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Defending National TreasuresFrench Art and Heritage Under Vichy$
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Elizabeth Karlsgodt

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780804770187

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804770187.001.0001

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The Vichy Legacy

The Vichy Legacy

(p.263) 11 The Vichy Legacy
Defending National Treasures
Stanford University Press

This chapter discusses the ways in which wartime preservation measures were adopted and implemented more fully in the postwar period. Along with the continuity of these reforms, the notion that the state ought to protect national treasures for the good of the collective—even at the expense of private interests—also endured. In perhaps its most injurious form, this guiding principle helped prolong the exploitation of the Vichy regime's Jewish victims. The guardianship over unclaimed art that had been looted or sold from Jewish collections turned into a long-term appropriation of objects, including highly valuable paintings by artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Monet. Following restitution norms of the time, relying on claimants to provide proof of ownership, museum officials held these pieces in public museums and storage depots without searching for the rightful owners—despite the administration's access to extensive documentation on the looted collections.

Keywords:   museum collections, Vichy regime, art preservation policy, national treasures, Jewish victims, Jewish collections

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