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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 14th October 2016 > HUNG JURY


A Pissarro stolen by the Nazis is coming back to Paris. But only after a battle


RAYMOND DOWD is angry. He shoves a ream of paper several inches thick across a conference table in his midtown Manhattan office. The stack contains copies of property declarations by Jews from nearly 80 years ago. Tax documents aren’t the most thrilling read, but Dowd, a lawyer who has handled several World War II– era restitution cases, says the papers are essential to understanding how the Nazis stripped Jews of so much art. By making Jews declare what they owned, sometimes in exchange for travel papers, the Nazis were creating an inventory of their belongings. “This happened on a sunny day. Birds singing, Jews lining up, a blonde chick with a typewriter typing this stuff up. No machine guns, no violence,” he says. “Some tax thing. That’s how it happened.”

The Nazis used those records of what Jews owned, among other methods, to plunder their possessions, including an estimated 650,000 art objects. The thefts included Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet, Vermeer’s The Astronomer and Klimt’s gold-layered art nouveau masterpiece Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. They also included a painting of a peasant woman with a flock of sheep, which now hangs in a woodpaneled room at the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.

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