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The restitution of Holocaust looted art and transitional justice : the perfect storm or the raft of the Medusa?

O'Donnell, Therese (2011) The restitution of Holocaust looted art and transitional justice : the perfect storm or the raft of the Medusa? European Journal of International Law, 22 (1). pp. 49-80. ISSN 0938-5428

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Abstract

This article considers the legal difficulties associated with restituting Holocaust-looted art. Can such claims provide platforms for examining the associated cultural implications of both the looting and restitution programmes? Notwithstanding its centrality to Nazism and the Holocaust, looting's reversal was not a post-war Allied priority. Consequently, looting's painful after-effects leave a sense of unfinished business. Restitution traditionally envisages a high profile for law and, in particular, courts. Taken together with restitution's importance within reconciliation processes, this highlights that these cases are clearly located within transitional justice discourse. For example, property restoration is entwined with reconstitution of individual and group identities. The article concludes that restitution is crucial to successful completion of transitional justice processes. However, law's role must be re-imagined beyond the current adversarial/judicial paradigm which fails within its own limited understandings of restitution and hampers rather than enhances reconciliation processes.