Showing posts with label Holocaust restitution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holocaust restitution. Show all posts

February 15, 2018

An appeal that could have a strong legal significance on Holocaust-era claims in the United States

The protracted multi-million dollar lawsuit regarding the 480-year-old paintings of Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder at the Norton Simon Museum has lasted more than ten years.  The lawsuit against the museum, began with a quest undertaken by Marei von Saher, the sole surviving heir of the Dutch-Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, who has long sought to recover her father in law’s artworks, looted during the Second World War.   Throughout this lengthy process, Saher, has sought the return of two 500-year-old biblical-themed paintings, appraised at $24 million.  

Jacques Goudstikker was once considered to be the preeminent dealer of Old Master paintings in Amsterdam and is estimated to have amassed an extraordinary collection of some 1400 works of art of the course of his professional career.  When Germany began its assault on Holland on May 10, 1940, Goudstikker knew that his family's time was up. As Rotterdam burned and the Nazi invasion under Reichsmarschall Göring gained speed, Goudstikker, his young wife Désirée von Halban Kurtz, and their infant son Edo boarded the SS Bodegraven, a ship docked at the port city of IJmuiden, departing for England and then on its way to the Americas. 

Unable to transport his collection with him, Goudstikker carried a neatly typed inventory of his property in a black leather notebook.  This notebook detailed artworks by important Dutch and Flemish artists like Jan Mostaert and Jan Steen, as well as works by Peter Paul Rubens, Giotto, Pasqualino Veneziano, Titian, Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh and many others.  Unfortunately, in a further tragic twist of fate, Goudstikker lost his life on his journey to safety, breaking his neck in an accidental fall through an uncovered hatch just two days into the ship's voyage.

In less than a week after the German Luftwaffe of the Third Reich crossed into Dutch airspace, Dutch commanding general General Henry G. Winkelman surrendered and the country fell under German occupation.   As a result, Amsterdam came under a civilian administration overseen by the Reichskommissariat Niederlande, which was dominated by the Schutzstaffel.  

Goudstikker's collection was quickly liquidated in a forced sale typical of many World War II -era art thefts.  Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring himself cherry picked many of the choicest art works, sending more than 800 paintings to Germany.   Some of which were hung in Göring's private collection at Karinhall, his country estate near Berlin.

On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, a three-judge panel with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is the U.S. Federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in Alaska, Arizona and the Central District of California heard oral arguments from Von Saher’s attorney, Lawrence Kaye from Herrick Feinstein on the return of the paintings from the Norton Simon Museum.  

In his presentation, Kaye disagreed with U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter's earlier ruling that the Norton Simon Museum is the rightful owner of the paintings on the basis that the Dutch government couldn't assert ownership of artwork it received through external restitution.  In his oral statements he asserted that:

Whatever decision the Appellate court makes in this case will have broad legal ramifications for how forced sale restitution cases are heard in the US Courts.  When the arguments conclude, the judges' panel will either uphold the ruling of the lower court in favor of the Norton Simon Museum,  reverse the earlier decision in favor of von Saher, or send the case back down to the lower court for trial. 

By:  Lynda Albertson

January 27, 2018

ARCA- HARP - Provenance Research Training Course in Italy

Exhibition in the library of the Collecting Point, summer 1947
© Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
The Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) and the US-based Holocaust Art Restitution Project, [Inc.] (HARP), a not-for-profit group based in Washington, DC, dedicated to the identification and restitution of looted artworks, have teamed up to offer a unique short course in Amelia, Italy, this summer. This thematic course “Provenance and the challenges of recovering looted assets” will address cultural plunder, undoubtedly one of the thorniest issues facing the art world today.

Course Dates: June 20- 26, 2018  

Open to applicants interested in the restitution/repatriation of looted cultural objects and their trafficking, this 5-day course will provide participants with exposure to the research and ethical considerations of modern-day art restitution. As an added bonus students accepted to the course are automatically registered to attend ARCA’s Amelia Conference, June 22-24, 2018 a weekend-long forum for intellectual and professional exchange which explores the indispensable role of research, detection, crime prevention and criminal justice responses in combating all forms of art crime and the illicit trafficking in cultural property. 

“Provenance and the challenges of recovering looted assets”  will be taught by Marc Masurovsky, the co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project and guest lecturers.  Mr Masurovsky is a historian, researcher, and advocate, specializing in the financial and economic underpinnings of the Holocaust and the Second World War. 

Born and raised in Paris, France, Mr. Masurovsky holds a B.A. in Communications and Critical Cultural Studies from Antioch College and an M.A. in Modern European History from American University in Washington, DC, for which his thesis was on “Operation Safehaven.” He worked at the Office of Special Investigations of the US Department of Justice researching Byelorussian war criminals, locating primary source documents, and interviewing war crimes suspects in North America and Western Europe. As a result of his early work on the transfers of looted assets from the Third Reich to the safety (safehaven) of neutral and Allied nations, Marc Masurovsky advised the Senate Banking Committee in the mid-1990s on the involvement of Swiss banks in the Holocaust, then lent his expertise to plaintiffs’ counsels suing Swiss banks on behalf of Holocaust survivors. 

