THE Louvre Museum is putting 31 paintings on permanent display in an effort to find the rightful owners of artworks looted by Nazis during the Second World War.

The Paris museum opened two showrooms last month to display the paintings, which are among thousands of works of art looted by German forces in France between 1940 and 1945.

More than 45,000 objects have been handed back to their rightful owners since the war, but more than 2000 remain unclaimed, with 296 paintings stored at the Louvre.

Sebastien Allard, the head of the paintings department at the Louvre, said: “These paintings don’t belong to us. Museums often looked like predators in the past, but our goal is to return them.

“The large majority of the retrieved artworks have been plundered from Jewish families during World War Two.

“Beneficiaries can see these artworks, declare that these artworks belong to them, and officially ask for their return.”

The Louvre initiative is the latest effort by French authorities to find heirs of families who lost their artwork. It is a long and laborious task: only some 50 pieces have been returned since 1951.

Allard said: “People who come forward need, for instance, to establish the proof that the artwork belonged to their grandfather. They need to find old family pictures and payment slips, or gather testimonies. It can take years.”