Inventory and recovery of looted art in Belgium

During the Second World War, numerous works of art ended up in Nazi Germany as a result of looting, theft, sale or other forms of disposal.

After the war, the Belgian government specifically tackled the problem of looted assets by setting up the “Service for Economic Recovery” (DER in Dutch).

Indeed, after the war, everyone was obliged to report the transfer of ownership of works of art to the then occupying forces via a declaration form. This may have been a voluntary transfer of ownership, confiscation or other forms of disposal.

As such, the DER was able to compile a list of works of art looted in Belgium.

Investigation and restitution of looted art

Although some of the original owners or beneficiaries recovered some of their works of art after the war, a large part remained unaccounted for.

However, it was not until 1997 that the “Study Commission on Jewish Assets”, better known as the “Buysse Commission”, was set up to give new impetus to this subject.

In order to try to resolve the issue, in 1997 the Belgian government set up the “Cell for the recovery of assets looted during the Second World War in Belgium” within the FPS Economy.

This cell has a wide range of responsibilities, both at national and international level, and advises collectors, private individuals and government institutions to help them answer questions regarding lost works of art and, if necessary, organise restitutions for the beneficiaries or descendants.

An agreement between the FPS Economy, SME and Energy and the General State Archives makes it possible for researchers and interested parties to also manually consult all archives on art looted during the Second World War in the reading rooms of the General State Archives.

The so-called ”Washington Principles, in which various international agreements on art looted during the Nazi regime were laid down in Washington, the capitol of the US, in 1998, marked the beginning of a reversal in the general policy on looted art.

Launch of a new digital database on art looted during the Second World War

As of 2021, you can consult information on the website regarding works of art looted during the Second World War when Belgium was under occupation.

Are you looking for looted art or do you still have questions?

Contact the Cell for the Recovery of assets looted during the Second World War in Belgium.

Visit the website Looted Art