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They May Not Know Art, But They Know What They Like

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COMMENT: A recent dis­clo­sure that one Cor­nelius Gurlitt had many mil­lions of dol­lars worth of art stashed in what was described as his “dingy” Munich apart­ment has pro­duced a num­ber of inter­est­ing points of inquiry. The art appears to have been a por­tion of Nazi plun­der accu­mu­lat­ed dur­ing World War II by Cor­nelius’ father Gurlitt. Some points to con­sid­er in this con­text:

  • The han­dling of the case by the Ger­man author­i­ties puz­zled many onlook­ers and ana­lysts. Among the odd­i­ties: ” . . . . Why did the Ger­man author­i­ties let near­ly two years pass before such a siz­able find was dis­closed? What will become of the recov­ered works of art? Did Mr. [Cor­nelius] Gurlitt con­tin­ue to make sales even after the raid? And where is he today? . . .”
  • It turned out that Cor­nelius Gurlit­t’s father Hilde­brand had sold art­works for Nazi pro­pa­gan­da min­is­ter Joseph Goebbels to gen­er­ate hard cur­ren­cy for the Third Reich. ” . . . . Yet he [Hilde­brand Gurlitt] was also one of the few Ger­mans grant­ed per­mis­sion by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s pro­pa­gan­da chief, to sell con­fis­cat­ed art. Sales to for­eign buy­ers were meant to fill Nazi cof­fers, but art his­to­ri­ans have doc­u­ment­ed many sales in Ger­many, as well as pro­ceeds pock­et­ed by the deal­ers involved. . . .”
  • As dis­cussed in Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile, loot­ed art was part of the inven­to­ry of wealth that Nazi lumi­nar­ies first hoard­ed, and then spir­it­ed away. (See pages 144, 145.)
  • Now being por­trayed as some­thing of a “lone nut,” Cor­nelius Hilde­brand main­tained a Swiss bank account and had no records with the Munich police depart­ment. (In Ger­many, every cit­i­zen is required to reg­is­ter with the local police admin­is­tra­tion.) ” . . .  Despite his seclu­sion, Mr. Gurlitt clear­ly cal­cu­lat­ed his risks. When Ger­man cus­toms offi­cers ques­tioned him in 2010 on a train to Munich from Switzer­land, where he is known to have a bank account and has sold at least one work, they dis­cov­ered he was car­ry­ing €9,000, just below the legal lim­it. His exces­sive­ly shy man­ner nonethe­less set off alarm bells. Their vol­ume increased when inves­ti­ga­tors dis­cov­ered lat­er that Mr. Gurlitt did not exist, bureau­crat­i­cal­ly speak­ing. He was not list­ed in Munich’s reg­istry of res­i­dents or in oth­er offi­cial records. . . . ”
  • Note that the younger Gurlitt con­tin­ued to sell art works, the­o­ret­i­cal­ly in order to finance his health care as he got old­er. Ger­many has uni­ver­sal health cov­er­age. On one recent sale, he net­ted about a half mil­lion dol­lars. That’s a LOT of aspirin! This is anoth­er aspect of the case that seems more than a lit­tle odd, upon exam­i­na­tion. ” . . . . Watch­ing over his family’s art trove was Mr. Gurlitt’s only known job. Peri­od­i­cal­ly, he dipped into the col­lec­tion to select a work to sell, a need that, accord­ing to Der Spiegel, became more press­ing in recent years as his health declined. The last piece he is known to have sold — “The Lion Tamer,” by the Ger­man artist Max Beck­mann — fetched 864,000 euros, or $1.17 mil­lion, includ­ing com­mis­sions, at an auc­tion in Cologne in 2011. Mr. Gurlitt agreed to give 45 per­cent of the pro­ceeds to a Jew­ish fam­i­ly that had orig­i­nal­ly owned the work. . . .”
  • When the elder Gurlitt was detained by the “Mon­u­ments Men” after the war, he was released and not charged. He was allowed to keep his trove. WHY? ” . . .  Soon after, he was detained there and ques­tioned by mem­bers of the Mon­u­ments, Fine Arts and Archives unit of the Unit­ed States mil­i­tary, the group of his­to­ri­ans, cura­tors and sol­diers entrust­ed with safe­guard­ing Europe’s cul­tur­al her­itage. In his state­ments to inves­ti­ga­tors, he empha­sized his anti-Nazi sen­ti­ments and main­tained that he had nev­er han­dled stolen art, and that the works in his pos­ses­sion were most­ly “the per­son­al prop­er­ty of my fam­i­ly or myself.” Inves­ti­ga­tors con­clud­ed that he was not an impor­tant play­er in the art trade and lat­er returned to him more than 115 paint­ings, in addi­tion to draw­ings and oth­er fine art objects. . . .”
  • The elder Gurlitt died in an auto acci­dent in 1956, “rac­ing” back to his home from Berlin. At that point in time, Berlin was a hotbed of Cold War intrigue and espi­onage. Might the elder Gurlitt have been sell­ing art to help finance Under­ground Reich and/or BND-relat­ed clan­des­tine activ­i­ties? Might he have been mov­ing art to gen­er­ate funds for the Under­ground Reich? Was he flee­ing some­thing or some­one in Berlin at the time of his death? ” . . . . In 1956, Hilde­brand Gurlitt died in a crash on the auto­bahn while rac­ing from Berlin back to the family’s home in Düs­sel­dorf . . . ”
  • Anoth­er sus­pi­cious detail involves a 1966 inquiry by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment into the Gurlitt art trove. Hilde­brand’s wid­ow (Cor­nelius’ moth­er) respond­ed that all of the elder Gurlit­t’s art and records were destroyed in the fire­bomb­ing of Dres­den dur­ing the war. This was a lie. Inves­ti­ga­tors sub­se­quent­ly found both paint­ings and record books kept by Hilde­brand! ” . . . . In late 1966, a gov­ern­ment agency in Berlin respon­si­ble for the resti­tu­tion of assets plun­dered dur­ing the Nazi era sent a for­mal let­ter ask­ing about four paint­ings acquired by her hus­band. Mrs. Gurlitt replied that all her husband’s records and art­works had been “incin­er­at­ed” when the Allies bombed Dres­den in Feb­ru­ary 1945. The search of Cornelius’s apart­ment last year proved this to be a decep­tion: Inves­ti­ga­tors found not only paint­ings but also record books kept by his father.”
  • The anom­alies in this case may well stem from a very sig­nif­i­cant fact. The return of the art works is imped­ed by a Third Reich law, still on the books in the “new” Ger­many. This exem­pli­fies a point we have been mak­ing about the con­ti­nu­ity between the Third Reich and the Fed­er­al Repub­lic. ” . . . . The 1938 law that allowed the Nazis to seize it — and thou­sands of oth­er Mod­ernist art­works deemed “degen­er­ate” because Hitler viewed them as un-Ger­man or Jew­ish in nature — remains on the books to this day. . . . The law’s exis­tence ren­ders slim the like­li­hood that Mr. Büche’s muse­um or dozens of oth­ers in Ger­many can reclaim their works, Ger­man legal experts and muse­um and gov­ern­ment offi­cials say. And that law is like­ly to remain in place. . . .”
EXCERPT: . . . . If con­firmed, the dis­cov­ery would be one of the biggest finds of van­ished art in years. But word of it left almost equal­ly big ques­tions unan­swered: Why did the Ger­man author­i­ties let near­ly two years pass before such a siz­able find was dis­closed? What will become of the recov­ered works of art? Did Mr. [Cor­nelius] Gurlitt con­tin­ue to make sales even after the raid? And where is he today? . . .

. . . . Yet he [Hilde­brand Gurlitt] was also one of the few Ger­mans grant­ed per­mis­sion by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s pro­pa­gan­da chief, to sell con­fis­cat­ed art. Sales to for­eign buy­ers were meant to fill Nazi cof­fers, but art his­to­ri­ans have doc­u­ment­ed many sales in Ger­many, as well as pro­ceeds pock­et­ed by the deal­ers involved. . . .

 “For Son of a Nazi-era Deal­er, a Pri­vate Life Amid a Taint­ed Trove of Art” by Andrew Hig­gins and Katrin Bennhold; The New York Times; 11/18/2013. pp. A4-A11.

EXCERPT: . . . Despite his seclu­sion, Mr.[Cornelius] Gurlitt clear­ly cal­cu­lat­ed his risks. When Ger­man cus­toms offi­cers ques­tioned him in 2010 on a train to Munich from Switzer­land, where he is known to have a bank account and has sold at least one work, they dis­cov­ered he was car­ry­ing €9,000, just below the legal lim­it. His exces­sive­ly shy man­ner nonethe­less set off alarm bells. Their vol­ume increased when inves­ti­ga­tors dis­cov­ered lat­er that Mr. Gurlitt did not exist, bureau­crat­i­cal­ly speak­ing. He was not list­ed in Munich’s reg­istry of res­i­dents or in oth­er offi­cial records. . . .

. . . .Watch­ing over his family’s art trove was Mr. Gurlitt’s only known job. Peri­od­i­cal­ly, he dipped into the col­lec­tion to select a work to sell, a need that, accord­ing to Der Spiegel, became more press­ing in recent years as his health declined. The last piece he is known to have sold — “The Lion Tamer,” by the Ger­man artist Max Beck­mann — fetched 864,000 euros, or $1.17 mil­lion, includ­ing com­mis­sions, at an auc­tion in Cologne in 2011. Mr. Gurlitt agreed to give 45 per­cent of the pro­ceeds to a Jew­ish fam­i­ly that had orig­i­nal­ly owned the work. . . .

. . . Soon after, he [Hildebrand–the elder Gurlitt] was detained there and ques­tioned by, the group of his­to­ri­ans, cura­tors and sol­diers entrust­ed with safe­guard­ing Europe’s cul­tur­al her­itage. In his state­ments to inves­ti­ga­tors, he empha­sized his anti-Nazi sen­ti­ments and main­tained that he had nev­er han­dled stolen art, and that the works in his pos­ses­sion were most­ly “the per­son­al prop­er­ty of my fam­i­ly or myself.” Inves­ti­ga­tors con­clud­ed that he was not an impor­tant play­er in the art trade and lat­er returned to him more than 115 paint­ings, in addi­tion to draw­ings and oth­er fine art objects. . . .

. . . . In 1956, Hilde­brand Gurlitt died in a crash on the auto­bahn while rac­ing from Berlin back to the family’s home in Düs­sel­dorf . . .

. . . . In late 1966, a gov­ern­ment agency in Berlin respon­si­ble for the resti­tu­tion of assets plun­dered dur­ing the Nazi era sent a for­mal let­ter ask­ing about four paint­ings acquired by her hus­band. Mrs. Gurlitt replied that all her husband’s records and art­works had been “incin­er­at­ed” when the Allies bombed Dres­den in Feb­ru­ary 1945. The search of Cornelius’s apart­ment last year proved this to be a decep­tion: Inves­ti­ga­tors found not only paint­ings but also record books kept by his father.

EXCERPT: Wolf­gang Büche was amazed this month when a water­col­or seized by the Nazis from the small muse­um in this east­ern city, where he is the cura­tor, reap­peared, part of a vast trove uncov­ered in a Munich apart­ment.

