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The Restitutions Committee

Since 2001, the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War – in short the Restitutions Committee – has been advising on restitution applications relating to Nazi looted art. The Restitutions Committee was established by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, but it operates independently. It is located in The Hague.

 

Painting Winter Garden by Edouard Manet discovered in a salt mine in Merkers, Germany, April 1945 (image: National Archives and Records Administration)

Tasks

Advise relating to restitution applications
The restitution applications concern works of art that are held by the Dutch State (Dutch National Art Collection) or are in other collections held in the Netherlands, for example by a provincial or local authority institution, a foundation or a private individual (other collections).

If an artwork is held by the Dutch State, the Restitutions Committee advises the Minister of Education, Culture and Science. In such cases the Restitutions Committee advises in accordance with the frameworks and policy guidelines specified by the government. The Minister reviews the reasonableness of the Committee’s recommendation in respect of these frameworks and policy guidelines. The Minister then takes a decision about the restitution application.

If an artwork is not held by the Dutch State, the Restitutions Committee issues a binding opinion to the current holder of the artwork and the former owner or their heirs.

In restitution cases concerning the Dutch National Art Collection, which also includes the NK Collection, or another collection, a comprehensive investigation is conducted before advice or a binding opinion is issued.

Since 1 September 2018, the Expert Centre Restitution (ECR) has been conducting research on the instructions of the Restitutions Committee. The ECR is part of the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam.

Sharing knowledge
The Restitutions Committee has acquired a great deal of knowledge about Nazi looted art. The Committee applies this knowledge in its activities relating to advising and issuing rulings about restitution applications. The Restitutions Committee also shares its expertise with parties involved, partners and other interested individuals and entities. It does this, for example, by giving lectures, organizing symposiums and publishing newsletters and articles.

At the end of 2021, to mark its twentieth anniversary, the Committee made a documentary that explains its activities for a broad cross-section of the public. The video is freely available via this website. It will also be shown in secondary schools, colleges and universities as well as in museums.

Committee members

The Restitutions Committee has seven members. They are lawyers and/or historians with an expertise in extrajudicial mediation and conciliation, succession law, the Second World War and art.

Jacob Kohnstamm (Chair)

Lawyer. Previously: member of the Dutch Bar, politician, Chair of the Dutch Data Protection Authority and Coordinating Chair of the Regional Euthanasia Review Committees.

Els Swaab (Vice Chair)

Lawyer. Previously member of the Dutch bar and held senior positions in and served on the boards of a range of cultural and social organizations.

Dr Jaap Cohen

Historian. Author and biographer; previously researcher with the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies

Dr Saskia Cohen-Willner

Art historian. Established independent curator, researcher and author, specializing in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century paintings, works on paper and art literature.

Dr Jan van Kreveld

Lawyer. Previously legislative lawyer, professor, state councillor of the Council of State, justice of the Central Appeals Tribunal and chair of the South Holland complaints committee

Dick Oostinga

Lawyer. Previously notary, board member and consultant of various organizations.

Dr Claartje Wesselink

Cultural historian. University lecturer, specializing in the art and culture of the interwar period, Second World War and post-war reconstruction.

Secretariat  

The Secretariat supports the members of the Restitutions Committee in the execution of their tasks.

Else van Sterkenburg

Else van Sterkenburg

Secretary. Lawyer and art historian

Lida Flesschedrager

Deputy secretary

Tonie Brandse

Office manager

Icha El Achkar

Process coordinator

Hannah van der Weg

Communications adviser