Irving trial witness to sit on 'looted art' panel
By Bernard Josephs
A KEY defence witness in the David Irving libel trial has been selected to serve on a government panel to assess claims over art stolen from Holocaust victims.
The panel will examine claims from Holocaust survivors who believe art stolen from them by the Nazis has ended up in British galleries and museums.
Cambridge University historian Professor Richard Evans, is one of 11 members of the panel appointed by Arts Minister Alan Howarth and headed by former Lord Chief Justice of Appeal Sir David Hirst. They will adjudicate on whether the claims are justified and, if so, decide on the form of compensation.
Professor Evans featured in some of the fiercest exchanges with Mr Irving during the High Court action and his evidence contributed to Professor Deborah Lipstadt's victory.
Others on the panel include Peter Oppenheimer, president of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies (and a director of the JC); Sir Terry Helser, a Victoria and Albert Museum trustee; and art dealer Martin Levy, a member of the council of the Jewish Museum.
Although Jewish leaders have generally expressed satisfaction with the panel, the row over its terms of reference continued this week, with the Board of Deputies claiming that the system "is weighted against claimants."
The Board expressed "bitter disappointment" that it was being left to the panel to recommend whether to return looted art found in British galleries to the rightful owners, or their heirs. The panel could, instead, decide to pay compensation, or display beside an exhibit an account of its history in the Nazi period.
A statement issued by the Commission for Looted Art in Europe said "the only just solution" was "restitution of the property."
In France, meanwhile, the Matteoli commission report on Jewish assets stolen during the war has been submitted to Premier Lionel Jospin.
The 10-volume report indicates that between 90 and 95 per cent of stolen financial property was returned to its owners after the Liberation.
London, April 21, 2000
THE appointment of Professor Richard Evans to this panel smacks of a reward; it is bound to raise fresh questions about his pro-Jewish sympathies. Notwithstanding that Evans was paid over £71,181 by Lipstadt's lawyers for the evidence he gave in the trial -- Mr Irving did not pay his witnesses -- Evans signed a statement at the end of his expert evidence, as required by the law, attesting that he was neutral between the parties in the Irving vs. Lipstadt action.