But his excite­ment at see­ing the work, “Land­scape With Hors­es,” a pos­si­ble study for a 1911 paint­ing by the Ger­man Expres­sion­ist Franz Marc, was tem­pered by one fact he called “irrefutable”: The 1938 law that allowed the Nazis to seize it — and thou­sands of oth­er Mod­ernist art­works deemed “degen­er­ate” because Hitler viewed them as un-Ger­man or Jew­ish in nature — remains on the books to this day.

The Ger­man author­i­ties say they believe that 380 works con­fis­cat­ed from Ger­man pub­lic muse­ums under the Nazi-era law may be among the more than 1,200 paint­ings, lith­o­graphs and draw­ings found stashed away in the apart­ment of Cor­nelius Gurlitt, the reclu­sive 80-year-old son of a Nazi-era art deal­er.

The law’s exis­tence ren­ders slim the like­li­hood that Mr. Büche’s muse­um or dozens of oth­ers in Ger­many can reclaim their works, Ger­man legal experts and muse­um and gov­ern­ment offi­cials say. And that law is like­ly to remain in place. . . .


4 comments for “They May Not Know Art, But They Know What They Like”

    12/23/2013 05:15 PM
    Art Deal­er to the Führer
    Hilde­brand Gurlit­t’s Deep Nazi Ties

    Hilde­brand Gurlitt, the man who assem­bled the astound­ing art col­lec­tion recent­ly dis­cov­ered in a Munich apart­ment, was more deeply involved in the trade of loot­ed art­works than had been pre­vi­ous­ly assumed. He also prof­it­ed from Nazi injus­tices after the war.

    The Amer­i­cans moved in from the west around noon. There were two tanks, fol­lowed by infantry sol­diers, their weapons at the ready.

    There are peo­ple in Aschbach, a vil­lage in the Upper Fran­co­nia region of Bavaria, who remem­ber April 14, 1945 very clear­ly. They were chil­dren then, help­ing out in the fields as the sol­diers marched past. They remem­ber that some of the men had dark skin and gave them chew­ing gum.

    At the time, Aschbach was a town of a few hun­dred res­i­dents, com­plete with a cas­tle on a hill that belonged to the aris­to­crat­ic Pöl­nitz fam­i­ly. The cas­tle, its façade cov­ered in brown­ish plas­ter over­grown with wild grape vines, was part of an estate that includ­ed a lake and sev­er­al hun­dred hectares of for­est. It still stands on the out­skirts of Aschbach today, a fairy­tale cas­tle in Fran­co­nia.

    Dur­ing those last days of World War II, Aschbach res­i­dents hung white sheets from their win­dows and were lat­er reg­is­tered by the Amer­i­can sol­diers. The Amer­i­cans arrest­ed local Nazi Par­ty leader Baron Ger­hard von Pöl­nitz. The res­i­dents who were reg­is­tered includ­ed a man named Karl Haber­stock, who appeared on a want­ed list of the Office of Strate­gic Ser­vices (OSS), the pre­cur­sor to the CIA. Haber­stock, an art deal­er, had been liv­ing in the cas­tle with his wife for sev­er­al months.

    The Amer­i­can army had a spe­cial unit to han­dle such cas­es, the Mon­u­ments, Fine Arts and Archives Sec­tion. Their job was to search for art stolen by the Nazis.

    Mon­u­ments Men

    When Cap­tain Robert K. Posey and his assis­tant, Pri­vate Lin­coln Kirstein, known as “Mon­u­ments Men,” inspect­ed the cas­tle in ear­ly May they found an enor­mous art ware­house. It con­tained paint­ings and sculp­tures from the muse­um in near­by Bam­berg and a pic­ture gallery in the cen­tral Ger­man city of Kas­sel, whose direc­tors had sought to pro­tect the works from Allied bombs. They also dis­cov­ered sus­pi­cious pri­vate prop­er­ty, some 13 crates of art­works marked as belong­ing to Herib­ert Füt­ter­er, the com­man­der of the Ger­man Air Force divi­sion for Bohemia and Moravia. The estate chapel con­tained suit­cas­es and bags full of art, which Ewald von Kleist, the for­mer com­man­der of Army Group A of the Wehrma­cht, had left there. Cap­tain Posey declared the estate a restrict­ed area and had signs read­ing “Off Lim­its” post­ed at the prop­er­ty.

    A few days lat­er, a Mon­u­ments Man not­ed: “In addi­tion, rooms con­tain­ing paint­ings, tapes­tries, stat­ues, valu­able fur­ni­ture and doc­u­ments from the belong­ings of two noto­ri­ous Ger­man art deal­ers were found in the cas­tle.” They were the col­lec­tions of Karl Haber­stock and a cer­tain Hilde­brand Gurlitt, who had also lived in the cas­tle with his fam­i­ly since their house in Dres­den was burned down.

    A note dat­ed May 16 reads: “A large room on the upper floor with 34 box­es, two pack­ages con­tain­ing car­pets, eight pack­ages of books … one room on the ground floor con­tain­ing an addi­tion­al 13 box­es owned by Mr. Gurlitt.” Most of these box­es con­tained pic­tures and draw­ings.

    ‘Con­nec­tions With­in High-Lev­el Nazi Cir­cles’

    In the fol­low­ing months and years, the Amer­i­can art inves­ti­ga­tors wrote let­ters, mem­os, inven­to­ry lists, reports and dossiers to clear up the ori­gins of the art. With regard to Haber­stock, they wrote: “Mr. Karl Haber­stock, from Berlin, is the most noto­ri­ous art col­lec­tor in Europe. He was Hitler’s pri­vate art col­lec­tor and, for years, seized art trea­sures in France, Hol­land, Bel­gium and even Switzer­land and Italy, using ille­gal, unscrupu­lous and even bru­tal meth­ods. His name is infa­mous among all hon­est col­lec­tors in Europe.”

    Gurlitt, they wrote, was “an art col­lec­tor from Ham­burg with con­nec­tions with­in high-lev­el Nazi cir­cles. He act­ed on behalf of oth­er Nazi offi­cials and made many trips to France, from where he brought home art col­lec­tions. There is rea­son to believe that these pri­vate art col­lec­tions con­sist of loot­ed art from oth­er coun­tries.” For the Mon­u­ments Men, Gurlitt was also an “art deal­er to the Führer.”

    Now, almost 70 years lat­er, what the Mon­u­ments Men dis­cov­ered at Aschbach Cas­tle in May 1945 has shown a spot­light on Ger­many’s past once again. Cus­toms offi­cials found an enor­mous trea­sure trove of art­works from the Third Reich in an apart­ment in Munich’s Schwabing dis­trict. It includes 380 pic­tures that the Nazis had dubbed “degen­er­ate art” in 1937 and removed from muse­ums. The Schwabing find also includ­ed 590 oth­er art­works that the Nazi regime and its hench­men may have stolen from Jew­ish own­ers. The own­er of the apart­ment is Gurlit­t’s son Cor­nelius, the cur­rent heir of the col­lec­tion, who was 12 and liv­ing in Aschbach at the end of the war.

    Con­se­quences of Munich Dis­cov­ery

    With the ori­gins of the indi­vid­ual pic­tures still unclear, a task force appoint­ed by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment is inves­ti­gat­ing the his­to­ry of each art­work. It will be a lengthy effort. But a search per­formed by SPIEGEL staff, in such places as the French For­eign Min­istry archives and the Nation­al Muse­um in Wro­claw, Poland, has revealed the sub­stan­tial extent to which Gurlitt dealt in loot­ed art and how ruth­less his prac­tices were.

    A Hol­ly­wood film about the Mon­u­ments Men will be screened for the first time at next year’s Berlin Film Fes­ti­val. George Clooney pro­duced and direct­ed the film, in addi­tion to play­ing the main role: a US sol­dier who is part of a spe­cial unit made up of art his­to­ri­ans, muse­um experts and oth­er assis­tants, whose mis­sion is to recov­er art stolen by the Nazis and res­cue it from destruc­tion in the final days of the war. Appar­ent­ly the film depicts the his­tor­i­cal events with some degree of accu­ra­cy.

    But per­haps what hap­pened in Aschbach in those last few days of the war and the first few months of peace would make for a more inter­est­ing film: an enchant­ed cas­tle in Upper Fran­co­nia owned by a baron who had joined the Nazis, and who served dur­ing the war in Paris, where he worked with art deal­ers with dubi­ous rep­u­ta­tions, some of whom he even­tu­al­ly har­bored in his cas­tle near the end of the ill-fat­ed Third Reich.

    It would be a film about the coun­try’s elites, who ben­e­fit­ed from the crimes of the Nazis, a sto­ry about cul­prits who quick­ly trans­formed them­selves into sup­pos­ed­ly upstand­ing cit­i­zens and, in a new Ger­many, became the pil­lars of soci­ety once again.

    In a bizarre twist, for sev­er­al months after the war Schloss Aschbach housed a group of young Jews who had sur­vived the Holo­caust. Iron­i­cal­ly they, and not the Nazi baron, lived in the castle’s ele­gant rooms before leav­ing the land of the Shoah for good. But more on that lat­er.

    ‘Extreme­ly Ner­vous’

    The Mon­u­ments Men ques­tioned Hilde­brand Gurlitt in Aschbach in June 1945. They noticed that he seemed “extreme­ly ner­vous” and not­ed it seemed as if he were not telling the whole truth. It was dur­ing those days that Gurlitt, the “art deal­er to the Führer,” rein­vent­ed him­self: as a vic­tim of the Nazis, a man who had saved pre­cious art­works from destruc­tion and some­one who had nev­er done any­thing mali­cious.

    Of course, not every­thing Gurlitt told the Amer­i­cans was false. He point­ed out that the Nazis clas­si­fied him as a “mon­grel,” because of his Jew­ish grand­moth­er, and that he had feared for his future and even his life after 1933, which led him to coop­er­ate. As Gurlitt stat­ed dur­ing the three-day inter­ro­ga­tion, there was a risk that he, as a so-called quar­ter-Jew, would be draft­ed into forced labor for the Todt Orga­ni­za­tion, a Third Reich civ­il and mil­i­tary engi­neer­ing group. Gurlitt also said: “I had to decide between the war and the work for muse­ums. I nev­er bought a pic­ture that was­n’t offered to me vol­un­tar­i­ly. As I heard, laws were also enact­ed in France so that Jew­ish art col­lec­tions could be con­fis­cat­ed. But I nev­er saw it with my own eyes.”

    The Mon­u­ments Men in Aschbach felt that Haber­stock was the more egre­gious crim­i­nal. He was tak­en into inves­tiga­tive cus­tody in May 1945, and in August he was brought to Altaussee in Aus­tria, where all those who were viewed as tru­ly seri­ous art crim­i­nals were required to tes­ti­fy near a salt mine filled with art­works. Gurlitt was allowed to stay in Aschbach.

    Haber­stock lat­er told Ger­man offi­cials that the Amer­i­cans had under­es­ti­mat­ed Gurlit­t’s role dur­ing the Nazi peri­od. In a 1949 let­ter to a gov­ern­ment offi­cial, he wrote: “I was able to prove every­thing, includ­ing, for exam­ple, that I was not the main sup­pli­er for Linz, where­as Mr. Voss, dur­ing his short term in office, bought about 3,000 art­works and took over con­fis­cat­ed col­lec­tions togeth­er with his main buy­er, Dr. Hilde­brand Gurlitt.”

