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Swiss back Holocaust conference declaration

A declaration on returning looted Nazi art to its rightful owners has been signed by 46 countries, including Switzerland, at a conference in the Czech Republic.

This content was published on June 30, 2009 - 09:48

Nations also backed the foundation of the European Shoah Legacy Institute to track the return of such property, according to a conference statement.

The declaration, named after the site of a former concentration camp in the northern Czech town of Terezin, states the countries should urge that "every effort be made to rectify the consequences of wrongful property seizures, such as confiscations, forced sales and sales under duress of property".

According to the Jewish Claims Conference, the Nazis took an estimated 650,000 artworks and religious items from Jews and other victims in what has been described as "the greatest mass robbery" ever. Some of the items ended up in Switzerland.

The signing parties at the five-day Holocaust Era Assets conference in Prague agreed, after long negotiations, to increase access to archives and that items belonging to those with no heirs could be used to help survivors and for Holocaust education. The European Shoah Legacy Institute will be set up at Terezin.

The head of the Swiss delegation, Jacques Pitteloud, said the outcome was positive, especially as it had seemed for a while that there would be no agreement.

He noted that there was not much time left to compensate the Holocaust survivors, who have an average age of 74, but there was a willingness to address this issue in Prague.

In Switzerland there are around a dozen outstanding cases of looted art which still need clarification. Pitteloud said, however, that this was still a small amount compared with other countries.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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