Kunsthaus Zürich

Case studies


It is not uncommon for the accusations levelled at museums in connection with the restitution of Jewish property to be based on imprecise and often false distinctions between the terms ‘looted art,’ ‘forced sales,’ ‘flight assets’ and ‘degenerate art.’

The Kunsthaus Zürich works on the basis of the following definitions, which are internationally recognized in both political and historical circles:

‘Looted assets’ consist of cultural goods taken from owners who were the victims of Nazi persecution. They include confiscated cultural goods and works of art that were seized after being categorized as ‘degenerate.’

‘Forced sales’ are sales ordered by the Nazis either backed by direct threats or on the pretext of one of the odious Nuremberg Laws, with the owners being deprived of the proceeds.

Objects in these two categories are covered by the 1998 Washington Conference Principles and are subject to a duty of restitution, whatever form this may take.

‘Flight assets,’ by contrast, are assets removed by their owners to a place of safety abroad, and over which those owners retained full control. Consequently, they are not covered by the Washington Conference Principles.

Finally, the term ‘degenerate art’ refers to art that was banned by the Nazis, and may constitute either looted assets or flight assets.