    Linz was to be the site of Hitler’s mas­sive Führer muse­um. It was nev­er built, and yet the Nazis bought enough art to fill three muse­ums. Her­mann Voss, a muse­um direc­tor from Wies­baden who had also run a muse­um in Dres­den, ran the art-buy­ing pro­gram from 1943 onward. From then on, Gurlitt worked for Hitler through Voss, who served as a mid­dle­man. He also bought art for Ger­man muse­ums that had been brought into line by the regime, as well as for pri­vate cit­i­zens like Ham­burg cig­a­rette man­u­fac­tur­er Her­mann F. Reemts­ma, Hanover choco­late mag­nate Bern­hard Spren­gel and Cologne lawyer Josef Haubrich.

    Gurlit­t’s Ear­ly Career

    In 1930, art his­to­ri­an Gurlitt was removed from his post as direc­tor of the muse­um in the east­ern city of Zwick­au, because he was viewed as a cham­pi­on of mod­ern art. He went to Ham­burg, where he ran the city’s Kun­stvere­in art muse­um, until he was fired once again over his pref­er­ence for the avant-garde, as well as his Jew­ish grand­moth­er.

    Gurlitt remained in Ham­burg, where he became an art deal­er and opened a gallery. At the time, the kind of mod­ern art he had con­sis­tent­ly sup­port­ed had become a risky busi­ness. Gurlitt increas­ing­ly bought and sold old­er, more tra­di­tion­al art. He had a knack for the busi­ness, devel­op­ing rela­tion­ships with col­lec­tors and find­ing ways to gain access to pic­tures. Before long, he was buy­ing art from peo­ple who were being per­se­cut­ed, main­ly Jews, who sold their art because they were being forced to flee Ger­many, had lost their jobs and need­ed mon­ey to feed their fam­i­lies, or were being required to pay the so-called “Jew­ish wealth levy.” Through mid­dle­men, Gurlitt also bought art that had been seized by the Gestapo.

    One of the paint­ings the Mon­u­ments Men found in Aschbach Cas­tle, in a crate Gurlitt had marked with the num­ber 36, was by the Bul­gar­i­an painter Jules Pascin, born in 1885. It depicts two women, one nude and anoth­er wear­ing a shirt, and a man. They seem to be strangers, and they are not look­ing at each oth­er — a metaphor for the bleak­ness of life. Pascin paint­ed it in Paris in 1909 and called it “The Stu­dio of the Painter Gross­mann.” He com­mit­ted sui­cide in 1930.

    Gurlitt told the Amer­i­cans that the paint­ing had belonged to his father, who had bought it before the Nazis came into pow­er. In fact, Gurlitt bought the Pascin in 1935 for 600 Reichs­mark, sig­nif­i­cant­ly less than it was worth, from Julius Fer­di­nand Wollf, the long­stand­ing edi­tor-in-chief of a Dres­den news­pa­per, the Dres­d­ner Neueste Nachricht­en. Wollf was a pas­sion­ate­ly eth­i­cal and respect­ed jour­nal­ist, until the Nazis forced him out of office in 1933. Because of his Jew­ish back­ground, he soon lost his assets and the SS laid waste to his apart­ment. In 1942, short­ly before his sched­uled depor­ta­tion to a con­cen­tra­tion camp, he took his own life, togeth­er with his wife and his broth­er.

    After ini­tial­ly con­fis­cat­ing the paint­ing, the Amer­i­cans returned it to Gurlitt in 1950. It must have been sold lat­er. In 1969, at any rate, it was includ­ed in sev­er­al exhi­bi­tions, on loan from a French fam­i­ly of col­lec­tors. In 1972, it was sold at auc­tion at Christie’s in Lon­don for almost $40,000 (€29,000). The work lat­er turned up in Chica­go.

    ‘Degen­er­ate Art’ a Lucra­tive Export
    Gurlitt became the offi­cial deal­er in “degen­er­ate art,” the mod­ern works that were no longer deemed accept­able in the Third Reich. He was expect­ed to sell the works abroad to bring in hard cur­ren­cy. He also con­tin­ued his deal­ings in old­er art. On Dec. 4, 1938, he acquired draw­ings by the 19th-cen­tu­ry painter Adolf Men­zel. They had belonged to a Jew­ish doc­tor in Ham­burg, Ernst Julius Wolff­son, who had a prac­tice on Rothen­baum­chaussee, a street in an upscale neigh­bor­hood, and was the chair­man of the med­ical asso­ci­a­tion.

    Wolff­son was deprived of his rep­u­ta­tion and stripped of his posi­tions after 1933, and his med­ical license was revoked in 1938. He was impris­oned at Sach­sen­hausen con­cen­tra­tion camp, but he was sub­se­quent­ly released when influ­en­tial Ham­burg res­i­dents spoke out on his behalf. A fam­i­ly man, he had no income and no insur­ance when he was ordered to pay the “Jew­ish wealth levy” in 1938. Gurlitt paid him 2,550 Reich­mark, far below the mar­ket price, for nine Men­zel draw­ings. Art his­to­ri­an Maike Bruhns dis­cov­ered that Ham­burg indus­tri­al­ist Her­mann F. Reemts­ma, one of Gurlit­t’s reg­u­lar cus­tomers, had bought two of the draw­ings.

    After the war, the Wolff­son fam­i­ly’s attor­ney demand­ed the return of the draw­ings, but Gurlitt refused to pro­vide any infor­ma­tion about the buy­ers. In 1993, two of the works in the Wolff­son col­lec­tion were includ­ed in a memo­r­i­al exhi­bi­tion titled “Works of Art that Affect Me. The Col­lec­tor Her­mann F. Reemts­ma.”

    Deal­ing in Wartime

    Gurlitt remained in Ham­burg until 1942. In the first years of the war, at the height of Ger­many’s mil­i­tary suc­cess­es, Gurlitt expand­ed his ter­ri­to­ry to include Hol­land, Bel­gium and France. When bombs destroyed his gallery on the Alster Lake in Ham­burg, Gurlitt took his wife and their two chil­dren to Dres­den to live in his par­ents’ house. From there, he estab­lished a rela­tion­ship with Cor­nelius Müller Hof­st­ede, who head­ed the Sile­sian Muse­um in Bres­lau (now called Wro­claw), where he appraised the col­lec­tions of per­se­cut­ed Jews and sold the con­fis­cat­ed paint­ings on the mar­ket. Müller Hof­st­ede ordered paint­ings picked up from Jew­ish homes and, using an obse­quious tone, wrote to Gurlitt to offer him the works. He also men­tioned that he was even will­ing to come to Dres­den to “present” the pic­tures to Gurlitt. His let­ter end­ed with the words “Heil Hitler!”

    It was also Müller Hof­st­ede who obtained the Max Lieber­mann paint­ing “Two Rid­ers on the Beach” for Gurlitt. A few weeks ago, the work was one of the first pic­tures from the con­fis­cat­ed Gurlitt col­lec­tion in Munich to be shown at a press con­fer­ence. The Nazis had con­fis­cat­ed it from sug­ar refin­er David Fried­mann, who died in 1942. Fried­man­n’s daugh­ter was killed in a con­cen­tra­tion camp in 1943.

    Like Müller Hof­st­ede in Bres­lau, Voss, the coor­di­na­tor for the Linz spe­cial project, had assist­ed the Gestapo and, as a “police expert,” had appraised Jew­ish col­lec­tions. He would go into the homes of the per­se­cut­ed and pick out pieces for his muse­um. He was trav­el­ing a great deal in 1943, to Berlin, Basel and Bres­lau. Accord­ing to this trav­el notes, he met with “A.H. in the Führer’s build­ing” on a Feb­ru­ary night in Munich. He also attend­ed ques­tion­able auc­tions and went to Vien­na and Linz. But he did not go to Paris, because Gurlitt was there on his behalf.

    Shady Cir­cles, Piles of Cash

    Gurlitt had made his first pur­chas­es by 1941, the year of the Ger­man inva­sion of France. The fact that the paint­ings came from France increased their val­ue. Many Ger­man muse­um direc­tors longed to go to France, and the coun­try was also a place Gurlitt loved. Impor­tant French col­lec­tions were con­fis­cat­ed, or their own­ers were forced into sell­ing at ridicu­lous­ly low prices. Gurlitt appar­ent­ly sur­round­ed him­self with a group of shady mem­bers of the art world, includ­ing agents, inform­ers and oth­er deal­ers. He was in great demand, because he had mil­lions of Reichs­mark to spend.

    Gurlitt was now mak­ing reg­u­lar trips to Paris. And con­trary to his lat­er asser­tions, he did not stay in mod­est guest­hous­es but in grand hotels or the apart­ment of a mis­tress. The three men who would lat­er come togeth­er at Aschbach Cas­tle also met in Paris. Under Voss’s pre­de­ces­sor, art deal­er Haber­stock had been one of the pre­ferred buy­ers for the future Hitler muse­um. He stayed at the Ritz, and he would announce his upcom­ing vis­its to Paris in an art mag­a­zine. He also hand­ed out cards indi­cat­ing that he was look­ing for “first class pic­tures” by old mas­ters.

    Baron Ger­hard von Pöl­nitz, the lord of the manor in Aschbach, was sta­tioned in Paris dur­ing those years, as an offi­cer in the Ger­man Air Force. In his free time, he worked for Haber­stock and Gurlitt, set­ting up deals and serv­ing as their rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Jane Weyll, one of Haber­stock­’s employ­ees, became the baron’s mis­tress.

    There is a report by French art his­to­ri­an Michel Mar­tin about Hilde­brand Gurlitt in the French For­eign Min­istry archive. Dur­ing the occu­pa­tion peri­od, Mar­tin worked in the paint­ings depart­ment at the Lou­vre, where he issued export per­mits for art­works. Gurlitt, Mar­tin wrote, had access to “con­stant­ly expand­ing cred­it” and had acquired works worth a total of “400 to 500 mil­lion francs.”

    When­ev­er Gurlitt returned to Ger­many, he brought along pho­tographs of select­ed paint­ings to show muse­um staff. Accord­ing to Mar­t­in’s account, he also acquired works for his pri­vate col­lec­tion in Paris. “As soon as Gurlitt encoun­tered our resis­tance to his art exports, he would pick up art­works with­out our per­mis­sion, or he would get help from the Ger­man Embassy. Gurlitt took impor­tant art­works out of the coun­try against our will.”

    ‘Mere­ly an Offi­cial’

    Mar­tin also wrote that he had believed Gurlitt when he said that he did “not wish to deal in art­works that came from Jew­ish col­lec­tions.” Appar­ent­ly Gurlitt also insist­ed that he was “mere­ly an offi­cial” act­ing on orders from above.

    Pöl­nitz, Haber­stock and Gurlitt met again at Aschbach Cas­tle at the end of the war. Haber­stock, who the Amer­i­cans even­tu­al­ly turned over to the Ger­man courts, was lat­er exon­er­at­ed. He worked as an art deal­er in Munich after the war and died in 1956, the same year as his com­peti­tor Gurlitt.

    After the war end­ed, Baron von Pöl­nitz was tak­en to an intern­ment camp in Moos­burg in Upper Bavaria from which he was released in 1947. His denaz­i­fi­ca­tion file has dis­ap­peared. He died in 1962 at the age of 64.

    The Amer­i­cans placed Gurlitt under house arrest in Aschbach. To occu­py his time, he gave talks on Dür­er and Bar­lach, and kitsch in reli­gious art, to the small local church con­gre­ga­tion. Oth­er­wise, he wrote let­ters attempt­ing to jus­ti­fy his pur­chas­es in France.

