Jews and Restitution

Restitution is taking things to the way they were. During World War II, millions of lives were destroyed, their possessions looted and appropriated by thieves pretending to be upstanding citizens. In Nazi Europe Jewish people were not humans, they were no longer people and as such they had no rights to their belongings or even their life. That is why people felt no qualms about taking away their things, the the law upheld them. The movie “Woman In Gold” is the first movie I have seen which truly humanized the Holocaust victims, the mark left on them years later and the difficulty of being equal under the law, even today and when they do, just how amazing it feels to be recognized as a human, as a person with equal rights with ability to work and own things and have society see to it that you are able to do that just as a non-Jew.

For me it was inspiring to see the work of art commissioned, painted for and owned by one family, made for them by an artist and returned to them through a European court. As a descendant of survivors, I felt a sort of victory for having dignity won in court and a realization being born Jewish resulted in no rights at all. Watching that movie, I felt the feeling of vulnerably of not being protected by laws of society and felt grateful for having those laws today. Yet, it was maddening to see how much work it took to get the art back and sad to realize that over 100,000 other works, have yet to been returned. To realize that there are 100,000 other works of art never mind other articles which people work hard for and meant a lot to them, are in the hands of those who have them without working for them, acquiring them by force, through thievery. Until corrected, those works in galleries, homes and the money and jewelry in bank vaults will continue to symbolize a mockery of justice and civilization. Thus even 70 years after the war, these works in the wrong hands will continue to to remind us of the injustices of the war and their continuing perpetuation.

Jews seeking what was rightfully theirs is something we should all have an interest in. Them getting their works is a sign of society recognizing law today and recognizing the lack of law then. People getting back property stolen from them is a sign that we are treating all people fairly and with dignity and that is worth far more than any one painting.

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