Since 1997, Marc Masurovsky has focused his attention on the fate of objects of art looted by the Nazis and their Fascist allies. He has also played a major role in the January 1998 seizure of Egon Schiele’s “Portrait of Wally” and “Night City III” at the Museum of Modern Art of New York and was a director of research for the Clinton-era Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States (PCHA). 

Since 2004, Marc Masurovsky has overseen the creation, development and expansion of a fully-searchable, public online database of art objects looted in German-occupied France that transited through the Jeu de Paume in Paris from 1940 to 1944. Marc Masurovsky is co-author of Le Festin du Reich: le pillage de la France, 1940-1944 (2006), and is working on a book on cultural plunder during the Nazi era and its impact on the international art market. 

For more information on the course and how to apply, please see the announcement linked above.

January 6, 2018

Conference - “20 years of the Washington Principles: Challenges for the Future”


Berlin, Germany


Monday-Wednesday, November 26-28, 2018.

Details Forthcoming

To be Announced

Attended by Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel and former US-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the 1998 Washington DC conference, hosted by the US Department of State and the Holocaust Memorial Museum, in order to develop a statement concerning the restitution of art confiscated by the Nazi regime in Germany before and during World War II.  This statement, sometimes referred to as "The Washington Declaration" or the "Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art", was developed to address the issue of assets and provided eleven non-binding principles on dealing with material confiscated by the Nazis.  The document specifically dealt with art and insurance, as well as communal property, archives, books, and built on remaining gold issues following the Nazi Gold conference which had been held in London in December 1997.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of this meeting, the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste [DZK or German Lost Art Foundation] will be sponsoring an international conference scheduled to take place in Berlin, Germany from November 26 through November 28, 2018.

The conference is being organized with the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz  [the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation] and the Kulturstiftung des Bundes [the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States].

Please see the Holocaust Art Restitution Project for more details as they become available. 

November 29, 2017

Max Stern: His art legacy and an abruptly cancelled exhibition of works from the on Galerie Stern in Düsseldorf

Photo Credit : Concordia University - 1952 AP file photo of Max Stern
and his wife, Iris, reviewing an advertisement showing art from his lost collection. 
By: Angelina Giovani

Max Stern was born on April 18, 1904 in Mönchen-Gladbach, Germany to Selma Heilbron and Julius Stern, an important jewish art collector who would later become one of Düsseldorf’s leading art gallery owners. He was the youngest child and had two sisters, Hedi and Gerda. He studied art history in Vienna, Cologne, and Berlin, completing his Dr. Phil. in 1928 at the University of Bonn. His doctoral dissertation was on the accumulated works of German painter Johann Peter von Langer (1756-1824) and was published in 1930 by Kurt Schroeder.

Max Stern started working as a manager at the Galerie Julius Stern in 1928 though it wasn’t until his father’s passing in 1938 that he inherited the family's businesses interests both inside and outside of Germany. Unfortunately, the coming years coincided with the rise of Nazism and the gallery faced all the expected difficulties inherent with being a Jewish-owned business, ultimately resulting in his family's roughly 400-piece collection being liquidated. The Reich Chamber of Fine Arts (German: Reichskammer Der bildenden Künste (RKdbK)) which was established on September 22, 1933 and replaced the Federal Association of German Art and Antiques Dealers (German: Bundesverband Deutscher Kunst- und Antiquitätenhändler (BDKA)) under which dealers like Max Stern had formerly been organized.

In order for people of these professions to be able to practice, they needed to be granted membership by the RKdbK, something denied to Max Stern. For racial reasons he could no longer hold auctions after 1933 and on August 29, 1935, Stern received a final confirmation letter that he needed to liquidate his business within a three-month period. From that point onwards he was also prohibited from practicing his profession as an art dealer. Responding to the growing threat of Nazism, his sister Hedi moved to London and in 1936, together with a former associate from Düsseldorf, Cornelis J.W. van de Wetering, and opened West’s Galleries Limited in London.

By March 1937, Max Stern had sold the two gallery buildings on Königsallee 23-25 in Düsseldorf to the insurance company Allianz, as well as the Stern family home.  Having given up hopes of being able to save his business interests in Germany, he auctioned off the remainder of his gallery stock, some 200+ paintings, and immediately after departed the country on December 23, 1937 due to the deteriorating situation.  

Stern arrived in Paris with nothing more than one piece of hand luggage. He then travelled on to London where over the next year he joined his sister at West’s Galleries. In the meantime, the Gestapo proceeded to confiscate some of Stern's paintings which he had left with Josef Rogendorf, a shipping agent in Köln.

