Nazi art deal forces Dutch to face guilt

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Masterpieces snatched by Goering are returned to Jewish collector's family.

For the moment, they are still on the walls or in the vaults. The Rembrandts, Van Dycks, Ruysdaels and Cranachs continue to draw visitors to Holland's greatest museums and galleries.
But not for much longer. Under a landmark ruling by the Dutch government, more than 200 pieces, including scores of major masterpieces tracked down by a team of top art detectives, will be stripped from cultural institutions and returned to the family of Jacques Goudstikker, a Jewish collector and dealer who died during the Second World War.

The story of one of Europe's biggest collections of 16th and 17th-century paintings is not just about art. It is about modern Holland's painful reconciliation of a war history that is less honourable than usually thought. A new book claiming Dutch people had known about mass deportation and extermination of Jews has provoked a bitter controversy. 'There was some resistance [to the German occupation] of course, and many can be justly proud of what they did,' said Ies Vuysje, the author. 'But most people just got on with their lives and did nothing, despite knowing what was going on.'

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