Spain participated in the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets and is a signatory to the International Council of Museums Code of Ethics. The government formed a Commission on Holocaust-era Assets in 1997 to investigate Spain’s economic relations with the Third Reich during WWII. In 1999, the Commission’s work expanded to include an investigation regarding works of art bought or sold in Spain during the Holocaust. The Commission concluded that, in terms of economic cooperation and movable property, Spain’s role was very limited. An estimated one percent of all the art dealers operating in Europe conducted business in Spain during WWII. Some Jewish groups and researchers criticized the Commission’s findings; specifically, they pointed out that the Commission did not conduct an investigation regarding the movement of looted works through Spain or sufficiently research existing art collections in Spain to ascertain whether they included works of art looted by Nazi Germany.
The Department is aware of one case involving movable property. In 1939, Nazi officials forced a Jewish woman living in Germany to trade a Camille Pissarro painting, Rue Saint-Honoré, in return for safe passage out of Germany. The painting was acquired in 1976 through a private purchase and was incorporated into the collection of Spain’s Thyssen Museum in 1993. The woman’s heirs filed a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles for the return of the painting.
According to a statement issued in November 2018, the museum assessed the painting had been acquired transparently and legally and maintained that the family’s restitution claims had been addressed with the German government in 1958. In an April 2019 decision, the appellate court ruled in favor of the Thyssen Museum on the basis that the painting’s ownership was bound by Spanish law, which allows buyers to retain works purchased if they did not possess “actual knowledge” the works had been stolen.
According to the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain (FCJE), there are very few survivors of the Holocaust residing in the country, and thus the Spanish government addresses restitution claims on a case-by-case basis.