After travelling between France, the UK and Canada and spending years in internment, Max Stern finally settled in Montreal joining the Dominion Gallery of Fine Art in 1941. In 1942, thanks to his knowledge and expertise, he was made director of the company and started his mission to turn the gallery into the leading platform for the representation of living artists. He organized exhibitions for Joseph Fernand Henri Léger, John Lyman, Emily Carr, Stanley Cosgrove, Goodridge Roberts, and others.

By 1946, Max Stern had already began his recovery efforts and travelled to London to recover some paintings and his library. Soon after that, in 1947, Stern and his wife, Iris Ester Westerberg,  whom he married in New York on January 15, 1946, become owners of Montreal's Dominion Gallery (French: Galerie Dominion). In the years to come, the Dominion gallery, which had relocated to 1438 Sherbrooke Street, held major exhibitions on artists like François Auguste René Rodin and Edward J. Hughes, as well as a major exhibition of international sculpture.

In 1987, Max Stern died of a heart attack while on a trip to Paris. He left the bulk of his estate, including any potential recovery of lost artworks, to the charitable Dr. and Mrs. Max Stern Foundation.  The Foundation benefits three non-profit institutions:  Concordia University (Montreal), McGill University (Montreal), and Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel).  His private art collection was bequeathed to a large number of museums in Canada, the United States and Israel, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Art  (French: Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal (MBAM)), the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (French: Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal), and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. His library collection, consisting of around 3000 books, was ceded jointly to Concordia and McGill Universities and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The Max Stern Art Restitution Project was created in 2002 and Concordia was mandated to direct the restitution issues brought forth by the circulation in the art market of works belonging to the Stern Galerie in Düsseldorf. The Estate’s right to claim the artworks was acknowledged by the Holocaust Claims Processing office in New York and the missing works are registered with numerous stolen art and claims databases, as well as with the Commission of Looted Art in Europe. Lawyer and looted art specialist Willi Korte has since been the chief investigator of this project.

Recently the city of Düsseldorf abruptly announced that it had decided to cancel the upcoming and much anticipated exhibition on Galerie Stern at the city’s Stadtmuseum. The travelling exhibition, which has been in preparation for the past three years, was to open first in Düsseldorf in February 2018 and from there travel onward to the Haifa Museum of Art in Israel before finally concluding at the McCord Museum in Montreal.

The exhibition would have brought forward issues which emphasize the problems of ownership history emphasizing transparency and education as crucial aspects of forwarding provenance research and restitution. The reason given by the city government for the cancellation of the exhibition was stated as “the current demands for information and restitution in German museums in connection with the “Galerie Max Stern.”  City authorities have indicated they intend to replace the exhibition with a symposium on the Stern’s legacy next autumn. 

If readers are interested in expressing their concerns about the cancellation of the Max Stern traveling exhibit at the Stadtmuseum Dusseldorf, please feel free to send an email to the Lord Mayor Thomas Geisel at:

Or add your name to this petition asking Lord Mayor Thomas Geisel to reverse his decision and reinstate the exhibition. 

References used in this blog post

February 4, 2017

Conference - From Refugees to Restitution: The History of Nazi Looted Art in the UK in Transnational Perspective.

University of Cambridge
Newnham College - Cambridge Lucia Windsor Room
Cambridge, UK 

March 23-24, 2017 

Cost: 35£ (25£ for students)
Attendees are asked to register by 1 March 2017 by emailing the conference organizers 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Opening remarks

Panel I. A Paradigm Shift? From Legal to Moral Solutions in Restitution Practice

Commentator: Victoria Louise Steinwachs (Sotheby’s London)

– Debbie De Girolamo (Queen Mary, University of London), ‘Fair & Just Solutions – A Moniker for Moral Solutions?’

 – Tabitha I. Oost (University of Amsterdam), ‘Restitution policies of Nazi- looted art in The Netherlands and the UK. A change from a legal to a moral paradigm?’

 – Evelien Campfens (Leiden University), ‘Bridging the gap between ethics and law in looted art: the case for a transnational soft-law approach’

Panel II. Loosing Art/Loosing Identity: the Emotions of Material Culture

Commentator: Bianca Gaudenzi (Cambridge/Konstanz)

– Emily Löffler (Landesmuseum Mainz), ‘The J-numbers-collection in Landesmuseum Mainz. A case study on provenance, material culture, & emotions’

 – Michaela Sidenberg (Jewish Museum, Prague), ‘Rescue/Ransom/Restitution: The struggle to preserve the collective memory of Czech and Moravian Jews’

 – Mary Kate Cleary (Art Recovery Group, New York), ‘Marie-Louise von Motesiczky: self-portraits of a woman artist as a refugee’

Roundtable I. From Theory to Practice: Provenance Research in Museums

Chair: Robert Holzbauer (Leopold Museum, Vienna)

– Tessa Rosebrock (Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe), ‘Inventory records as a dead-end. On the purchases of French drawings by the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe from 1965 to 1990’