    In a 1947 let­ter to Madame Rose Val­land, a French art his­to­ri­an who was in charge of resti­tu­tions, he insist­ed that he had been a “gen­uine friend of France and a true oppo­nent of the Nazi regime,” one who, “in speech and writ­ing,” had “always cham­pi­oned French art.” It was only “strange coin­ci­dences” that had made it pos­si­ble “for me to save myself by going to France as an art deal­er.” He made no men­tion of his work for the Führer muse­um in Linz.

    Putting the Past Behind Him

    Gurlit­t’s house arrest was lift­ed, and in Jan­u­ary 1948 he moved to Düs­sel­dorf, where he became the direc­tor of that city’s Kun­stvere­in muse­um. He prompt­ly declared his years in Aschbach as “part of the past,” but he also not­ed that life there was “quite pleas­ant and peace­ful.”

    In 1950, Gurlit­t’s art was restored to him from the archive of seized prop­er­ty known as the Wies­baden Cen­tral Col­lect­ing Point. He had already been acquit­ted of all charges. The Amer­i­cans had con­fis­cat­ed a total of 140 works. But Gurlitt had also hid­den a por­tion of his col­lec­tion from the Amer­i­cans in an old water mill, which he then recov­ered.

    Gurlitt was a respect­ed mem­ber of soci­ety once again, gain­ing the sup­port of Düs­sel­dorf indus­tri­al­ists by fea­tur­ing their art col­lec­tions in exhi­bi­tions. At the same time, he began show­ing his own col­lec­tion again, cleans­ing it of its past asso­ci­a­tions in the process. In 1953, he was appoint­ed to an hon­orary com­mit­tee over­see­ing an exhi­bi­tion of Ger­man art in Lucerne, Switzer­land, spon­sored by Ger­many’s then-Pres­i­dent Theodor Heuss. A few of the pic­tures were from Gurlit­t’s col­lec­tion, includ­ing a paint­ing by Ernst Lud­wig Kirch­n­er (“Two Female Nudes”) and a water­col­or by Franz Marc (“Large Horse”).

    Part of Gurlit­t’s pur­pose in show­ing the paint­ings was prob­a­bly to assess whether there would be any objec­tions or claims from the true own­ers. A year lat­er, he pre­sent­ed an exhi­bi­tion titled “Works of French Paint­ing and the Graph­ic Arts” at Vil­la Hügel in the west­ern city of Essen: paint­ings by French Impres­sion­ists like Paul Signac, Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas, which would be worth sev­er­al mil­lion euros today, includ­ing a view of the Water­loo Bridge by Claude Mon­et and Gus­tave Courbet’s “Land­scape with Rocks.” Their where­abouts are as unclear today as their ori­gins.

    Final Years and Tall Tales
    Final­ly, in 1956, the year of his death, Gurlitt sent pic­tures from his col­lec­tion to New York, includ­ing works by Max Beck­mann and Vass­i­ly Kandin­sky. He wrote a bio­graph­i­cal sketch for the cat­a­log, but it was nev­er pub­lished. In the piece, Gurlitt described him­self as coura­geous and bold, a hero whose deal­ings dur­ing the war were a “dan­ger­ous bal­anc­ing act,” and who had noth­ing left to his name but a push­cart filled with neces­si­ties after the bomb­ing of Dres­den. His account sound­ed almost like the sto­ry of the Kaims, a Jew­ish cou­ple from Bres­lau who sold Gurlitt one of their paint­ings, lost every­thing and were sent to the ghet­to push­ing a hand­cart.

    Gurlitt died after a car acci­dent in 1956. In his obit­u­ar­ies, he was cel­e­brat­ed as an impor­tant fig­ure in the post­war West Ger­man art world. His wid­ow Helene moved to Munich in the ear­ly 1960s, where she bought two expen­sive apart­ments in a new build­ing in Schwabing. In May 1960, she had four works from her hus­band’s col­lec­tion sold by the Ket­ter­er Kun­st auc­tion house, includ­ing Beck­man­n’s “Bar, Brown,” which belongs to a US muse­um today, and a paint­ing of play­wright Bertolt Brecht by Rudolf Schlichter, which end­ed up in Munich’s Lenbach­haus. The paint­ing, an impor­tant work from the New Objec­tiv­i­ty move­ment, is now one the muse­um’s best-known works.

    The Schlichter work was also among the paint­ings the Mon­u­ments Men had found in Aschbach. One of their Ger­man col­leagues there, who lat­er became the direc­tor of the Lenbach­haus, bought the work in the 1960 Ket­ter­er auc­tion.

    There are many exam­ples of works that Gurlitt acquired under ques­tion­able cir­cum­stances. There are also a num­ber of pic­tures hang­ing in Ger­man muse­ums today, from Hanover to Wies­baden, that were bought from Gurlitt. There are even pic­tures that Gurlitt bought for Hitler’s muse­um in Linz, which, because of their unclear ori­gins, became the prop­er­ty of the state. One such paint­ing, a land­scape by the clas­si­cist painter Jakob Philipp Hack­ert, hangs in the Ger­man For­eign Min­istry today.

    Sev­er­al paint­ings turned up in art gal­leries. One was August Mack­e’s “Woman with Par­rot,” an ear­ly work of Ger­man Cubism. It was shown in exhi­bi­tions in 1962 and lat­er in 2001, in each case as part of a pri­vate col­lec­tion. In 2007, the work was sold at auc­tion in Berlin’s Vil­la Grise­bach auc­tion house for more than €2 mil­lion. Gurlit­t’s daugh­ter Beni­ta had appar­ent­ly deliv­ered the paint­ing. She died in May 2012.

    ‘Jew­ish Occu­pa­tion of the Cas­tle’

    In Novem­ber 1945, the Amer­i­cans estab­lished a Camp for Dis­placed Per­sons in Aschbach Cas­tle. They were trau­ma­tized sur­vivors of the Holo­caust, many less than 20 years old, who had spent their youth in Jew­ish ghet­tos and con­cen­tra­tion camps. They had lost their fam­i­lies, and when the war end­ed they left the camps in groups. They were young Jews with names like Tovia, Men­achim, Minia and Zynia, and many were Zion­ists who had come togeth­er to estab­lish a kib­butz.

    More than 140 indi­vid­u­als were housed in Aschbach between Novem­ber 1945 and March 1948, although, at first, the Amer­i­cans did not think the young Jews capa­ble of farm­ing the fields on the estate. There was hard­ly any con­tact between vil­lage res­i­dents and the Jews, even though a Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty had been estab­lished in Aschbach in the ear­ly 18th cen­tu­ry. The last Aschbach Jews were deport­ed to the There­sien­stadt con­cen­tra­tion camp in 1942.

    Gurlitt did not men­tion the Jews in the cas­tle. He kept his own chil­dren, who were only a few years younger than many of the sur­vivors, away from Aschbach, send­ing his son and daugh­ter to the elite Oden­wald­schule board­ing school.

    The Pöl­nitz fam­i­ly, whom the Amer­i­cans ordered to vacate their estate, moved into a teacher’s apart­ment in the vil­lage. They were con­cerned that the res­i­dents of the camp would not treat their fur­ni­ture with care. In a let­ter to the author­i­ties, Baron von Pöl­nitz com­plained that “the Jews” were appro­pri­at­ing his prop­er­ty in a “wild fren­zy” — and that his wife had faint­ed because of the “Jew­ish occu­pa­tion of the cas­tle.”

    Yehiel Her­shkowitz was one of the Jews who lived in Aschbach at the time. He was 27 when he arrived at the cas­tle on Nov. 20, 1945. His fam­i­ly was from Bedzin, a town in the Sile­sian High­lands of south­ern Poland that was known as Bends­burg dur­ing its Nazi occu­pa­tion from 1939–1945. Her­shkowitz was arrest­ed in Sep­tem­ber 1939 and spent the next six years in 15 Nazi camps. He was freed when Amer­i­can sol­diers lib­er­at­ed the Buchen­wald con­cen­tra­tion camp on April 11, 1945.

    He and his sec­ond wife, Esther Urman, met in Aschbach and then trav­eled to Israel togeth­er. Her­shkowitz died in 1979, and his wife died 11 years lat­er.

    Their son Ben­ny is now 65 and lives near Tel Aviv. He says that his father had trou­ble sleep­ing, because he was kept awake at night by the mem­o­ries of Nazi Ger­many.


    Trans­lat­ed from the Ger­man by Christo­pher Sul­tan


    Relat­ed SPIEGEL ONLINE links:

    Mon­u­ments Men The Sol­diers Who Saved Europe’s Art from Hitler (12/05/2013)
    Art Inves­ti­ga­tion ‘Empa­thy Alone Does­n’t Help Us Any Fur­ther’ (11/25/2013)
    Time Machine Munich Art Col­lec­tor Lives in the Past (11/21/2013)
    Munich Art Trove Jew­ish Groups Crit­i­cize Plans to Return Paint­ings (11/21/2013)
    Gurlitt Works A Her­culean Task in Iden­ti­fy­ing Prove­nance (11/19/2013)
    Inter­view with a Phan­tom Cor­nelius Gurlitt Shares His Secrets (11/17/2013)
    Phan­tom Col­lec­tor The Mys­tery of the Munich Nazi Art Trove (11/11/2013)

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    Posted by Vanfield | December 26, 2013, 5:51 pm
  2. http://www.timesofisrael.com/will-victims-of-the-greatest-theft-in-history-finally-get-a-fair-hearing/

    Will vic­tims of the great­est Nazi theft final­ly get a fair hear­ing?
    The stag­ger­ing $1.4 bil­lion Munich art scan­dal has swept the issue of Holo­caust resti­tu­tion back into world head­lines. Now, Ger­many may leg­is­late to allow heirs of such Nazi-loot­ed art a much-belat­ed chance for redress
    By Aman­da Borschel-Dan Decem­ber 27, 2013, 1:59 pm 5

    In the chaot­ic days end­ing World War II, the Allies quick­ly real­ized they had col­lect­ed more than a mil­lion loot­ed art objects from across the Third Reich. Some were found in rub­ble, oth­ers saved by the now leg­endary Mon­u­ments Men from a net­work of Nazi depots in far-flung monas­ter­ies and cas­tles, includ­ing a huge trove in boo­by-trapped salt mines in rur­al Aus­tria.

    With a mass of art and Judaica in hand, the Allied forces con­vert­ed two Nazi admin­is­tra­tion build­ings into col­lect­ing points in Munich, dubbed Gallery One and Gallery Two. It was hoped the art would be expe­di­tious­ly doc­u­ment­ed and restored to insti­tu­tions or indi­vid­u­als with pass­able prove­nance records.

    Makeshift cat­a­log sys­tems were cre­at­ed by the few staff mem­bers who under­stood the thor­ough research need­ed for resti­tu­tion. Works were returned as ear­ly as fall 1945.

    Despite the best of inten­tions, resources were tight and mis­takes made. Own­ers were dead and their scat­tered heirs impos­si­ble to find. The sur­viv­ing heirs, strug­gling to forge a new life, were unin­formed of their prop­er­ty rights and didn’t seek their fam­i­ly trea­sures.

