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Learning English - Words in the News
Fears over German art
Some of the German expressionist's paintings were burned during the Nazi era and called 'degenerate'
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's self-portrait

Talks are taking place at the Chancellor's office in Berlin to discuss Germany's growing loss of art because so many Jewish heirs are claiming the pieces. International law says the German government must return paintings that were lost or stolen by Nazis. Tristana Moore reports from Berlin:

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There's been a heated debate in Germany about restitution claims after a painting by the expressionist artist, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, was recently sold at auction in New York. The painting had been hanging in a museum in Berlin, but in August, the city authorities returned it to the grand-daughter of its original owners.

The restitution was justified on the grounds that the sale of the work in the 1930s was prompted by their persecution as Jews under the Nazi regime. But critics said the painting was neither looted by the Nazis nor sold under duress and many accuse the authorities of caving into pressure from auction houses and art collectors.

Such was the public outcry that the Culture Minister, Bernd Naumann, decided to invite museum directors and legal experts to attend a meeting in Berlin today. It's understood the federal government wants to introduce a central database to keep track of the recent wave of restitution claims. Ministers are also likely to step up pressure on museums to carry out their own research into the ownership of works of art, according to government guidelines.

Tristana Moore, BBC Berlin

Listen to the words

a heated debate
a discussion involving many disagreements

restitution claims
requests for lost or stolen items to be returned to the original owners or their heirs

right and with good reason

looted by
stolen, illegally taken away

under duress
by force, by threat

caving into pressure
only acting because of the large number of complaints recieved

the public outcry
the large number of angry complaints from people

a central database
a large collection of information held on computer about a particular topic which is easy for people to find and use

the recent wave
the sudden increase

to step up pressure
to increase demands, push for quicker action

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