 – Laurel Zuckerman (Independent Researcher, Bry sur Marne), ‘Art Provenance Databases: Are They Fulfilling Their Promise? Comparative evaluation of ten major museum databases in the USA and the UK’

 – Shlomit Steinberg (Israel Museum, Jerusalem), ‘What started as a trickle turned into a flow- restitution at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem’

 – Emmanuelle Polack (Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris), ‘Ethical issues regarding the restitution of Henri Matisse’s Blue Profile in front of the Chimney (1937) or Profil bleu devant la cheminée (1937)’

Friday March 24, 2017

Panel III. The Postwar Art Market: The Impact of a Changing World

Commentator: Richard Aronowitz-Mercer (Sotheby’s London)

– Johannes Nathan (Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam), ‘Switzerland and Britain: Recontextualizing Fluchtgut’

 – Maike Brueggen (Independent Provenance Researcher, Frankfurt), ‘Arthur Kauffmann – dealing German art in post-war London’

 – Nathalie Neumann (Independent Researcher, Berlin), ‘Have the baby born in England!’ The trans-European itinerary (1933-1941) of the art collector Julius Freund’

 – Diana Kostyrko (Australian National University, Canberra), ‘Mute Witness: the Polish Poetess’

Panel IV. Restitution Initiatives and Postwar Politics in the United Kingdom

Commentator: Simone Gigliotti (Royal Holloway University of London)

– Elizabeth Campbell (University of Denver), ‘Monuments Woman: Anne O. Popham and British Restitution of Nazi-Looted Art’

 – Marc Masurovsky (Holocaust Art Restitution Project), ‘Operation Safehaven (1944-49): Framing the postwar discussion on restitution of Nazi looted art through British lenses’

 – Angelina Giovani (Jewish Claims Conference - Jeu de Paume Database), - A case study: ‘Looting the artist: The modern British paintings that never came back from France’

Panel V. Conflicting Interests: Restitution, National Politics and Vergangenheitsbewältigung across Postwar Europe

Commentator: Lisa Niemeyer (Independent Researcher, Wiesbaden)

– Ulrike Schmiegelt-Rietig (Wiesbaden Museum), ‘Pechora monastery, Russian collection looted by ERR and landed in Wiesbaden CCP’

 – Jennifer Gramer (University of Wisconsin-Madison), ‘Dangerous or Banal? Nazi Art & American Occupation in Postwar Germany and US’

 – Agata Wolska (Independent researcher, Krakow), ‘The Vaucher Committee as International Restitution Body – the Abandoned Idea’

 – Nicholas O’Donnell (Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Boston), ‘Comparison of statutory & regulatory origins of restitutionary commissions in Germany, Austria, NL & UK after WWII’

Roundtable II. From Theory to Practice: Provenance & the Art Market

Chair: Johannes Nathan (Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam)

– Friederike Schwelle (Art Loss Register, London), ‘The difference between US and UK in resolving claims for Nazi looted art’

 – Isabel von Klitzing (Provenance Research & Art Consulting, Frankfurt) and Pierre Valentin (Constantine Cannon LLP, London), ‘From Theory to practice – when collectors want to do the right thing?’

December 5, 2016

Editorial: Is the U.S. State Department's provenance research on immunity from seizure applications from foreign museums adequate?

HARP Editorial: 

For further information contact:

In Washington DC: Marc Masurovsky, 202 255 1602 ,
In New York, NY: Pierre Ciric, 212 260 6090,


Washington, DC, & New York, NY USA – December 05, 2016

Ori Z. Soltes, Chair of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (“HARP”), announced the publication of a study jointly issued by HARP and the Ciric Law Firm, PLLC, which concludes that the U.S. State Department is structurally unable and ill-equipped to perform appropriate provenance research on immunity from seizure applications submitted by foreign museums.

The study (available at, concludes research initiated in In 2014 by HARP, which investigated the U.S. State Department’s ability to perform appropriate provenance research on immunity from seizure requests submitted by foreign museums in accordance with the Immunity from Judicial Seizure statute, 22 U.S. § 2459 (IFSA). To accomplish this research, HARP submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the State Department. Following the State Department’s response, HARP analyzed the State Department’s provenance research process and its procedures for determining the soundness of the borrowing institutions’ applications to immunize objects coming from foreign lenders’ collections.

Based on the FOIA response, the study concludes that the immunization from judicial seizure process relies almost exclusively on attestations made by the lenders, the country desk officers, and the unit of the State Department which certifies cultural significance.  Furthermore, HARP concludes that the State Department is unable to challenge the certifications made by the borrowers.

If the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (S. 3155) becomes law, the systemic inability of the State Department to ensure that the applicant certification is properly supported or documented would create a significant risk for stolen artworks to come into the country through temporary exhibits.

“The State Department’s structural inability to perform appropriate due diligence on incoming exhibits should sound as a warning to everyone, especially to the Senate, which is currently considering S. 3155, that the inadequate administrative process managed by the State Department, combined with a terrible bill which purpose is to completely immunize incoming art exhibits from any claim in the U.S. will create a safe haven for looted cultural property in this country, and will trample the rights of untold numbers of victims of looting by totalitarian regimes, such as Russia or Cuba,” said Soltes.