    In Ger­many, by August 1948, the Allies relin­quished con­trol of the art to the Ger­man Trustee Admin­is­tra­tion for Cul­tur­al Prop­er­ty and resti­tu­tion efforts con­tin­ued there. Even­tu­al­ly most art was returned, aside from 2,300 works and some 10,000 coins and books, which are still today under Ger­man gov­ern­ment cus­to­di­al pro­tec­tion.

    Many of the 2,300 works are on long-term loan to muse­ums, gov­ern­ment build­ings and insti­tu­tions, which are ordered to con­tin­ue the prove­nance research, and since the late 1990s, numer­ous claims have been made against them by would-be heirs with var­ied results.

    While mod­ern-day Ger­many is cur­rent­ly draw­ing crit­i­cism from the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty over a lack of trans­paren­cy and expe­di­en­cy fol­low­ing the shock­ing Novem­ber pub­li­ca­tion of a con­tro­ver­sial Munich art col­lec­tion case (more on that lat­er), leg­is­la­tors in Bavaria are attempt­ing to amend statute of lim­i­ta­tions laws, a move that just may open up art resti­tu­tion claims against pri­vate indi­vid­u­als — an area rel­a­tive­ly untouched by heirs.

    Last month Bavar­i­an Jus­tice Min­is­ter Winifred Baus­back told lead­ing Ger­man news­pa­per Der Spiegel his team was draft­ing leg­is­la­tion that would address “bad faith acqui­si­tions” — name­ly forced sales or Nazi-taint­ed art — and pre­vent invok­ing the statute of lim­i­ta­tions for these civ­il law claims.

    This week the Ger­man Cul­ture Min­istry con­firmed the pend­ing leg­is­la­tion and, rais­ing the stakes, told The Times of Israel, “The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is going to look into the leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tive.”

    As to whether the noto­ri­ous Munich col­lec­tion would be open to claims under this new leg­is­la­tion, the min­istry cryp­ti­cal­ly wrote, ”The Ger­man con­sti­tu­tion will only allow reper­cus­sions of such a law with­in nar­row, strict lim­its on those cas­es whose statute of lim­i­ta­tions has already expired.”

    Hid­den for 70 years and sold piece­meal to cov­er 81-year-old “own­er” Cor­nelius Gurlitt’s bal­loon­ing med­ical bills, the col­lec­tions is sur­round­ed by legal ques­tions that involve the expi­ra­tion of the statute of lim­i­ta­tions — and just whose prop­er­ty is it any­way?

    The legal ram­i­fi­ca­tions are so com­pli­cat­ed that, as Ger­man solic­i­tor Peter Bert laughs, “If you had come up with this case as an exam ques­tion, peo­ple would say it’s a professor’s imag­i­na­tion gone wild.”
    The Schwabing col­lec­tion

    In post-war Ger­many, one lucky recip­i­ent of some 140 “resti­tut­ed” works from the hands of the Amer­i­cans and Ger­mans was art dealer/historian Hilde­brand Gurlitt.

    A Decem­ber 23 in-depth pro­file of Gurlitt in Der Spiegel por­trays the deal­er as a crafty swindler who dou­ble-dealt the Nazis and the Allies while care­ful­ly hoard­ing and pro­tect­ing his own grow­ing, valu­able art col­lec­tion.

    After being fired by the SS from his muse­um job in Nazi Ger­many, Gurlitt trad­ed in art, main­ly in Paris from 1941 to 1945, as one of four agents tasked by the Com­mis­sion for the Exploita­tion of Degen­er­ate Art with sell­ing the mod­ern art deemed un-nation­al­is­tic by the artis­tic Fuehrer. Gurlitt’s mis­sion: to liq­ui­date funds through the mod­ern art’s sale and pur­chase mas­ter­pieces for Her­mann Goering’s per­son­al col­lec­tion and Hitler’s planned Linz Fuehrermu­se­um.

    Skim­ming from his employ­ers and per­form­ing unau­tho­rized trans­ac­tions, Gurlitt amassed more than 1,500 works for his pri­vate col­lec­tion. Many, if not all, were pur­chased in coerced sales or con­fis­cat­ed from Jew­ish hous­es, or from artists and col­lec­tors of degen­er­ate art.

    After the 1945 fire­bomb­ing of his fam­i­ly home in Dres­den, Gurlitt moved to an Aschbach cas­tle of one Baron Ger­hard von Pöl­nitz with wife Helene and chil­dren Cor­nelius and Beni­ta. Also in res­i­dence at the manor was noto­ri­ous Nazi art deal­er Karl Haber­stock, con­sid­ered the most impor­tant of the Nazi art agents.

    The lord of the manor, Baron Pöl­nitz, accord­ing to the Der Spiegel report, had gone beyond his duties as an SS offi­cer in Paris and aid­ed the two art deal­ers in their work. By war’s end his house had turned into a refuge for works from near­by muse­ums and pri­vate col­lec­tions, includ­ing that of the two art deal­ers – and for the deal­ers them­selves.

    When the Mon­u­ments Men arrived at the Aschbach cas­tle in May 1945, they found an “enor­mous ware­house,” writes Der Spiegel.

    “A large room on the upper floor with 34 box­es, two pack­ages con­tain­ing car­pets, eight pack­ages of books… one room on the ground floor con­tain­ing an addi­tion­al 13 box­es owned by Mr. Gurlitt,” a mem­ber of the forces not­ed in mid-May.

    The Mon­u­ments Men doc­u­ment­ed then that they believed Gurlitt to be “an art col­lec­tor from Ham­burg with con­nec­tions with­in high-lev­el Nazi cir­cles. He act­ed on behalf of oth­er Nazi offi­cials and made many trips to France, from where he brought home art col­lec­tions. There is rea­son to believe that these pri­vate art col­lec­tions con­sist of loot­ed art from oth­er coun­tries.”

    Some­how, how­ev­er, after three years of house arrest in Aschbach, Gurlitt con­vinced the author­i­ties both of his per­se­cu­tion under the Nazis for his Jew­ish her­itage (his pater­nal grand­moth­er was Jew­ish, and as a “mon­grel” he would have faced Aryan race laws), and of the destruc­tion of the major­i­ty of his art col­lec­tion in the Feb­ru­ary 1945 fire­bomb­ing in Dres­den.

    In Jan­u­ary 1948 Gurlitt moved the fam­i­ly to Dus­sel­dorf, where he became the direc­tor of a muse­um, and in 1950 the Allies returned the con­fis­cat­ed 140 works. In secret, Gurlitt reunit­ed them with oth­er parts of his col­lec­tion he had hid­den in an old water mill.

    Gurlitt recom­menced his art deal­ings, and in 1956, the year he would die in a car acci­dent, he even showed paint­ings in New York. For the exhibit’s cat­a­log, he wrote a bizarrely revi­sion­ist (unpub­lished) biog­ra­phy of his wartime expe­ri­ences, depict­ing him­self as hero­ic in his “dan­ger­ous bal­anc­ing act.”

    Today, with the Feb­ru­ary 2012 dis­cov­ery of 1,604 items dur­ing a tax inves­ti­ga­tion by police in his reclu­sive son Cornelius’s Munich apart­ment, Gurlitt’s “destroyed” pri­vate col­lec­tion is spurring an inter­na­tion­al push for clear prac­tices in art resti­tu­tion in Ger­many.

    The col­lec­tion, report­ed­ly worth some $1.4 bil­lion, was seized by Bavar­i­an offi­cials and held for 18 months until the Ger­man mag­a­zine Focus broke the sto­ry in Novem­ber. There are reports of prove­nance doc­u­ments also found in the apart­ment.

    Harsh­ly crit­i­cized for neg­li­gence and lack of trans­paren­cy in this case, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment is set­ting up a task force, includ­ing two rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Jew­ish Claims Con­fer­ence and one from Israel, which will report­ed­ly begin work in Jan­u­ary. Ger­man prove­nance researchers already on the case are work­ing toward cat­a­loging and pub­li­ciz­ing the prob­lem­at­ic works online. Cur­rent­ly there are entries for some 442 items, includ­ing about 50 oil paint­ings.

    In some respects, the Munich scan­dal is the prover­bial per­fect storm, sweep­ing the issue of Holo­caust resti­tu­tion back to inter­na­tion­al head­lines.

    “What hap­pened here is a case where every­thing went wrong: The items are locat­ed in a juris­dic­tion that had no famil­iar­i­ty with these types of cas­es, and it is treat­ing the mat­ter as a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion, tax eva­sion, with­out pay­ing atten­tion to the over­rid­ing mat­ter of Holo­caust loot­ed art,” says lawyer Chris Marinel­lo, from Art Recov­ery Inter­na­tion­al in Lon­don.

    Marinel­lo rep­re­sents the heirs of art deal­er Paul Rosen­berg, who worked with mas­ters includ­ing Picas­so, Braque and Matisse before Nazi per­se­cu­tion liq­ui­dat­ed his col­lec­tion and caused him to flee to the US. The fam­i­ly has a claim with the Ger­man author­i­ties for the Matisse paint­ing that has become the poster child of the ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion, “La Femme assise.”
    New law pro­pos­al

    It’s deja vu all over again, writes Ger­man lawyer Peter Bert, quot­ing base­ball leg­end Yogi Berra on his blog, Dis­pute Res­o­lu­tion in Ger­many. A trained medi­a­tor, Bert spent time at Har­vard as a researcher and has been a solic­i­tor in Frank­furt since 1996. In 2003 he became licensed in Eng­land and Wales, when he joined Tay­lor Wessing’s Frank­furt office as part­ner.

    Bert explains that in 2001–2, a sim­i­lar push was made for new leg­is­la­tion regard­ing the statute of lim­i­ta­tions in Holo­caust prop­er­ty resti­tu­tion cas­es dur­ing a peri­od of sweep­ing leg­isla­tive reforms passed by Germany’s Upper Cham­ber, a sec­tion of par­lia­ment com­pa­ra­ble to the US Sen­ate that con­sists of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from each of the country’s states.

    “There was a strong feel­ing then that we ought to carve out in some way, shape or form resti­tu­tion claims, be they Holo­caust or Com­mu­nist. The leg­is­la­tion would have been dri­ven pri­mar­i­ly by Nazi-loot­ed art, but could have cov­ered Sovi­et tak­ings as well,” says Bert in a phone inter­view.

    “I think there were ten years of silence in which no one paid atten­tion to the issue,” he adds.

    The reform pack­age had cov­ered oth­er more mun­dane top­ics such as con­sumer pro­tec­tion and it was felt impor­tant enough to pass, even with­out inclu­sion of the statute of lim­i­ta­tions reform. How­ev­er, Bert says, the Upper Cham­ber in 2002 direct­ed the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to come back with pro­pos­als for Holo­caust prop­er­ties, which, accord­ing to Bert, did not hap­pen. (Aus­tria, how­ev­er, did suc­cess­ful­ly pass resti­tu­tion leg­is­la­tion in 2002.)

    Bert offers two expla­na­tions for the silence: polit­i­cal­ly there was no moti­va­tion as this was a minor­i­ty top­ic with no prac­ti­cal rel­e­vance to vot­ers at the time. And, as not­ed by the Cul­ture Min­istry this week, there is a com­plex legal issue sur­round­ing to what extent the con­sti­tu­tion can be changed retroac­tive­ly.

