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Resolving Material Culture Disputes: Human Rights, Property Rights, And Crimes Against Humanity

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Chapter Summary

Artworks stolen from victims of the Nazis, along with the material cultural heritage of many indigenous peoples removed during colonialism, have both been the subject of a significant literature in recent years. This may be explained by the scarcity of reported judicial decisions concerning claims for the return of indigenous material, in comparison to the large number of cases brought to recover artworks stolen by the Nazi regime. This chapter explores whether these claims should be treated according to similar principles or whether they present differences that warrant contrasting approaches. The ordinary rules pertaining to the right to personal property sometimes appear as compromised. In the case of indigenous sacred cultural material, this compromise forms part of the human rights. In the case of the property of Jews and others, a right to restitution should now be seen as premised on the commission of a crime against humanity.

Keywords: crime; cultural heritage; Holocaust artworks; human rights; Nazi regime; property rights



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