HARP is a not-for-profit group based in Washington, DC, dedicated to the identification and restitution of looted artworks requiring detailed research and analysis of public and private archives in North America. HARP has worked for 18 years on the restitution of artworks looted by the Nazi regime.

November 12, 2016

Art Restitution: Tate Completes Restitution Process of Looted Constable Painting

Constable's 'Beaching a Boat, Brighton' (1824) will be returned to
its heirs on the recommendation of the UK's Spoliation Advisory Panel
London’s Tate Museum has, at long last, restituted John Constable’s painting, Beaching a Boat, Brighton to its rightful owners. The Tate returned the painting to the heirs of Baron Ferenc Hatvany, a Hungarian Jewish painter and art collector, after it emerged that the work had been looted during the second World War.  The painting was once part of  Baron Hatvany’s larger collection, one of the finest, if not the largest (a distinction belonging to the Herzog’s) art collections in Budapest.  By the early 1940s, his collection comprised of some 750-900 works of art.  

Hatvany was forced to store this, and several other artworks, in a Budapest bank vault against the threat of possible Allied bombing, before ultimately being forced to flee the city when the Nazis arrived. The Russian Army then entered Budapest in 1945 and seized the Hatvany collection, leading to long-standing legal disputes over the property rights of many of the pieces of artwork it contained.

The heirs of Baron Hatvany filed a claim with Britain's eight-member Spoliation Advisory Panel — a panel created by the British government to mediate looting claims on art works in public institutions in 2013—after someone recognized the Constable painting as having been looted whilst visiting the Tate's London collection in 2012. 

In May 2014, at the urging of the SAP, the Tate formally authorized the painting's return to three of Hatvany’s heirs — descendants who live in Paris and Switzerland.  Then, alarmingly, the museum reversed course one week later after officials from the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts produced an apparent 1946 export license for the painting.

SAP met again in September 2015 to reexamine the original facts in the case, along with the added Hungarian Museum documentation, and in a lengthy 81-page report again concluded that “No link has been established between Baron Hatvany and the two persons named as applying for the export license.” SAP then once again urged the return of the painting to the Baron’s heirs.

Agnes Peresztegi, a lawyer who works for the nonprofit Commission for Art Recovery and represents the three Hatvany heirs, has said that the case illustrated the need for museums to conduct better due diligence when checking the provenance of paintings. “Research,” she stated, must “conform to a higher standard and there is a need for more transparency.”

As is unfortunately often the case when World War II restitutions are eventually made, the Hatvany heirs have decided to put the Constable painting up for sale. The heirs of WWII looted art are often numerous or often, not necessarily wealthy.  Sometimes the only practical solution for dividing the value of inherited artworks is to witness its sale.

Baron Ferenc Hatvany’s Constable painting, Beaching a Boat, Brighton will go on the auction block at Christies in London on December 8th.  It is expected to sell for between GBS £500,000 and GBA £800,000.

By: Summer Clowers

At the urging of the SAP, the Tate formally authorized the painting's return to three heirs — descendants who live in Paris and Switzerland in May 2014.  Then alarmingly the museum reversed course one week later after officials from the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts produced an apparent 1946 export license for the painting.

The Spoliation Advisory Panel met again in September 2015 and reexamined the facts in the case along with the added documentation and in a length 81 page report again concluded that “No link has been established between Baron Hatvany and the two persons named as applying for the export license.”

Agnes Peresztegi, a lawyer who works for the nonprofit Commission for Art Recovery, who represents the three Hatvany heirs since 2012 has said the case illustrated the need for museums to conduct better due diligence when checking the provenance of paintings. “Research,” she stated, must “conform to a higher standard and there is a need for more transparency.”

As is often the case, when World War II restitutions are eventually made, the Hatvany heirs have decided to put the Constable painting up for sale.  The painting will go on the auction block at Christies in London on December 8th and is expected to sell for between GBS £500,000 and GBA £800,000.

Because the heirs of the looted art are numerous or not necessarily wealthy, sometimes the only practical solution for dividing the value of inherited artwork is to witness its sale. 

November 3, 2016

There's money to be made from suffering: The collection history of a recovered Monuments Men artwork, returned to the heirs, then sold, then sold again, and soon to be sold (yet) again

According to some statistics, less than 20 percent of the value of Jewish assets stolen by the Nazis and their collaborators has been restored.

ARCA highlights the lifespan of one.

Painted Crucifix
Giovanni da Rimini
Active in Rimini 
1292 - 1336
Egg tempera on cruciform panel
160.5 by 130 cm.

Collection History/Provenance 

Possibly Achillito Chiesa, Esq. of Milan collection, 
Frederick Muller, Amsterdam 
Enrico Testa

With Jacques Goudstikker, Amsterdam, inv. no. 2212, by 1929 .  