    A nar­row read­ing of the cur­rent statute of lim­i­ta­tions law would make the expi­ra­tion date on Holo­caust art resti­tu­tion between 1975 and 1979, 30 years after most works were assigned own­ers. After remov­ing the con­straints of the 30-year statute of lim­i­ta­tion, the cru­cial points in the new leg­is­la­tion in Bert’s opin­ion will be the legal def­i­n­i­tions of bona fide, “act­ing with­out the inten­tion of defraud­ing,” and “taint­ed.”

    Spec­u­lat­ing on the chances that the leg­is­la­tion will passed on a fed­er­al lev­el, Bert assumes it will; oth­er­wise Baus­back, the jus­tice min­is­ter and a mem­ber of the Bavar­i­an wing of Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel’s Chris­t­ian Demo­c­ra­t­ic Union par­ty, would not have pro­posed it.

    Merkel was elect­ed in Sep­tem­ber to a his­toric third term and sworn in last week after reach­ing a deal with the Social Democ­rats to form what is being called a “grand coali­tion.”

    “If his par­ty throws its sup­port behind it, there would be sup­port on a fed­er­al lev­el,” says Bert, as soon as with­in the next few months. “If they do their home­work and line up sup­port, they could do it in six weeks.”

    “There is a good chance that the mis­take that was made in 2001 gets rec­ti­fied now,” he adds.
    What’s on the books today

    The new leg­is­la­tion is main­ly for civ­il cas­es against indi­vid­u­als. Insti­tu­tions have already been addressed, first with the basic ear­ly post-war leg­is­la­tion passed in the 1950s, and then in the “moral­ly bind­ing” char­ters with Germany’s 1999 sign­ing of the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion by the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment based on the 1998 Wash­ing­ton Con­fer­ence Prin­ci­ples.

    The issue of Holo­caust repa­ra­tions and resti­tu­tion was a mael­strom in the mid- to late-1990s in the wake of sev­er­al high-pro­file set­tle­ments with banks, insur­ance com­pa­nies and oth­er com­pa­nies accused of using slave labor. The Unit­ed States took the lead on draft­ing what are essen­tial­ly rules of pro­ce­dure for the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to use in deal­ing with Nazi-taint­ed prop­er­ties, cre­at­ing the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples. In 2001, Ger­many draft­ed guide­lines for insti­tu­tions to use in prove­nance checks.

    To date, the only coun­try that has enact­ed leg­is­la­tion based on the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples is Aus­tria, says Dr. Wes­ley Fish­er, the Claims Con­fer­ence direc­tor of research and an expert on loot­ed art. The Claims Con­fer­ence has been the Jew­ish World’s legal rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Ger­many since 1951. As a fledg­ling coun­try focused on the present and future of the state, Israel in 1952 gave the Claims Con­fer­ence author­i­ty in repa­ra­tions nego­ti­a­tions with Ger­many.

    “After WWII there were attempts at deal­ing with this, but the most impor­tant mat­ter was life and hav­ing enough to live on,” says Fish­er, cit­ing the Claims Conference’s suc­cess­ful nego­ti­a­tions for repa­ra­tions.

    Resti­tu­tion is anoth­er mat­ter entire­ly: world­wide, resti­tu­tion has been suc­cess­ful for about 20% of prop­er­ty owned by Jews pri­or to WWII.

    Ahead of the 2009 Prague Con­fer­ence on Holo­caust Era Assets, the Claims Con­fer­ence wrote an overview of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, and Ger­many, along with three oth­ers, was one of the top-ranked coun­tries for resti­tu­tion efforts. ”It’s not as if the Ger­mans haven’t done any­thing,” he says.

    “In Ger­many the prac­tice has been to act as if the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples are part of the law,” says Fish­er.

    He notes, though, that art is more com­plex than oth­er prop­er­ty claims. “You’re talk­ing about objects which are unique and need to be found. They are mov­able and can be any­where in the world. They’re not eas­i­ly dealt with in mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion, unlike bank accounts, and there’s also a spe­cif­ic emo­tion­al attach­ment to fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties.”

    “My impres­sion is that as the sur­vivors are pass­ing, the objects are becom­ing even more impor­tant,” says Fish­er.

    Fish­er, who has worked in the field for decades and was a found­ing direc­tor of research at the US Holo­caust Muse­um, sees what he calls “back-ped­al­ing” among insti­tu­tions that once adhered to the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples but now are using loop­hole defens­es in retain­ing their ques­tion­able art.

    Prof. Julius Schoeps of the Moses Mendelssohn cen­ter in Pots­dam agrees, say­ing, “Politi­cians say it’s nec­es­sary to give the art back; it’s the muse­ums that don’t want to.”

    The his­to­ri­an has been fight­ing inter­na­tion­al­ly, along with 29 oth­er descen­dents of philoso­pher Moses Mendelssohn and com­pos­er Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, for the col­lec­tion of Berlin banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. There are sev­er­al of these dis­put­ed works on the walls of Ger­man muse­ums and insti­tu­tions.

    Schoep’s pro­pos­al, which he’s been tout­ing on tele­vi­sion and news­pa­pers, is for Ger­many to leg­is­late for Holo­caust resti­tu­tion, which has been an uphill bat­tle.

    “Most of the [Ger­man] peo­ple say ‘Go to hell!’ when they are asked for resti­tu­tion,” says Schoeps.

    “The prob­lem is we are dis­cussing such prob­lems now, but the prob­lems are 70 years old,” says Schoeps. The aca­d­e­m­ic says there is a feel­ing of “exhaus­tion” among the Ger­man peo­ple in the con­tin­u­al revis­it­ing of Holo­caust-relat­ed sub­jects.

    “The peo­ple of Ger­many are tired of deal­ing with the Nazi past; they say it must come to an end now. But this is the prop­er­ty of peo­ple who were mur­dered or fled Ger­many. It is nec­es­sary,” says Schoeps.

    The Claims Conference’s Fish­er is hope­ful the Munich col­lec­tion will serve as “a kind of wake-up call” and keep things on track toward iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and resti­tu­tion.

    “You’ll notice in some state­ments by [Pres­i­dent of the Jew­ish Con­gress Ronald] Laud­er and [Spe­cial Advi­sor to the US Sec­re­tary on Holo­caust Issues Stu­art] Eizen­stat, two things come to fore: The need for Ger­many to cre­ate some sort of gov­ern­ment com­mis­sion that deals with this as a whole, and there is a dis­cus­sion about the need to do some­thing about the statute of lim­i­ta­tions, in Ger­many, but also in the US,” says Fish­er.

    The great­est theft in his­to­ry

    Though not the sweep­ing com­mis­sion envi­sioned by some, Ger­many is set­ting up a task force of inter­na­tion­al prove­nance researchers in the wake of the Munich scan­dal that will begin work­ing next month. The Claims Con­fer­ence will have rep­re­sen­ta­tion and, in what is seen by some as a diplo­mat­ic vic­to­ry, so will Israel.

    “We are more con­cerned that the pro­ce­dures by that task force be improved as a polit­i­cal mat­ter, than by the pol­i­tics of it,” says Fish­er. He hopes the research process will be trans­par­ent for all works of art, not just those cur­rent­ly deemed sus­pect, and that the art be open to claimants. There should be clear reports pub­lished peri­od­i­cal­ly and a non-bureau­crat­ic process where claimants can ask for their art­works back, includ­ing an appeals process.

    Ear­li­er this month the Israel gov­ern­ment through Project HEART, an Israeli governmental/JAFI (Jew­ish Agency for Israel) project to locate Holo­caust heirs and assist in obtain­ing resti­tu­tion found­ed in 2011, pro­posed two can­di­dates for the Munich task force: an art expert from Yad Vashem and a resti­tu­tion and art expert from the Israel Muse­um.

    Get­ting an Israeli on the task force is an impor­tant mile­stone, says Project HEART head Bob­by Brown.

    “The Holo­caust was not only the great­est mur­der in his­to­ry, but also the great­est rob­bery. More art was stolen dur­ing the Holo­caust than exist­ed in the US at the same time,” says Brown.

    “We are of the opin­ion that Holo­caust sur­vivors and their heirs have a legit­i­mate right to ask for prop­er­ty at any time,” says Brown.

    The idea of a statute of lim­i­ta­tions is pre­pos­ter­ous, says Brown, espe­cial­ly in new finds such as the Munich case. Often new infor­ma­tion becomes avail­able, and dur­ing the legal statute of lim­i­ta­tions, the sur­vivors weren’t phys­i­cal­ly, psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly, or even moral­ly pre­pared to take what was right­ful­ly theirs.

    “How could some­one make a claim if they were just found?” he asks. “How much would you spend on find­ing art that no one knows exists?”

    Project HEART, under the aus­pices of the Min­istry of Senior Cit­i­zens and Min­is­ter Uri Orbach in coop­er­a­tion with JAFI, approach­es foriegn gov­ern­ments as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the gov­ern­ment of Israel and asks for leg­isla­tive changes, rather than work­ing the exist­ing legal sys­tems as pri­vate lawyers do. Its man­date is to rep­re­sent the cit­i­zens of Israel as well as any Jews world­wide who approach it.

    With an annu­al bud­get of $2.5 mil­lion, there are no fees involved and all poten­tial monies go direct­ly to sur­vivors or their heirs, says Brown.

    “Too many orga­ni­za­tions have done good deeds or less than good deeds on the pen­ny of the Holo­caust sur­vivors. Our posi­tion is give back to those who own the thing the max­i­mum. We get noth­ing but sat­is­fac­tion,” says Brown.
    A race against time

    Not all lawyers are mak­ing a buck on the backs of sur­vivors. Amer­i­can lawyer Chris Marinel­lo, now based in Lon­don, has suc­cess­ful­ly nego­ti­at­ed many small Holo­caust resti­tu­tion claims pro bono. Today, how­ev­er, he and his firm are rep­re­sent­ing one of the most impor­tant heirs in the Holo­caust art resti­tu­tion world, the fam­i­ly of art deal­er Paul Rosen­berg.

    Since the pub­li­ca­tion of the Munich col­lec­tion, he has been in direct con­tact with the task force of what he calls emi­nent art his­to­ri­ans and lead­ers in the resti­tu­tion field. And, like oth­er lawyers of claimants, he has faced stonewalling and been told to have patience.

    “My client in 94 years old and she doesn’t want to be told to have patience,” says Marinel­lo.

    Unlike most, Paul Rosen­berg fled the Nazi regime with his archives intact. “As soon as the image [of Matis­se’s ‘La Femme assise’] was released we were able to pro­duce doc­u­men­ta­tion,” says Marinel­lo, rat­tling off a laun­dry list of doc­u­ments. ”We have a receipt, entry cards when the Nazis entered to loot, we know which Nazi-col­lab­o­rat­ing deal­ers han­dled it, which col­lect­ing points. We have affi­davits from the fam­i­ly con­tin­u­ing their search, doc­u­ment­ing the work is miss­ing… All of which were pro­duced to the task force.”

    Marinel­lo notes the Gurlitt case is com­pli­cat­ed by the crim­i­nal tax inves­ti­ga­tion, and won­ders, as a worst-case sce­nario, even if the spe­cial art task force agrees the Matisse was loot­ed, will the heir be required to file a civ­il case against Gurlitt?

    “Many peo­ple who would like to see this case go away are drag­ging their feet,” says Marinel­lo.

    This wouldn’t be the first time. In research­ing a book about the math­e­mat­ics of com­pen­sa­tion, retired Israeli jour­nal­ist Raul Teit­el­baum, a Holo­caust sur­vivor, says he found two-thirds of sur­vivors died before their com­pen­sa­tion cas­es were resolved. In “The Bio­log­i­cal Solu­tion,” Teit­el­baum writes that less than a third of sur­vivors received any rec­om­pense at all.

