Late Tuesday evening—the day after Memorial Day no less—the United States Office of the Solicitor General filed a brief amicus curiae in our clients’ pending case against the Federal Republic of Germany and the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz for restitution of the Guelph Treasure (in German, the Welfenschatz). This brief was in response to the Supreme Court’s invitation in January that the SG file a brief expressing the views of the United States. In an unprecedented abdication of 80 years of leadership redressing Nazi-looted art, the Solicitor General argued that there is no circumstance in which a Nazi-forced sale victimizing a German Jew in the 1930s could constitute a violation of international law such the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act would confer jurisdiction over either Germany or the SPK. The U.S. government has taken the position that only property claims against non-Germans suffice—even though, of course, the U.S. government has acknowledged in every relevant context since the early 1940s that Jews ceased to be full members of German society on the day Hitler assumed power: January 30, 1933. This is an historic disgrace. Germany has rightly been shamed for minimizing in court over the last five years the genocidal character of its persecution against Jews, but for the United States to do so the day after we rightly honored the hundreds of thousands of Americans who died to defeat Nazi Germany is appalling.
Topics: Guelph Treasure, Monuments Men, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets, Supreme Court, Holocaust Victims Redress Act, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Hermann Goering, FSIA, Monuments Fine Arts and Archives Program, Washington Principles, Federal Republic of Germany, Welfenschatz, Military Government Law 59, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, HEAR Act, Wannsee Conference, D.C. Circuit, Military Government Law No. 59, london declaration
Thyssen-Bornemisza Prevails Over Cassirer Heirs' Claim to Pissarro Taken by Nazis Despite Acts “Inconsistent with the Washington Principles”
One of the longest-running court cases in the United States about art looted by the Nazis has been decided in favor of the current possessor, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, an instrumentality of the Kingdom of Spain. The U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ruled on April 30, 2019 against the heirs of Lilly Cassirer, a German Jew whom the Nazis targeted in 1939 for a forced sale of Rue Saint–Honoré, après-midi, effect de pluie (1892). The ruling is the second time that the museum has prevailed in the District Court as the owner of the painting under Spanish law, now on the grounds the museum did not know of the painting’s looting history when it acquired the work and that it held the work publicly for long enough to become its owner even though it had been stolen. The ruling, while favorable to the museum in this case, confirms important principles about the inability of successive possessors to acquire good title to artworks stolen by the Nazis, and the importance of diligence and pursuing questions raised by red flags in the chain of title. Notable as well was the Court’s pointed criticism of Spain for failing to adhere to the spirit of the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, and Spain’s failure to “comply with its moral commitments.”
Topics: Walter Feilchenfeldt, Third Reich, Terezin Declaration, Gestapo, Lilly Cassirer, Claude Cassirer, Jacques Goudstikker, Nazi-looted art, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Washington Principles, Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen- Bornemisza, A Tragic Fate, Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art, Reichskammer der bildenden Künste, flight taxes, Rue Saint–Honoré, Julius Cassirer, Paul Durand-Ruel, Ludwigstrasse, Dr. Cassirer and Co. Kabelwerke, Jakob Scheidwimmer, Sydney Schoenberg, Hahn Gallery, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Military Government Law No. 59, Reich Chamber of the Visual Arts, Ari Walter Kampf, Eugen Kampf, Knoedler & Co. Gallery, encubridor
This fall marks the 20th anniversary of the Washington Conference on Nazi-Era Assets and the corollary Washington Principles on Nazi-confiscated Art that have driven much of the conversation since then. Apollo magazine published my thoughts on the impact of the Washington Principles, which I reproduce below (British spelling, thank you), as well as a thoughtful piece by Martin P. Levy (a member of the UK Spoliation Advisory Panel, one of the commissions created in response to the Washington Principles).
Topics: Nazi-looted art, SPK, Advisory Commission, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Washington Principles, HEAR Act, UK Spoliation Advisory Panel, Apollo Magazine, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016, Washington Conference on Nazi-Era Assets, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, National Gallery in London, Claims Conference, JUST Act
Cousin Had Challenged His Capacity to Make a Will Shortly Before 2014 Death
After a two-year legal battle, the Oberlandesgericht in Munich has upheld the dismissal of Uta Werner’s challenge to the will made by Cornelius Gurlitt in 2014 that designated the Kunstmuseum Bern as his heir, including the bequest of his controversial painting collection. Less than six months after it was revealed in November 2013 that the Bavarian authorities had seized 1,280 objects from his Schwabing home in Munich, Gurlitt wrote a will that designated that his entire collection would go to the Swiss museum. Barring some extraordinary appeal, the bequest will now be final and the collection will go to Switzerland. While lifting considerable uncertainty about the fate of the collection as a whole, this development does not address the lack of clarity about the process by which the objects that are suspected of having been looted by the Nazis will be examined or returned.
Topics: Bayern, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Nazi-looted art in Munich, SZ, Uta Werner, Nazi-looted art, Oberlandesgericht, Munich, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Gurlitt, NS Raubkunst, Catrin Lorch, Free State of Bavaria, Kunstmuseum Bern, Washington Principles, Jörg Häntzschel, Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB)
Senate Appropriations Committee Bill Would Give Strong Backing To State Department on Holocaust-Era Assets
The United States Senate Appropriations Committee has passed its annual State Department appropriations bill, and it includes a strong instruction on Holocaust-era looted assets. The bill, entitled the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2016 (S. 1725) was accompanied by the Committee’s report, which would direct the State Department to include in an annual report an assessment of U.S. domestic law and foreign countries’ status on their compliance with the Washington Principles and the Terezin Declaration. As the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) observed last year, that progress is mixed, at best. This is a budget bill, meaning it is just the first step in allocating resources for the U.S. government in the year to come (in this case, for the State Department).