Goudstikker, the now famous second-generation Jewish Dutch art dealer fled the Netherlands in 1940 along with his wife Désirée von Halban Kurz and their son Edo following the country's invasion by Nazi Germany. 

While crossing the English channel on the SS Bodegraven, Jacques fell to his death through an uncovered hatch on the deck of the ship. Inconveniently his executor, Dr. A. Sternheim, also died around this same time and the entire Goudstikker collection (1,113 numbered paintings and an unknown quantity of unnumbered paintings) were sold to Nazi leader Hermann Wilhelm Göring despite the objections of Goudstikker's widow.  

The forced sale price:   a measly two million guilders, a small fraction of the collection's actual value.

13 July 1940  - the artwork is transferred to Carinhall by Walter Hofer for Hermann Göring (inv. no. 392).

 Museum and exhibition labels from the reverse side
of the panel painting

Photo of Jacques Goudstikker
from RKDarchives.
Afterwards, the panel painting was recovered by the "Monuments Men", a group of men and women from thirteen nations, most of whom volunteered for service in the newly created Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (“MFAA") section under the auspices of the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied Armies during World War II.  The recovered artwork was then forwarded to the Munich Central Collecting Point (inv. no. 6294) on August 2, 1945. 

After being documented, the panel painting was delivered to the Nederlands Kunstbezit, earlier known as the Stichting Nederlands Kunstbezit at The Hague (inv. no. NK1485) on November 7, 1945. 

As Marc Masurovsky, Co-Founder of  the Holocaust Art Restitution project has said "in an ideal world, the cost of seeking restitution of a Nazi-looted art object should not be a hindrance to achieving justice."

But the economics of restitution is never easy. The legal expenses of restitution to von Saher for the return of her family’s objects totalled some USD $10.4 million, a fee most World War II claimants cannot afford, even when the works of art are high in value as was the case in this circumstance. As a consequence, the painting was put on the auction block. 

On July 05, 2007 the cross, Lot 7, is sold for USD $125,362 via Christie’s London and is acquired by Old Master dealer, Fabrizio Moretti of Moretti Fine Art galleries in Florence, London, and New York. 

On January 29, 2015 the cross is again sold as Lot 131 for USD $245,000 via Sotheby's New York to an unnamed buyer, who apparently is still represented by the Italian Old Masters firm as it is still being marketed under the umbrella of Moretti Fine Arts.  

Image from Moratti Fine Art’s
Facebook Page

And the clack of an auctioneer's hammer continues.

September 14, 2016

Should there be immunity for stolen art? Info Call on Bill S.3155 - the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act

Tomorrow, September 15, 2016 the United States Senate Judiciary Committee will vote, or not, on S.3155, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act.

This bill on looted cultural artifacts in the US was first introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch [R-Utah] and subsequently cosponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D-CA], Sen. John Cornyn [R-TX], Sen. Christopher Coons [D-DE], Sen. Mike Lee [R-UT], Sen. Charles Schumer [D-NY], Sen. Thom Tillis [R-NC], Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D-CT], Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL], Sen. Al Franken [D-MN], Sen. Lindsey Graham [R-SC], Sen. Tom Udall [D-NM], and Sen. Amy Klobuchar [D-MN]. 

The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act would amend the federal judicial code with respect to denial of a foreign state's sovereign immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. or state courts in commercial activity cases where rights in property taken in violation of international law are an issue and that property, or any property exchanged for it, is: 

(1) present in the United States in connection with a commercial activity carried on by the foreign state in the United States, 

or (2) owned by an agency or instrumentality of the foreign state and that agency or instrumentality is engaged in a commercial activity in the United States.

This bill would grant a foreign state or certain carriers immunity from federal or state court jurisdiction for any activity in the United States associated with a temporary exhibition or display of a work of art or other object of cultural significance if the work of art or other object of cultural significance is imported into the United States from any foreign country pursuant to an agreement for its temporary exhibition or display between a foreign state that is its owner or custodian and the United States or U.S. cultural or educational institutions; and
the President has determined that such work is culturally significant and its temporary exhibition or display is in the national interest.

If passed, this bill would grant many authoritarian regimes around the world the right to keep stolen art. Additionally the exception within the law for art stolen seized during World War II by the Nazi regime, has been narrowly interpreted, and if passed the bill would grant many of these looted works of art immunity from seizure. 

Ori Z. Soltes, Chair of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project ( “HARP”), expressed, through counsel, strong opposition to this bill via, the central registry of information on looted cultural property from the period of 1933 to 1945. 

For those who would like to know more about the impact of this proposed legislation, please consider dialing in to the following teleforum event today:


CALL-IN: 1-888-585-9008

CONFERENCE PIN: 881-121-039

The forum will be moderated by Marion Smith, a civil-society leader, expert in international affairs, and Executive Director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

On hand for the call will be:

Pierre Ciric, an attorney and founder of the Ciric Law Firm, PLLC, a firm which specializes in art law and cultural property advice.

