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Salzburg museum begins to return looted items

Salzburg museum returns Nazi looted artefacts

By Maddy French

Salzburg's natural history museum is returning artefacts that were once looted by the Nazis from their owners before and during World War Two.

Headed up by Eduard Paul Tratz during the Nazi period, the Salzburg museum Haus der Natur collected many looted goods as part of the 'Ahnenerbe', the Nazi research group responsible for taking precious objects from religious groups, institutions and members of the public around Europe.

Today, following a three year project by Haus der Natur to establish the original owners of thousands of objects and books, the museum has begun to return artefacts. The move comes after the museum came under new leadership in 2010 and launched an investigation into its own history and the relationship between Tratz, the Nazis and the museum's possessions.

The move comes amid other efforts to see Nazi looted art returned to its owners. The Wiener Secession is currently battling a legal attempt by heirs of art collector Erich Lederer to have Klimt's Beethoven's Frieze returned to them as the rightful owners.

A recent discovery in Munich of hundred of valuable paintings also sparked a restitution project to trace the provenance of the pictures.

In Salzburg, the museum are hoping to have everything returned this year, although the complicated cataloguing system could hold efforts back.

Robert Lindner, head of collections at the museum, said: "We would like to finish all the talks [with the rightful heirs] and return everything this year. However I can’t exclude the possibility that in five years or so that new cases will show up."

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