Text: H.R.6130 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)All Information (Except Text)
Public Law No: 114-308 (12/16/2016)
[114th Congress Public Law 308]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
HOLOCAUST EXPROPRIATED ART RECOVERY ACT OF 2016
[[Page 130 STAT. 1524]]
Public Law 114-308
To provide the victims of Holocaust-era persecution and their heirs a
fair opportunity to recover works of art confiscated or misappropriated
by the Nazis. <<NOTE: Dec. 16, 2016 - [H.R. 6130]>>
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled, <<NOTE: Holocaust
Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016. 22 USC 1621 note.>>
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery
Act of 2016''.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
Congress finds the following:
(1) It is estimated that the Nazis confiscated or otherwise
misappropriated hundreds of thousands of works of art and other
property throughout Europe as part of their genocidal campaign
against the Jewish people and other persecuted groups. This has
been described as the ``greatest displacement of art in human
(2) Following World War II, the United States and its allies
attempted to return the stolen artworks to their countries of
origin. Despite these efforts, many works of art were never
reunited with their owners. Some of the art has since been
discovered in the United States.
(3) In 1998, the United States convened a conference with 43
other nations in Washington, DC, known as the Washington
Conference, which produced Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.
One of these principles is that ``steps should be taken
expeditiously to achieve a just and fair solution'' to claims
involving such art that has not been restituted if the owners or
their heirs can be identified.
(4) The same year, Congress enacted the Holocaust Victims
Redress Act (Public Law 105-158, 112 Stat. 15), which expressed
the sense of Congress that ``all governments should undertake
good faith efforts to facilitate the return of private and
public property, such as works of art, to the rightful owners in
cases where assets were confiscated from the claimant during the
period of Nazi rule and there is reasonable proof that the
claimant is the rightful owner.''.
(5) In 2009, the United States participated in a Holocaust
Era Assets Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, with 45 other
nations. At the conclusion of this conference, the participating
nations issued the Terezin Declaration, which reaffirmed the
1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art
and urged all participants ``to ensure that their legal systems
or alternative processes, while taking into account the
[[Page 130 STAT. 1525]]
different legal traditions, facilitate just and fair solutions
with regard to Nazi-confiscated and looted art, and to make
certain that claims to recover such art are resolved
expeditiously and based on the facts and merits of the claims
and all the relevant documents submitted by all parties.''. The
Declaration also urged participants to ``consider all relevant
issues when applying various legal provisions that may impede
the restitution of art and cultural property, in order to
achieve just and fair solutions, as well as alternative dispute
resolution, where appropriate under law.''.
(6) Victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs have taken
legal action in the United States to recover Nazi-confiscated
art. These lawsuits face significant procedural obstacles partly
due to State statutes of limitations, which typically bar claims
within some limited number of years from either the date of the
loss or the date that the claim should have been discovered. In
some cases, this means that the claims expired before World War
II even ended. (See, e.g., Detroit Institute of Arts v. Ullin,
No. 06-10333, 2007 WL 1016996 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 31, 2007).) The
unique and horrific circumstances of World War II and the
Holocaust make statutes of limitations especially burdensome to
the victims and their heirs. Those seeking recovery of Nazi-
confiscated art must painstakingly piece together their cases
from a fragmentary historical record ravaged by persecution,
war, and genocide. This costly process often cannot be done
within the time constraints imposed by existing law.
(7) Federal legislation is needed because the only court
that has considered the question held that the Constitution
prohibits States from making exceptions to their statutes of
limitations to accommodate claims involving the recovery of
Nazi-confiscated art. In Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of
Art, 592 F.3d 954 (9th Cir. 2009), the United States Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit invalidated a California law that
extended the State statute of limitations for claims seeking
recovery of Holocaust-era artwork. The Court held that the law
was an unconstitutional infringement of the Federal Government's
exclusive authority over foreign affairs, which includes the
resolution of war-related disputes. In light of this precedent,
the enactment of a Federal law is necessary to ensure that
claims to Nazi-confiscated art are adjudicated in accordance
with United States policy as expressed in the Washington
Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, the Holocaust
Victims Redress Act, and the Terezin Declaration.
(8) While litigation may be used to resolve claims to
recover Nazi-confiscated art, it is the sense of Congress that
the private resolution of claims by parties involved, on the
merits and through the use of alternative dispute resolution
such as mediation panels established for this purpose with the
aid of experts in provenance research and history, will yield
just and fair resolutions in a more efficient and predictable
SEC. 3. PURPOSES.
