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(JTA) Dutch compensate owners of Nazi-looted painting

A Dutch museum will compensate the rightful owners of a Nazi-looted painting the government said it could keep because displaying it would be in the public interest.

Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle has agreed to give $240 000 (R3.4 million) to the descendants of Jewish Holocaust victims who under duress sold the 1635 painting Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well by Bernardo Strozzi, the Noordhollands Dagblad reported on Monday, 19 April.

The painting, which was sold by Richard Semmel of Berlin, is one of several artworks that the Dutch government’s restitutions committee has acknowledged as looted art. The committee holds, however, that the museums should be allowed to keep the paintings because the public’s right to have access to culturally significant works outweighs the interests of the rightful owners.

This approach, unique among countries that say they are interested in resolving ownership issues among Nazi-looted art, has exposed the Netherlands to criticism.

It risks “turning the Netherlands from a leader in art restitution to a pariah”, restitution expert Anne Webber and Wesley Fisher, the director of research for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, wrote last year in an op-ed.

The best-known looted item on display in the Netherlands is Painting with Houses by Wassily Kandinsky, whose worth is valued at $20 million (R28.5 million) at least. Amsterdam’s municipal museum, Stedelijk, acknowledges it was looted, but hasn’t offered to compensate the rightful owners, who have sued the museum and lost.

Warsaw unveils monument to ghetto archive

A group of Jewish organisations has unveiled a monument marking the area where a group of Jewish writers and activists buried an archive of material documenting their Holocaust experiences.

The commemoration of the Ringelblum Archive was timed to coincide with the 78th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on Monday, 19 April.

A group of historians, journalists, writers, and social activists led by Emanuel Ringelblum and known as Oneg Shabbat collected the material – from reports and diaries to posters, drawings, and even candy wrappers – documenting the horrid conditions in the ghetto and hid the cache underground in metal boxes and milk cans. Most of the documents have been found.

The monument at 28 Nowolipki Street, designed by Łukasz Mieszkowski and Marcin Urbanek, centres on a transparent cube containing a copy of an archival document.

NYPD creates civilian panel on hate crimes

The New York Police Department (NYPD) is creating a civilian panel to help address a rise in hate crimes in New York City.

Its five volunteer members will include Devorah Halberstam, a Hasidic woman whose son, Ari, was murdered by a terrorist in the city in 1994.

Spurred by a spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans, the diverse panel will help advise if incidents involving any group should be deemed a hate crime.

The NYPD already has a Hate Crimes Task Force and has set up an undercover Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Task Force in response to attacks on members of the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders community.

The task force said 135 hate crimes had been reported in the city in 2021, compared to 93 last year. Through to the end of March, there were 20 antisemitic acts and 31 anti-Asian acts.

Macron calls for reform after French killer avoids trial

After a man who killed his Jewish neighbour successfully pled that he was unfit to stand trial because of what a court called a marijuana-induced psychotic episode, French President Emmanuel Macron is calling for legal reform.

“Deciding to take narcotics and then ‘going mad’ shouldn’t, in my view, remove your criminal responsibility,” Macron told the Le Figaro newspaper in an interview published on Sunday, 18 April. “I would like the justice minister to present a change in the law as soon as possible.”

A high court recently ruled that the killer, Kobili Traore, shouldn’t stand trial for beating Sarah Halimi to death and throwing her out the window of her third-story apartment in 2017.

The CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities called it a “miscarriage of justice”. The founder of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, a communal watchdog known as BNVCA, said he “no longer had full confidence that antisemitic hate crimes in France are handled properly”.

Traore, who is Muslim, called Halimi “demon”, as he hit her for more than 30 minutes and shouted about Allah, witnesses said. After defenestrating her, he shouted, “A lady fell out the window”, and tried to escape but was detained nearby. He was placed in a psychiatric facility and may be released.

Dutch soccer fans chant ‘Hamas, Jews to the gas’

Fans of Dutch soccer team Vitesse chanted, “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” at a fan rally before a scheduled match against Ajax, an Amsterdam-based team known for its history of Jewish supporters.

Police began examining footage from the action on Wednesday, 21 April, which occurred in Arnhem, where Vitesse is based. The two clubs played on Sunday, and Ajax won 2-1.

Supporters and rivals of Ajax often affectionately refer to the club and its fans as “Jews” out of recognition of the centuries-long strong presence of Jews in Amsterdam. It’s a pattern across Europe used for fans of teams in England, Italy, and Germany.

But in the Netherlands, the “Hamas, Jews to the gas” chant has become more commonplace in recent years.

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