According to a report by Der Standard cited by Reuters, the permanent collection of the Jewish Museum Vienna may include as many as 500 artworks and 900 books that were stolen by Nazis during World War II. The enormous trove of works and objects of dubious lineage was discovered following a rigorous screening process begun in 2007 after other Austrian museums uncovered similar ownership problems.
For over a year now, since December 2011, Vienna’s Jewish Museum has had a part-time employee whose sole responsibility is to check the provenance of the artworks in its permanent collection. “Anything that was acquired illegally ought to be returned,” Jewish Museum director Danielle Spera told Der Standard. “There will not be a hint of hesitation.”
Among the disputed works are 172 paintings by Jehudo Epstein, who entrusted his work to Bernhard Altmann, an industrialist who fled Austria two years later, in 1938, when the Nazis annexed the country. Many of Epstein’s paintings eventually made their way to the auction block, and several art believed to be in the Jewish Museum’s collection.
— Benjamin Sutton