Thanks to George Clooney's adaptation of Edsel's The Monuments Men the world has awakened to the repercussions of Nazi atrocities that are not just events in history but real ongoing issues, with deep emotional resonance for Jewish holocaust victims and their ancestors.
Helen Mirren stars in the 'Woman in Gold' just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. The film follows the story of Maria Altmann's battle with the Austrian government to retrieve paintings by Gustave Klimt, originally stolen by the Nazis during WWII.
The Altmann story is just one of the more high profile and successful cases of restitution of Nazi looted art. There are thousands of unclaimed objects d'art and thousands more missing and many more cases that languish in the courts unresolved.
I first discovered the story of Nazi looted art during my research for RACHAEL'S GIFT and could not believe Hollywood had yet to render this subject on film. I was originally looking at the fake art trade (another surprising story in existence) wanting to find inspiration for my character who 'discovers an old painting with dubious history', when I came across thousands of paintings with dubious histories that had originally been 'confiscated' from Jewish families for either adding to Hitler's Linz Museum, destroying (if deemed unworthy) or exchanged with art dealers where it would find its way on to the art market. I read Edsel's book The Monuments Men and Hector Feliciano's The Lost Museum and wondered how this story - still active today, was not part of household discussions.
That was over five years ago now and since then the Monuments Men has been released, Woman in Gold is out this year and Helen Rothschild's novel, The Improbability of Love (about a woman who stumbles across a painting with dubious history) is to be released this May in the UK with film rights already sold.
It's nice to catch the zeitgeist, but really I'm glad that the story of Nazi looted art is coming into consciousness and hopefully there will be some catharsis for victims and their ancestors. Lest we forget.