Museums in the Netherlands have launched an investigation into works of art that may have been taken from Dutch Jews during the Nazi era in the hopes of returning them to their rightful owners.

"We have information about auctions that took place just before and during World War II at which it is known that Jewish people were forced to sell items," said Siebe Weide, director of the National Association of Museums.

In other cases, objects were either stolen or seized after being left behind by Jewish families fleeing the Nazi invasion.

The inquiry will examine the collections of about 100 museums and specifically, only works acquired after 1933. It's expected to last four years.

Weide said it was the "ethical thing to do" especially since a certain generation of Jews were dying.

The Dutch government is backing the $2.1 million Cdn investigation.

A list will be published of works of art with dubious origins. Families could then put in a claim and each case would be adjudicated by a special committee.

During the 1950s, the Dutch government managed to restore some pieces back to their rightful owners but many other pieces remained the property of the state.

Weide said he doubts there's more than 100 pieces in question.