Nazis' looted art 'should not automatically be returned'

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Museums should be allowed to keep art looted by the Nazis according to Sir Norman Rosenthal, the former exhibitions secretary of the Royal Academy.

Despite being the child of Jewish refugees, Sir Norman said he thought "history is history" and descendants "distanced by two or more generations" from the works' original owners did not have an "inalienable right" to reclaim their forbearers' property.

In April 2000 a Spoliation Advisory Panel was set up by the government to advise on the process of reuniting art looted by the Nazis with its rightful owners or their descendents.

It periodically rules on what should happen to particular contested items. Often, a museum is allowed to keep an item but told it must pay the owner or descendents a fee that matches its value on the open market.

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