Some 20,000 works of art looted by the Nazis are one step closer to being returned to their rightful owners. Today marks the launch of an online database of art taken in Germany-occupied France and Belgium between 1940 and 1944, allowing survivors, their relatives, art collectors and museums to track down objects that may belong to them. The database was created from the meticulous records kept by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, the Nazi unit that seized the art in the first place, reports the AP.
The database focuses solely on ERR spoils that were shipped to the Jeu de Paume building in Paris, where they were often cataloged before being sold back to the market, destroyed, or integrated into Nazi officials' private collections. The Claims Conference, which helps survivors and their relatives recover stolen property, reviewed the database and estimated that nearly half its items haven't yet been returned to their rightful owners. It says about 650,000 art objects were taken, and thousands of items are still lost. (Read more Nazi stories.)