Quite a bit is being made of a trove of art work German authorities found in a Munich apartment recently. Reportedly the find consists of up to 1,500 works by such artists as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Emil Nolde. It appears the German government's initial idea was to shroud the matter in bureaucracy--that is, until the US, Israel, and other interested governments pressured the Germans to make the process transparent and, even more specifically, to take active steps to return the art work to their owners.
This makes me wonder about art work which Imperial Britain stole from Nigeria (to pick one random colony) during the colonial era. Case in point: the Benin Massacre of 1897, during which British soldiers sacked the kingdom of Benin, killing, pillaging, and making away with untold art work. Much of the art which the imperialists stole from their colonies reside in European museums and private collections today. Some are even being acquired by U.S. organizations such as Boston's Museum Of Fine Arts. This demand for that museum to return the stash of Benin art is tepid at best. And so is this one, which, to its credit, takes care to assign ownership of the stolen Benin art to the Benin royal family.
So, question: is there really a difference between the Nazi looting of Jewish art and Colonial Britain's looting of Benin art? If moral, ethical, or legal arguments can be made for returning the former, why aren't those arguments extensible to the latter?