Actress Helen Mirren testified at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Tuesday in support of a bill that would make it easier to facilitate the return of artwork stolen by the Nazis in World War II to the works’ original owners.
Republican Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn teamed with two Democrats, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Richard Bluemnthal (D-CT), in introducing the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act in April. The bill would extend the statute of limitations for theft victims’ claims to six years from notification of the stolen artwork’s discovery.
The senators co-chaired Tuesday morning’s subcommittee hearing, where Mirren and several other witnesses were expected to testify in support of the bill.
Mirren, 70, recently starred in the film Woman in Gold, which tells the true story of Maria Altmann, an Austrian-Jewish refugee who spent more than a decade lobbying the Austrian government to recover artwork pilfered by the Nazis during World War II.
Helen Mirren: "Art restitution is about preserving the fundamental human condition."https://t.co/jlzWeo1dYe
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 7, 2016
“The very act of Nazi expropriation was not only unjust but it was inhumane,” Mirren testified Tuesday, according to NBC News. “And yet, still today, it seems there are still some out there who lack the will to recognize the victims and their families as rightful owners.”
“Art restitution is so much more than reclaiming a material good. It is a moral imperative,” Mirren added.
In a statement, Cruz said that “the quest to reunite the families of Holocaust victims with their stolen heritage is ultimately a quest to help them reclaim a tangible link to a happier time in their family’s history — a time before the darkness of the Holocaust.”
“That is far more valuable than whatever economic value the works of art or cultural artifacts might have today,” Cruz said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “Indeed, that is priceless.”
Other witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing included former U.S. ambassador to Austria Ron Lauder and Monica Dugot, the international director of restitution for the Christie’s auction house.
According to the Washington Post, the senators referred to Mirren as “Dame” (she received a DBE in 2003), and Cruz praised her performance in the 2006 film The Queen, reportedly calling it “a marvelous film.”
Mirren had criticized Cruz in an interview with England’s Channel 4 News in February, before the Texas senator dropped out of the presidential race, when she called him an “old-school extreme right conservative.”
“I think that there is an extraordinary, extreme right wing voice in America, extreme, and if that does get into power, fully, in the Congress, in the Senate, in the White House, and has all the power that it wants, I can’t imagine how the world would look,” the actress said then.
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