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Hungary Orders Return of El Greco and Van Dyke to Rightful Owners

The Court of Budapest, Hungary has ruled that ten works of art from the famous Baron Herzog collection are to be returned to his 79-year-old granddaughter, Martha Nierenberg of Armonk, New York. The lawsuit was supported by the Commission for Art Recovery of the World Jewish Congress. Ronald S. Lauder, Chairman of the Commission for Art Recovery said, "We are pleased that Mrs. Nierenberg has been able to obtain justice through the court system of Hungary, which has provided the fair hearing to which survivors of the Holocaust are entitled, although we regret that it was necessary to pursue. The Commission renews its request that the government of Hungary publicly acknowledge the moral obligation to return looted art, as declared by the Washington and Vilnius conferences."

Almost one year after the case began, the court ruled that the Hungarian government had failed to try to find the true owners of the paintings, which include works by Cranach, El Greco and Van Dyck. The paintings have been hanging on the walls of Hungarian museums for decades.

The Commission for Art Recovery looks forward to discussions with the Hungarian government which it hopes will lead Hungary to set up a claims process that guarantees fair consideration of all claims for art looted during the Holocaust and now held by Hungarian museums. Such a process should reflect both the Principles adopted at the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets and the Declaration adopted earlier this month by the Vilnius International Forum on Holocaust Era Looted Cultural Assets, both of which have been agreed to by Hungary.

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