Topics: Legislation, looted property, Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, Terezin Declaration, S. 1725, Georg Baselitz, Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscat, 2009 Terezin Declaration, Holocaust, World Jewish Restitution Organization, Department of State Foreign Operations and Related, Report on International Religious Freedoms, 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, WJRO, Restitution, Nazi-looted, Secretary of State, World War II, United States Senate Appropriations Committee, Gerhard Richter, Washington Principles, Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germa
As if there weren't enough controversy with national advisory commissions' recommendations about Nazi-looted art, the Tate Gallery in London is apparently reconsidering a recommendation last year by the United Kingdom’s Spoliation Advisory Panel that Beaching a Boat, Brighton (1824) by John Constable should be restituted to heirs of Budapest-based Baron Ferenc Hatvany, who was Jewish.
Topics: John Constable, Soviet, Budapest, Worcestershire, London, The Art Newspaper, Beaching a Boat Brighton, Nazi-looted art, Red Army, Mrs P.M. Rainsford, Broadway Art Gallery, Restitution, World War II, Baron Ferenc Hatvany, Tate Gallery, Washington Principles, United Kingdom Spoliation Advisory Panel
Gurlitt and the State of Restitution: Triumphalist Moment Looking More Like Premature "Mission Accomplished"
Ongoing events have weakened irrevocably the triumphalist message that Germany had hoped to send with its November agreement concerning the Gurlitt bequest to the Kunstmuseum Bern, and the January opening of the Deutsches Zentrum für Kulturgutverluste (the German Center for Lost Cultural Property). Instead, the self-congratulatory air that surrounded those events is starting to look like a premature "Mission Accomplished" moment.
Topics: Cornelius Gurlitt, Holocaust Art Restitution Project, Uta Werner, Adolph von Menzel, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Seated Woman, Sachsenhausen, Matisse, Saturday Night Live, George Eduard Behrens, Advisory Commission, Hamburg, L. Behrens & Söhne, Gurlitt, German Cultural Minister, Der Spiegel, Hjalmar Schacht, German Center for Lost Cultural Property, Minister of Economics, Marc Masurovsky, Washington Principles, Kristallnacht, Monika Grütters, Great Depression, Deutsches Zentrum für Kulturgutverluste, Pariser Wochentag, Paris Weekday, Welfenschatz, Limbach Commission, Heidelberg
With the benefit of (a little) time after the initial announcement that the Kunstmuseum Bern had agreed to accept the inheritance of Cornelius Gurlitt, more information has become available about the agreement with Germany and Bavaria that paved the way for the museum’s decision.
Topics: Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Gurlitt Task Force, YouTube, Gurlitt Collection, Christoph Schäublin, Salzburg, Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, World War II, Erklärung der Bundesregierung der Länder und der k, Kunstmuseum Bern, Washington Principles, Museums, Monika Grütters, Washingtoner Einkommen
Are “Flight Goods” Different than Looted Art? Questions About Fair Value and Duress in Wartime Resonate After Recent Limbach Commission Decision
A conference was held last week at the Oskar Reinhart Museum in Winterthur, Switzerland, entitled “Fluchtgut: Geschichte, Recht und Moral” (Flight Goods: History, Law and Morality). The objective conference was described in its program as follows (my translation):
Topics: Expressionist, Esther Tisa Francini, Allied Collecting Points, Südkurier, Auctions, Florian Weiland, Oskar Reinhart Museum, Dresden, Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, Nazi-looted art, Robert Graetz, Buchholz Gallery, German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultu, Winterthur, Entartete Kunst, Beratende Kommission, Curt Valentin, Restitution, Melissa Müller, Luzern, Clara Levy, Farm in Dangast, Fluchtgut: Geschichte Recht und Moral, Lucas Elmenhorst, Luxembourg, Looted Art, World War II, Lucerne, Switzerland, degenerate art, Handelsblatt, Lost Lives Lost Art Jewish Collectors Nazi Art The, Galerie Fischer, Imke Gielen, Washingtoner Prinzipien, Jutta Limbach, Washington Principles, Drei Grazien, Flight Goods: History Law and Morality, Lovis Corinth, Monika Tatzkow, Three Graces, Bavarian State Painting Collections, Raubkunst, Hans Posse, Limbach Commission, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen
Quite by coincidence, two stories we have covered in the last few days have centered around the claims by the heirs of Paul von Mendelssohn Bartholdy, a Jewish banker and art collector who was the target of Nazi persecution before he died in 1935: Julius Schoeps, Edelgard von Lavergne-Peguilhen, and Florence Kesselstatt. Another common thread has been the Bavarian State Paintings Collection (the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung), which is in the news again for possible claims, but this time from heirs of quite a different sort.
Topics: Paul von Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Fritz Bamberger, Focus, Guelph Treasure, Florence Kesselstatt, Karl Blechen, Karl Ernst Baumann, Julius Schoeps, Dr Alexander Lewin, Germany, Anselm Feuerbach, Hans Sachs, German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultu, Gurlitt case, Edelgard von Lavergne-Peguilhen, Julius and Clara Freund, Eva Braun, Nürnberger Institut, Johann J. August von der Embde, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 'Stürmer-Bibliothek', Wilhelm Leibl, Jim Tobias, Portrait der Familie von Dithfurth, Restitution, Bavarian State Paintings Collection, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung, Der Spiegel, World War II, Peasant Girl without a Hat and with a White Headcl, Pinakothek der Moderne, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Austria, Andrea Bambi Mountain Landscape on the Spanish Coa, Jutta Limbach, Washington Principles, Der Stürmer, Welfenschatz, Limbach Commission