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Supreme Court to hear case on religious art taken by Nazis


The Supreme Court announced Thursday that it will hear a case brought against Germany by the descendants of Jewish art dealers who claim in 1935 their family members were forced to sell a collection of religious artwork to the Nazi government.

An appeals court ruled that the case could go forward despite a general rule against suing foreign countries in American courts, under an exception for “property taken in violation of international law.” The D.C. Circuit ruled that because the taking was part of the Nazi’s genocide against Jews in Europe.

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“Germany seeks to eliminate recourse for Nazi-looted art and the Court will have the chance to answer this question of critical importance for Holocaust victims,” said Nicholas M. O’Donnell, attorney for the art dealers’ heirs.

German attorney Jonathan Freiman told The Associated Press, “We’re glad that the Supreme Court will hear the case and look forward to explaining why this dispute doesn’t belong in a U.S. court.”

The art dealers collectively purchased the artwork, known as the Guelph Treasure, in 1929. It includes items from the 11th to 15th centuries.

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The Supreme Court also agreed to hear a similar case, where Jews are suing Hungary, claiming that their family members’ property was taken when they were forced to board Hungarian trains to be sent to death camps during the Holocaust.

The court is expected to hear arguments in both cases after taking a break for the summer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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