Eric Sundby, President of the Holocaust Remembrance and Restitution Foundation, Inc., a foundation which fights to return stolen antiquities while also working to combat trade in illegal antiquities, advocate for and provide education on the crimes of Nazi and Communist regimes, and end anti-Semitism and prejudice around the world.

Marc Masurovsky co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP) and an expert on the question of assets looted during the Holocaust and World War II.

September 29, 2015

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about a Nazi Gold Train But were Afraid to Ask...

For more than a month now ARCA has been fielding requests for interviews on what we think of the mysterious World War II era Nazi gold train.  Rather than try to regurgitate a synopsis of the reporting of 100 plus news agencies, we have decided we would just keep a running tally of what has been reported so far. 

This listing will be in chronological order from most recent to ancient past so please bookmark this page if you want to follow along.

December 23, 2015 06:00 GMT+1 - Professor Janusz Madej from Krakow's AGH University of Science and Technology said its geological survey of the site has found no evidence of a Nazi train rumoured to be carrying gems and gold.   In November, the Krakow AGH University team of geologists and engineers surveyed the site using magnetic and gravitation methods and believe that the anomalies of the ground point to possibly the remnants of a collapsed tunnel, but not a train in and of itself.

October 14, 2015 18:00 GMT+2  Peter Koper and Andreas Richter attended a meeting with Wałbrzych mayor, Romana Szełemeja at the city's town hall regarding an application on finds and mining.  The pair declared that they are ready for "permanent cooperation with the authorities of Walbrzych in all undertakings related to discovery" and suggested that their cooperation could take the form of a public-private partnership. Koper and Richter also proffered to carry out Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) site verification tests at their own expense. The meeting concluded with the mayor assuring the two treasure seekers that the city authorities would review their application carefully, along with the 11 other offers they have received, in furtherance of the exploration.  Both parties agreed to meet again sometime within the next two weeks.

October 05, 2015 09:00 GMT+2  Souvenir sellers have already moved in to cash in on Wałbrzych's sudden fame and tourism gold rush.  Chocolate candy gold bars, and t-shirts featuring a picture of a golden train are selling briskly at Książ castle in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship and a new book has been published highlighting the gold train frenzy.

October 03, 2015 03:00 GMT+2 Responding to journalists Poland’s defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, says that army experts have handed over a "safe parcel of land" to Wałbrzych authorities having found no dangerous objects or substances on the surface of the site.  Both  the military and municipal authorities were tight-lipped about whether defence forces had found any hard evidence with which to corroborate treasure hunters' claims that they have located the train.  Siemoniak added "The army's job is done as we're not in the business of treasure hunting."

September 28, 2015 12:00 GMT+2 Twenty Polish sappers in Wałbrzych begin checking the area designated as the potential resting grounds for the train. The soldiers will do safety checks of the earth to ensure there are no mines or other unexploded ordnances from World War II.

September 25, 2015 14:00 GMT+2
One of the area where Nazi gold train is to be hidden in Poland has been cleared of bushes and trees by Polish Military forces.

September 23, 2015 07:00 GMT+2  Trainspotters Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper may face charges and up to 30 days in jail and/or fines for having not obtained permissions to use Ground Penetrating Radar.  “It is all about is to teach a lesson to their followers. We do not want to have a wave of treasure hunters ignore the rules - explains Barbara Nowak-Obelinda, quoted in Gazeta Wyborcza.

September 21, 2015 15:30 GMT+2  Finally a little somber reasoning is being interjected into the train frenzy discourse.  Tomasz Siemoniak, Deputy Prime Minister of Poland and current Minister of National Defence has said that the discovery of new tunnels is not a sensation from the time of Pharaoh, but should be remembered for the death of thousands of people subjected to slave labor to have built it.

Siemoniak also underscored that the Polish military is not interested in finding treasure, but rather protecting human beings from threats.  Speaking to the Polish media he reminded the public that each day, World War II “souvenirs” are found, in the form of unexploded ordinances, which military sappers are then left to dispose of. 

September 19, 2015 21:00 GMT+1 News broke that the ladies have entered the gold rush. Saturday hobby historian Christel Focken (54) threw her own explorer hat into the ring with her male Nazi train hunter counterparts, staking her own claim to any finders fees should the Polish train turn out to be more than the wishful thinking of adventurers.  The Berliner, who according to offers on her website, offers guided visits to former Nazi tunnels and buildings built in the Owl Mountains has informed Polish authorities in Wałbrzych of four blocked up tunnels.

When asked if she believes trainspotters Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper’s hopeful claim that the train might contain the long lost Amber Room of the Russian Czars which was looted from a Russian palace by Nazi troops in 1941.  Ms. Focken laughed.

