VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ The government should clarify the origin of 241 art works in Austrian museums that are believed to have been taken from Jews by Nazis, opposition lawmakers said Wednesday.
The Greens Party submitted a parliamentary inquiry addressed to Elisabeth Gehrer, the minister in charge of museums.
In February, Gehrer gave the first government promise to shed light on works the state kept back after 1945. She decreed that museums must clarify ``beyond any doubt″ their provenance.
Her initiative follows a Manhattan court’s seizure in January of two Austrian paintings on display in New York City on claims they belonged to Jewish Holocaust victims, and a Vienna newspaper series on art looted from Jews by Nazis.
No one knows exactly how many paintings are at stake, or their worth. Experts have estimated their value dwarfs the $14.5 million raised at a 1996 Vienna auction of art confiscated from Jews and stored for decades at a monastery.
Greens spokeswoman Therezija Stoisits said she wanted to spare Austria ``the role of Switzerland,″ which came under international fire for not trying to find the heirs to hidden bank accounts left behind by Jews during the Holocaust.
She told The Associated Press that the figure of 241 art works mentioned in the inquiry is probably too low, and that the items of questionable origin in Austrian state art collections probably number ``in the thousands.″