    Addi­tion­al­ly, for many sur­vivors inter­est­ed in art resti­tu­tion who may not be the heirs to famous works by Matisse, says Teit­el­baum, “Some­times find­ing the art costs more than the art is worth.”

    Over the past 70 years, he has found that com­pen­sa­tion from Ger­many is a “long pro­ce­dure of stop­gaps and patch­es” that depends on polit­i­cal incen­tives and inter­na­tion­al pres­sure. In the 1950s, Ger­many need­ed the legit­i­ma­cy of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty and the Jews. “Today, we need Ger­many,” says Teit­el­baum.

    And Ger­many needs to lead what Project HEART’s Brown calls a “final push.” “We feel the coun­try has a a spe­cial oblig­a­tion for resti­tu­tion that needs to be put on tur­bo for the next 15 or 20 years that the sur­vivors will still be alive,” he says.

    No process has been or will be per­fect jus­tice, says Brown. “We are work­ing toward the most jus­tice that may be achieved at this time. If we can get bet­ter jus­tice in five years, there’s a heavy price to pay for that,” he says.

    But in a Ger­many that is hold­ing all the cards, lawyers are find­ing it increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to get what they feel is a fair hear­ing.

    Juan Car­los Emden’s moth­er died in April at 99 before the Ger­man fed­er­al Finance Min­istry decid­ed after nine years what it would do with the two works by 18th-cen­tu­ry painter Bernar­do Bel­lot­to the fam­i­ly is claim­ing were lost in forced sales by her father Max Emden.

    “We were hop­ing to have this case set­tled for her but jus­tice has been lost for her,” says well-known New York-based resti­tu­tion lawyer Mel Urbach, the son of a Holo­caust sur­vivor.

    Max Emden fled Ger­many with his art col­lec­tion in 1933 when Hitler came to pow­er. The fam­i­ly was his­tor­i­cal­ly pow­er­ful and wealthy, with land and prop­er­ty in sev­er­al coun­tries, includ­ing Switzer­land where Emden sought refuge.

    “When the Nazis came to pow­er he made a deci­sion to stay in Switzer­land, but nev­er set up shop there. His busi­ness was left behind in Ham­burg. The Nazis finan­cial­ly ruined him, forc­ing him to sell his stores and real estate. By 1937 he had run out of mon­ey and start­ed sell­ing his art col­lec­tion,” says Juan Car­los Emden via con­fer­ence call from Chile.

    The Bel­lot­to paint­ings, it would appear, were sold below mar­ket val­ue in 1937–8 via the Ger­man-Jew­ish art deal­er Annie Cas­pari, from whom Emden had pur­chased them in 1928–9.

    In 1937, says Juan Car­los Emden’s Ger­man lawyer Markus Stoet­zel, Cas­pari learnt of Emden’s finan­cial trou­bles and that he was des­per­ate­ly try­ing to sell the paint­ings at a fair price.

    But Cas­pari was also in trou­ble, only allowed to work in a lim­it­ed extent after 1933, and had been enlist­ed by the noto­ri­ous art agent Haber­stock to aid him in pur­chas­ing works from near des­ti­tute Jews for Hitler’s planned Linz muse­um.

    “We have the com­plete doc­u­men­tary of her cor­re­spon­dence with Emden and Haber­stock,” says Stoet­zel. Caspari’s work per­mit was with­drawn in 1943 and she was deport­ed and mur­dered.

    The two Bel­lot­to paint­ings weren’t claimed by an heir post-WWII — Max Emden’s only son Hans, Juan Carlos’s father, had fled to South Amer­i­ca. They became part of the 2,300 cus­to­di­al works kept by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment and loaned to insti­tu­tions.

    Worth an esti­mat­ed $2.5 mil­lion each, the Asso­ci­at­ed Press reports Bellotto’s ”The Zwinger Moat in Dres­den” is cur­rent­ly on exhib­it at the Muse­um for Mil­i­tary His­to­ry and a panora­ma of Vien­na is in stor­age at the Kun­st­palast muse­um in Dues­sel­dorf.

    The Ger­man Finance Min­istry wrote The Times of Israel last week that the Emden case, like sev­er­al oth­ers, is not cov­ered by the Wash­ing­ton Prin­ci­ples because he man­aged to take his art with him and sales were not con­duct­ed in Ger­many — as was already decid­ed in a case in the Unit­ed States.

    “The Nation­al Gallery of Art in Wash­ing­ton has refused the resti­tu­tion of the paint­ings ‘Saint Mary Salome and Her Fam­i­ly’ and ‘Saint Mary Cleophas and Her Fam­i­ly’ to the heirs of Max Emden in a com­pa­ra­ble case with the same legal opin­ion, as the paint­ings were also sold through Max Emden in Switzer­land,” writes a Finance Min­istry spokesper­son.

    He adds that the Ger­man Fed­er­al Government’s appeals com­mit­tee dealt with the case in 2012. For the Finance Min­istry, there is no need for appeal as the legal sit­u­a­tion is clear. The min­istry does not wish to pur­sue the case “out of respect for the par­lia­men­tary deci­sion not to act on this mat­ter.”

    But heir Juan Car­los Emden is not new to the world of art resti­tu­tion. He told The Times of Israel this week he has not ruled out a civ­il law suit in this mat­ter, say­ing he and his lawyers, Urbach and part­ner Stoet­zel, will decide strat­e­gy next week.

    For per­son­al as well as pro­fes­sion­al rea­sons, Urbach and Stoetzel’s law prac­tices cen­ter around Holo­caust resti­tu­tion, both with a sense of tikkun olam.

    “Is Ger­many real­ly will­ing to keep such an unhealthy, unholy col­lec­tion as the Hitler col­lec­tion? I don’t think that this is some­thing I as a Ger­man can be proud of,” says soft-spo­ken Stoet­zel.

    Inter­est­ing­ly, Urbach and Stoet­zel rep­re­sent­ed the Jew­ish heirs in the resti­tu­tion nego­ti­a­tion of what appears to be Gurlitt’s final sale. “The Lion Tamer” by Ger­man artist Max Beck­mann gar­nered $1.17 mil­lion at a 2011 Cologne auc­tion. Gurlitt gave 45% to the heirs of the orig­i­nal own­er, Alfred Flechtheim, a Jew­ish art deal­er whose gal­leries were loot­ed by Nazis.

    As the Emden case received an unfa­vor­able rul­ing last week, the Flechtheim heirs won anoth­er vic­to­ry in Cologne. Upcom­ing for Urbach and Stoet­zel is a mid-Jan­u­ary hear­ing on the $200 mil­lion Guelph col­lec­tion.

    “Ger­many now in a sit­u­a­tion where the Ger­mans need to make a deci­sion. There are many peo­ple out there who have their hearts in the right place, but the over­all sit­u­a­tion is there is no real will to go a step fur­ther and pro­vide peo­ple all over the world with a bind­ing process or res­o­lu­tion,” says Stoet­zel.

    Posted by Vanfield | December 29, 2013, 12:36 pm
  3. http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-News/Report-Nazi-looted-art-found-in-German-parliament-336571

    Report: Nazi-loot­ed art found in Ger­man par­lia­ment
    12/30/2013 17:41

    BERLIN — An art his­to­ri­an has found two art works stolen by the Nazis inside Ger­many’s par­lia­ment, a news­pa­per report­ed on Mon­day, in a new embar­rass­ment for author­i­ties after a huge stash of loot­ed art came to light last month.

    The Bun­destag, in a state­ment issued after the report in Bild news­pa­per, said an art his­to­ri­an was review­ing two “sus­pi­cious cas­es”, but a spokesman would not con­firm the find.

    The art his­to­ri­an’s inves­ti­ga­tions into the Ger­man par­lia­men­t’s art col­lec­tion, which began in 2012, were con­tin­u­ing, the Bun­destag spokesman said.

    “It is unclear when there will be a result to the inves­ti­ga­tions,” he said.

    Last month Ger­man author­i­ties revealed that a trove of Nazi-loot­ed art, val­ued at 1 bil­lion euros ($1.38 bln), had been found in a Munich apart­ment.

    That col­lec­tion had been held for decades by Cor­nelius Gurlitt, the elder­ly son of an art deal­er of part-Jew­ish descent who was ordered by Hitler to buy up so-called ‘degen­er­ate art’ and sell it to raise funds for the Nazis.

    Bild news­pa­per said one of the two works dis­cov­ered in the Bun­destag col­lec­tion had also orig­i­nal­ly belonged to the Gurlitt fam­i­ly.

    Bild said the two works were an oil paint­ing, ‘Chan­cel­lor Buelow speak­ing in the Reich­stag’, by Georg Wal­tenberg­er dat­ed 1905, and a chalk lith­o­g­ra­phy enti­tled ‘Street in Koenigs­berg’ by Lovis Corinth.

    The Nazis plun­dered hun­dreds of thou­sands of art works from muse­ums and indi­vid­u­als across Europe. An unknown num­ber of works is still miss­ing and muse­ums around the world have con­duct­ed inves­ti­ga­tions into the ori­gins of their exhibits.

    Ger­man author­i­ties came under fire for keep­ing qui­et for two years about the dis­cov­ery of Gurlit­t’s trove of 1,406 Euro­pean art works which includ­ed works by Picas­so and Matisse.

    The legal sta­tus of the hoard is unclear. Gurlitt has demand­ed his art back and lawyers work­ing on reclaim­ing prop­er­ty for heirs to Jew­ish col­lec­tors say he may get to keep at least some.

    The Bun­destag’s art col­lec­tion com­pris­es around 4,000 works and Bild said inves­ti­ga­tions had found some 108 pieces so far of unknown prove­nance.

    About four years ago, it returned a por­trait of for­mer Ger­man chan­cel­lor Otto von Bis­mar­ck in a hat by Franz von Lenbach to its orig­i­nal own­ers after it was found to have been stolen by the Nazis.

    The Cen­tral Coun­cil of Jews in Ger­many called for a list of the Bun­destag’s art works to be pub­lished.

    “If the Bun­destag is keep­ing lists of its col­lec­tion secret, hin­der­ing the press in its inves­ti­ga­tions, pro­tect­ing the per­pe­tra­tors of Ayrani­sa­tion and not inform­ing the heirs, I would wish those respon­si­ble to show more sen­si­bil­i­ty and tact,” Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Dieter Grau­mann told Bild.

    Posted by Vanfield | December 30, 2013, 9:17 am
  4. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/18/arts/international/heirs-sue-bank-over-sale-of-nazi-looted-art-.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C{%221%22%3A%22RI%3A9%22}&_r=0

    Heirs Sue Bank Over Sale of Nazi-Loot­ed Art

    By PATRICIA COHENOCT. 17, 2014

    When Christie’s auc­tioned off Edgar Degas’s “Danseuses” for near­ly $11 mil­lion in 2009, the cat­a­log not­ed that the mas­ter­piece was being sold as part of a resti­tu­tion agree­ment with the “heirs of Lud­wig and Mar­gret Kain­er,” Ger­man Jews whose vast art col­lec­tion was seized by the Nazis in the years lead­ing up to World War II.

