Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



This Article analyzes the patchwork of legal remedies available to persons claiming ownership of Nazi-looted art. This Article demonstrates that the use of the NSPA via criminal prosecutions or civil forfeiture proceedings provides a claimant with great advantages over the present-day possessors of the art. Part II analyzes the criminal remedies used to punish thieves and restore the art to its original owners or their heirs. Part III analyzes the use of the civil forfeiture mechanism--a hybrid of criminal and civil remedies--in pursuit of restoring art to claimants.

Part IV concludes that criminal prosecutions or civil forfeiture proceedings premised on violations of the NSPA should be brought--most often, but not exclusively--in the limited circumstance of a clear, usually recent, theft. The NSPA is a criminal statute and should only be applied--even indirectly through civil forfeiture proceedings--to truly criminal conduct. For many claims to purportedly stolen art, traditional civil litigation is a viable option that is preferable to government-backed forfeiture proceedings, which preempt statute of limitations principles upon which the viability of the art market greatly depends.