The purposes of this Act are the following:
(1) To ensure that laws governing claims to Nazi-confiscated
art and other property further United States policy as set forth
in the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-
[[Page 130 STAT. 1526]]
Confiscated Art, the Holocaust Victims Redress Act, and the
(2) To ensure that claims to artwork and other property
stolen or misappropriated by the Nazis are not unfairly barred
by statutes of limitations but are resolved in a just and fair
SEC. 4. DEFINITIONS.
In this Act:
(1) Actual discovery.--The term ``actual discovery'' means
(2) Artwork or other property.--The term ``artwork or other
(A) pictures, paintings, and drawings;
(B) statuary art and sculpture;
(C) engravings, prints, lithographs, and works of
(D) applied art and original artistic assemblages
(E) books, archives, musical objects and manuscripts
(including musical manuscripts and sheets), and sound,
photographic, and cinematographic archives and mediums;
(F) sacred and ceremonial objects and Judaica.
(3) Covered period.--The term ``covered period'' means the
period beginning on January 1, 1933, and ending on December 31,
(4) Knowledge.--The term ``knowledge'' means having actual
knowledge of a fact or circumstance or sufficient information
with regard to a relevant fact or circumstance to amount to
actual knowledge thereof.
(5) Nazi persecution.--The term ``Nazi persecution'' means
any persecution of a specific group of individuals based on Nazi
ideology by the Government of Germany, its allies or agents,
members of the Nazi Party, or their agents or associates, during
the covered period.
SEC. 5. STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS.
(a) <<NOTE: Deadline.>> In General.--Notwithstanding any other
provision of Federal or State law or any defense at law relating to the
passage of time, and except as otherwise provided in this section, a
civil claim or cause of action against a defendant to recover any
artwork or other property that was lost during the covered period
because of Nazi persecution may be commenced not later than 6 years
after the actual discovery by the claimant or the agent of the claimant
(1) the identity and location of the artwork or other
(2) a possessory interest of the claimant in the artwork or
(b) Possible Misidentification.--For purposes of subsection (a)(1),
in a case in which the artwork or other property is one of a group of
substantially similar multiple artworks or other property, actual
discovery of the identity and location of the artwork or other property
shall be deemed to occur on the date on which there are facts sufficient
to form a substantial basis to believe that the artwork or other
property is the artwork or other property that was lost.
[[Page 130 STAT. 1527]]
(c) Preexisting Claims.--Except as provided in subsection (e), a
civil claim or cause of action described in subsection (a) shall be
deemed to have been actually discovered on the date of enactment of this
(1) before the date of enactment of this Act--
(A) a claimant had knowledge of the elements set
forth in subsection (a); and
(B) the civil claim or cause of action was barred by
a Federal or State statute of limitations; or
(2)(A) before the date of enactment of this Act, a claimant
had knowledge of the elements set forth in subsection (a); and
(B) on the date of enactment of this Act, the civil claim or
cause of action was not barred by a Federal or State statute of
(d) Applicability.--Subsection (a) shall apply to any civil claim or
cause of action that is--
(1) pending in any court on the date of enactment of this
Act, including any civil claim or cause of action that is
pending on appeal or for which the time to file an appeal has
not expired; or
(2) <<NOTE: Time period.>> filed during the period
beginning on the date of enactment of this Act and ending on
December 31, 2026.
(e) <<NOTE: Time period.>> Exception.--Subsection (a) shall not
apply to any civil claim or cause of action barred on the day before the
date of enactment of this Act by a Federal or State statute of
(1) the claimant or a predecessor-in-interest of the
claimant had knowledge of the elements set forth in subsection
(a) on or after January 1, 1999; and
(2) not less than 6 years have passed from the date such
claimant or predecessor-in-interest acquired such knowledge and
during which time the civil claim or cause of action was not
barred by a Federal or State statute of limitations.
(f) Rule of Construction.--Nothing in this Act shall be construed to
create a civil claim or cause of action under Federal or State law.
(g) Sunset.--This Act shall cease to have effect on January 1, 2027,
except that this Act shall continue to apply to any civil claim or cause
of action described in subsection (a) that is pending on January 1,
2027. Any civil claim or cause of action commenced on or after that date
to recover artwork or other property described in this Act shall be
subject to any applicable Federal or State
[[Page 130 STAT. 1528]]
statute of limitations or any other Federal or State defense at law
relating to the passage of time.
Approved December 16, 2016.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY--H.R. 6130 (S. 2763):
SENATE REPORTS: No. 114-394 (Comm. on the Judiciary) accompanying S.
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Vol. 162 (2016):
Dec. 7, considered and passed House.
Dec. 9, considered and passed Senate.