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Nazi loot claim goes to court in US


vienna. A panel of experts in Austria charged with examining restitution claims for works of art seized by the Nazis, have recommended that 40 works be returned to the heirs of Jews persecuted by the Nazi regime. The works are all minor in comparison to the six Klimt paintings claimed by Maria Altmann, niece of the industrialist, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, who is chasing a claim for her uncle's collection. On 7 May US-based Ms Altmann went to a tribunal in Los Angeles to claim the right to pursue the Austrian government through the US courts-an unprecedented move. The disputed paintings, now valued at more than £80 million, are among the most famous in the world, and include the portrait of Ms Altmann's aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer. Ms Altmann's case is in one of a series that has been slowly emptying museums across Austria. Last autumn, the heirs of a Jewish art collector were given rights to claim two Klimt paintings from the Albertina Museum in Vienna. It is widely believed that the Austrian government is reluctant to loose the Bloch-Bauer paintings as they are so important a part of the Austrian State collection. Part of the dispute arises from confusion over the contents of a will left by Mr Bloch-Bauer's wife, which leaves the works to the State, but, crucially, argues Ms Altmann, the paintings were seized before her uncle died, and therefore taken unlawfully