    But now a dozen rel­a­tives of the Kain­ers are step­ping for­ward to object. Not only did they fail to ben­e­fit from that sale, they say they were nev­er even told about it, or any oth­er auc­tions of works once owned by the cou­ple, includ­ing pieces by Mon­et and Renoir.

    It turns out that the Kain­er “heir” that has for years col­lect­ed pro­ceeds from these sales and oth­er resti­tu­tions, includ­ing war repa­ra­tions from the Ger­man gov­ern­ment, is not a fam­i­ly mem­ber but a foun­da­tion cre­at­ed by Swiss bank offi­cials.

    In law­suits filed in New York and Switzer­land, the Kain­er rel­a­tives con­tend that offi­cers of the bank — now part of the glob­al bank­ing giant UBS — nev­er made a dili­gent effort to find them, and worse, used the fam­i­ly name to cre­ate a “sham” foun­da­tion osten­si­bly orga­nized to sup­port the health and edu­ca­tion of Jew­ish youth but actu­al­ly formed, they say, to cheat them out of their inher­i­tance.

    Both the foun­da­tion — named after Nor­bert Levy, Mrs. Kainer’s father — and UBS have said in court papers that they have done noth­ing wrong, but declined to com­ment. The law­suits come as high-pro­file dis­putes over loot­ed art focus atten­tion on how courts and gov­ern­ments have han­dled assets stolen from Jews by the Nazis. Despite the scruti­ny, this case shows just how dif­fi­cult adju­di­cat­ing such claims remains. The Kain­er fam­i­ly law­suits, for exam­ple, involve the legal sys­tems of four coun­tries and rest on the inten­tions and actions of peo­ple who have been dead for many decades. Like many fam­i­lies who sur­vived the Holo­caust, the Kain­er descen­dants were not even aware that their rel­a­tives had lost or left behind valu­ables to which they might have a claim. As experts note, the abil­i­ty to track fam­i­ly mem­bers has made great leaps over the years. This case only came to light when Mon­dex Cor­po­ra­tion, which helps recov­er loot­ed prop­er­ty, noticed in 2009 that hun­dreds of works once owned by the Kain­ers had been list­ed in an inter­na­tion­al data­base of art lost in the war years, and then tracked down their rel­a­tives.

    Then there is the added dra­ma that the New York law­suit names UBS as a defen­dant, strik­ing a sen­si­tive chord. UBS, the result of a 1998 merg­er between Swiss Bank Cor­po­ra­tion and the Union Bank of Switzer­land, was one of sev­er­al Swiss banks accused of try­ing to block attempts by Jew­ish war sur­vivors and heirs to reclaim assets deposit­ed in what they had thought were safe havens.

    The Kain­er family’s deal­ings with Swiss banks stretch­es back to the peri­od before Hitler grabbed pow­er. Mar­gret Kain­er and her father relied on the Swiss Bank Cor­po­ra­tion to man­age their for­tunes. Before his death in 1928, Mr. Levy, a Berlin met­als deal­er, set up a foun­da­tion to ben­e­fit his only daugh­ter. He trust­ed the Swiss bank so much that in the foundation’s bylaws he required a bank direc­tor to be one of its two trustees.
    Con­tin­ue read­ing the main sto­ry

    When the Nazis seized con­trol in Ger­many a few years lat­er, Mar­gret and her hus­band, Lud­wig, a well-known artist and illus­tra­tor who designed sets for Serge Diaghilev’s Bal­lets Russ­es, fled to France.

    The Ger­mans end­ed up con­fis­cat­ing much of the Kain­ers’ exten­sive hold­ings, which includ­ed real estate, secu­ri­ties, bank accounts and a world-class art col­lec­tion that con­tained works by Goya, Ingres and Renoir as well as Chi­nese ceram­ics and ancient Egypt­ian sculp­tures, accord­ing to court papers.

    Out of the Nazis reach, how­ev­er, was the Nor­bert Levy Foun­da­tion, based in Switzer­land. The foun­da­tion pro­vid­ed reg­u­lar pay­ments to the cou­ple: 800 Swiss francs a month (about $2,800) until the mon­ey ran out in 1944, court papers say.

    Most of Margret’s rel­a­tives were not as lucky. At least four were killed in the Holo­caust, said Max Cor­den, a great-nephew of Nor­bert Levy, now 87, who is a par­ty to the law­suit.

    After the war, the Kain­ers, who had briefly sought refuge in Switzer­land, moved back to Paris where Mr. Kain­er died in 1967, fol­lowed by Mrs. Kain­er in 1968. Since they were child­less, the right­ful heirs, the law­suits con­tend, are the 12 chil­dren and grand­chil­dren of Mrs. Kainer’s cousins. The foun­da­tion, they say, was legal­ly ter­mi­nat­ed with Mrs. Kainer’s death.

    What hap­pened next is at the crux of the legal dis­pute. Did bank offi­cials make a good-faith effort to track down fam­i­ly heirs after the cou­ple died?

    The Kain­er rel­a­tives say no. They charge in court papers that even a cur­so­ry search would have turned up the names of rel­a­tives who had con­tact­ed the bank in 1947 and 1950 to ask about arrang­ing for help from the foun­da­tion. A dili­gent effort, they say, would also have includ­ed con­tact­ing the Inter­na­tion­al Trac­ing Ser­vice of the Swiss-based Red Cross, which was cre­at­ed specif­i­cal­ly to find miss­ing and dis­placed peo­ple. Fam­i­ly mem­bers, the court papers say, were list­ed with the ser­vice.

    What bank offi­cials did do was post a notice seek­ing heirs for three months of 1969 in a local gov­ern­men­tal jour­nal pub­lished by the Swiss state of Vaud, where the Kain­ers main­tained a legal address.

    Experts acknowl­edge that in those days, few insti­tu­tions ini­ti­at­ed the kind of full-bore efforts to find heirs that are con­sid­ered stan­dard now.

    “There were dif­fer­ent expec­ta­tions of what was required,” said Anna Rubin, the direc­tor of New York State’s Holo­caust Claims Pro­cess­ing Office. She not­ed that genealog­i­cal research was less advanced, and that dig­i­tal data­bas­es did not exist.

    Still, experts said a basic search would have includ­ed con­tact­ing the Red Cross. A more thor­ough attempt, they say, would have involved Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions and a reg­is­tra­tion office in Ger­many, where Mar­gret Kain­er was born.

    The ques­tion of who qual­i­fied as an heir lan­guished until 1970, when West Ger­many, as part of a post­war set­tle­ment, final­ly agreed to pay the fam­i­ly a lump sum as resti­tu­tion (the exact amount is unclear). But the mon­ey would be for­feit­ed if there were no legal heirs.

    Since the bank had not locat­ed any fam­i­ly mem­bers, Dr. Albert Gen­ner, a Swiss Bank Cor­po­ra­tion direc­tor who had per­son­al­ly known Nor­bert Levy, came up with a plan to revive the foun­da­tion in order to get the pay­out. In a memo dat­ed Dec. 21, 1970, and stamped “Pri­vate,” Dr. Gen­ner advo­cat­ed res­ur­rect­ing the foun­da­tion to func­tion as the Kain­ers’ legal suc­ces­sor, so that “a claim could be con­struct­ed.” The foundation’s pur­pose, Dr. Gen­ner wrote, would be to help edu­cate chil­dren, prefer­ably “of Jew­ish her­itage from pre­war Ger­many,” who “for health rea­sons” need­ed to attend school in Vaud’s favor­able cli­mate.

    What no one under­stood at the time was just how valu­able the Kain­er estate real­ly was. Over the last decade and a half, mil­lions of dol­lars in mis­placed assets and recov­ered art have sur­faced. The biggest bonan­za came after Swiss offi­cials dis­cov­ered a lost port­fo­lio worth more than $19 mil­lion, accord­ing to pub­lic records in Switzer­land. Swiss offi­cials said they, too, were unable to find Kain­er descen­dants despite mul­ti­ple search­es and claimed the wind­fall. After the Nor­bert foun­da­tion object­ed, they ulti­mate­ly nego­ti­at­ed a set­tle­ment in 2005 under which the foun­da­tion received $5.6 mil­lion. (The Kain­er fam­i­ly is suing the munic­i­pal­i­ties of Vaud and Pul­ley in Switzer­land to recov­er the rest.)

    In recent years, the foun­da­tion has col­lect­ed at least $11 mil­lion, includ­ing $1.8 mil­lion from the 2009 “Danseuses” set­tle­ment and pro­ceeds from the sale of at least three oth­er stolen works by Mon­et and Renoir. (Hun­dreds of oth­er Kain­er col­lec­tion paint­ings are still unac­count­ed for.)

    Giv­en those assets, the ques­tion of how much has been spent by the foun­da­tion on Jew­ish stu­dents remains unclear.

    Track­ing the activ­i­ties of a foun­da­tion in Switzer­land can be dif­fi­cult, because, unlike the sit­u­a­tion in the Unit­ed States, finan­cial infor­ma­tion is not nec­es­sar­i­ly open to the pub­lic. Lawyers for the foun­da­tion and its pres­i­dent, Edgar Kircher, declined to dis­cuss its finances or com­ment on the accu­sa­tions.

    But the min­utes of nine annu­al board meet­ings held between 1990 and 2008, and gath­ered by Mon­ey­house, a Swiss data and infor­ma­tion ser­vice, give some sense of the organization’s report­ed finances.

    For exam­ple, in 2008, the last year for which min­utes are avail­able, the board report­ed that it planned to award $8,570, divid­ed among three stu­dents. That year, the board also dis­cussed remov­ing the foundation’s invest­ments from UBS’s man­age­ment because of poor per­for­mance.

    “I haven’t found any evi­dence that they’ve giv­en any sig­nif­i­cant mon­ey to any­body,” said James Palmer, the founder and for­mer pres­i­dent of Mon­dex. There is, how­ev­er, no evi­dence that the board mem­bers have tak­en any­thing but minor reim­burse­ments for their ser­vices.

    The board has been con­trolled since its cre­ation in 1971 by cur­rent and for­mer bank offi­cials or their spous­es. For the past 25 years, Mr. Kircher, an exec­u­tive with UBS, has been its pres­i­dent or served on its board. Since 1992, the foun­da­tion has been run out of his home.

    Lawyers for UBS said in court papers that the com­pa­ny has no rela­tion­ship with the foun­da­tion and is mere­ly a bystander in this case. Mar­garet Stin­son, a spokes­woman for UBS, declined to com­ment fur­ther.

    In court papers, the foun­da­tion has main­tained that, under the terms of Nor­bert Levy’s will, it has a legal right to the assets it col­lect­ed.

    Mrs. Kainer’s cousin, Mr. Cor­den, a retired econ­o­mist, scoffed at such sug­ges­tions. In an email, he said he was “out­raged” by the con­duct of Swiss bank offi­cials and the foun­da­tion. He said he is not look­ing to prof­it per­son­al­ly from the law­suit, as he and his fam­i­ly no longer are in need.

    “If I get any mon­ey,” he said, “I shall give most or all to good caus­es.”
    Cor­rec­tion: Octo­ber 21, 2014

    An ear­li­er ver­sion of this arti­cle mis­stat­ed James Palmer’s con­nec­tion to the Mon­dex Cor­po­ra­tion. He is the founder and for­mer pres­i­dent, not the pres­i­dent. (Kami­la Gour­die now holds that posi­tion.)

    Posted by Vanfield | October 21, 2014, 2:06 pm

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