritance in accordance with a will that was submitted in the course of inheritance proceedings
    • an heir who acquired the book(s) in question in accordance with a will
    • the original owner’s child/children and spouse who shared his/her inheritance equally; in the event that a child of the original owner has died, his/her portion shall be shared equally among his/her children or, if they are not alive, by his/her grandchildren,
    • the parents of the original owner,
    • the brothers and sisters of the original owner; in the event that one of these has died, the latter’s entitlement passes on to his/her children
  2. Under these terms, no restitution claims may be made with respect to a book or books that the Museum or any of its legal predecessors acquired by means of purchase, donation or inheritance.

    The Jewish Museum in Prague is not aware that a book for which a restitution request has been made by a natural person, is an object of cultural heritage declared as such in accordance with Act No. 20/1987 Coll. on state heritage preservation.
     
  3. Under these terms, a restitution claim may also be asserted with respect to a book or books returned to the Museum under relevant restitution regulations to be issued in the future.
  4. The conveyance of an object or objects in accordance with the previous article shall be made free of charge by the Museum on the basis of a written application from the original owner or another applicant listed in Article 1 of these Terms (hereinafter referred to as “application”) that is posted or delivered in person to the headquarters of the Museum at U Staré školy 3, Prague 1.
     

    The receipt of every application shall be reported by carrying the delivery date and information regarding the book(s) in question on the website of the Jewish Museum in Prague.

    OA decision regarding applications from persons listed in Article (1) with respect to a book or books shall be made after the expiry of one year after the receipt of the first application being reported. Applications delivered at a later date shall not be taken into consideration.

  5. In order to deal with an application it is essential that the applicant should furnish credible proof showing that he was the owner of the book(s) in question, or, alternatively, that the owner of this book or these books was his/her spouse, ancestor, parents, brother or sister, or the testator who bequeathed the property to the applicant. If the book(s) was (were) originally owned by an ancestor of the applicant, the application must be supported by evidence showing the applicant’s family connection to the original owner (birth/marriage/death certificates etc.). If the applicant inherited the book(s) from the original owner, the application must be supported by evidence showing that he/she succeeded to the property in question.


    An application will not be complied with if the requested book(s) is (are) found to contain records of ownership for more than one person, and if it is not possible to determine who was the original sole owner of the book(s).


    An application will be not complied with if the requested book(s) is (are) found to contain records of ownership (such as marks, signatures or stamps) pertaining to a corporate owner–legal person, in addition to an individual’s record of ownership, or if it is clear from other documents or evidence that the book(s) in question was (were) owned by a company at the time it was taken or acquired by the Museum. Of the books which, in addition to an individual's record of ownership, also contain an inventory number of the Museum’s 'German Catalogue', only books where the ‘Treuhandstelle’ is given as the collection point or where it is explicitly stated on the relevant catalogue card that the original owner was an individual may be considered for restitution.


    An application may be complied with only if the restitution of the requested book(s) is not prevented by the legislation of the Czech Republic in force at the time the application is assessed.
     

  6. If the book(s) in question was (were) originally owned by the applicant’s spouse, the application must be supported by a wedding certificate or other evidence showing that he/she was married to the original owner at the time of the latter’s death.
  7. Applications properly submitted within the time-limit stated in Article 2 shall be assessed by a committee of experts appointed by the Museum Director on the basis of a decision of the Museum Board. The results of their assessment shall be presented to the Museum Board, which shall make a decision regarding the application within the shortest possible time-frame.

    Under these terms, it is not possible to file a claim for the restitution of books owned in the past by legal persons, regardless of whether the current legal successors of such owners are individuals or legal persons.

    A written appeal against a decision rejecting an application may be presented within 15 days of the delivery of the decision to the Supervisory Body of the Museum for assessment regarding the correctness of the decision. The Supervisory Body shall present the Museum Board with its final assessment regarding the compliance of the Board’s decision with the Museum’s statutes, its founder’s deed, these terms and generally binding legal regulations. On the basis of this assessment, the Museum Board may revoke its original decision.
     

  8. Applicants note that the restitution of an object is linked to obligation to pay tax since it is not an act of restitution prescribed by law.

Many other artworks that were probably confiscated from Jewish owners by the Nazis and are currently in the care of galleries in the Czech Republic can be seen on the website of the Czech Ministry of Culture at www.restitution-art.cz.

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