September 18, 2015  19:00 GMT+2  Treasure Hunters Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper hold a joint press conference with prospector, explorer Tadeusz Słowikowski in Struga near Wałbrzych. They presented another ground-penetrating radar image but not of the acclaimed World War II Nazi train. During the press conference the trio also highlighted a new image of a potential location of the train, this one in a much more industrialised area close to Wałbrzych in south-west Poland near the Czech border.

September 16, 2015 12:20 GMT+2 Polish local authorities and National authorities not seeing eye to eye on who should be involved in the investigation.  Members of the delegation of the Polish Army Museum, along with Adam Sikorski, the author of a TV program and Robert Kmieć, an expert in GPRmwere not given access to the alleged hiding place of the train despite bringing with them their own sophisticated and noninvasive GPR equipment. The MALÅ X3M™ system is one of the most compact GPR system commercially available on the market and used still costs an eye-popping sum usually reserved for professionals.   The fact that the geologists from the museum brought their own equipment corresponds with their skepticism of the GPR images presented by Piotr Koper and genealogist Andreas Richter using the KS ANALYSIS GPR KS700.  Unfortunately, they were not permitted to put their own unit to the test.

September 13, 2015 15:57 GMT+2 Heritage humor on Twitter sardonically changes the hashtag from  #ZłotyPociąg to #SchroedingersTrain.
September 13, 2015 15:35 GMT+2 As Poland's "gold train" frenzy gains momentum city officials, explorers and treasure hunters turn their attention towards a 262 meter crossover railway tunnel in Unisław Silesia built in the mid 1800s. Authorities inspecting the area found an unauthorised hole punched and continue to remind those with gold rush fever that the pursuit of treasures and solving of mysteries can be dangerous and without proper authorisation, it is also illegal.

September 13, 2015 11:11 GMT+2 Military reconnaissance continues.  Polish Armed forces bring in chemical weapons personnel as a precaution.   Areas surrounding the potential train site are to be cleared of trees and shrubs.

September 11, 2015 15:00 GMT+2 Polish explorer, Mirosław Krzysztof Szpakowski and the Włodarz Depozyty III Rzeszy upload a Youtube documentary in Polish reporting on the gold train's developments.  The video has been viewed more than 31,000 times.

September 11, 2015 15:29 GMT+2 - In almost Paul Bunyon-like ever growing tall tale, Polish  TV TVN24 and Wałbrzych regional authorities hold a press conference with a third Polish explorer, Mirosław Krzysztof Szpakowski. Szpakowski believes his research shows that the Nazis built an enormous underground bunker to protect thousands of people in the area. The explorer bases his statement on research he has been gathering for decades elaborating that this research includes witness statements, old documents and an examination of the area by ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and.....dowsers.

Oh, and there might be three trains, instead of just one.

Szpakowski is the president of Poland's Riese Association. The name Riese stems from the Nazi code name for a construction project carried out using forced labourers and prisoners from concentration camps constructed between 1943 and 1945.  These underground structures and tunnels located in the Owl Mountains and Książ Castle in Lower Silesia.  Some of these tunnels have long been explored and documented, others have not as they are blocked with debris.

The Riese association's website says the association supports tourism and the protection of monuments, historical areas, building tunnels and land that form the complex Riese, in the macro-region Municipality of Nowa Ruda. Their website has been active since 2003.

September 10, 2015 19:24 GMT+2 - A image leaked to Polish newspaper Gazeta Wroclawska, which purports to be a radar image of the Nazi gold train appears to show a train with cannons. Academics also question this second image's authenticity. Curator Michal Mackiewicz of the Polish Army Museum says that he was approached by persons with this image in June 2014.  The image was apparently presented in relationship to three persons, not named, but who are not Piotr Koper and Andreas Richter. 

September 09, 2015 23:00 GMT+2 Images of the location where the Gold Train is supposed to be have been posted on Twitter by social media user @Exen.

September 09, 2015 14:25 GMT+2  - According to police in Świebodzice a 39 year old treasure hunter has died after falling several meters off the top of a listed mausoleum which houses members of the wealthy von Kramst family while looking for Nazi treasure.  His two companions have been charged with desecrating a grave.  The tomb is located approximately 5 km from the vicinity of the zone where the Nazi train is reported to be located.

September 09, 2015 13:14 GMT+2 - A World War II-era railway tunnel with a multi-level complex of underground corridors is located near the village of Walim, 19 km (12 miles) from Wałbrzych,  by the same to treasure hunters, Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper. 

Richter and Koper used a 1926 railway map, linked here, that led them to the tunnel near to the former railway station in Walim.

September 06, 2015 - Piotr Koper and Andreas Richter have been expelled from their local history society, the Lower Silesian Study Group.  The South-west Poland study group study the area’s wartime past and archaeology.  Until the expulsion Koper acted as the group’s vice president. Richter writes a blog post calling for a motion of censure against the board of the historical society.  Petre Koper, Andreas Richter’s son Christian and Paul Dill, Peter Koper’s son all withdraw from the group in solidarity.

September 05, 2015 14:59 GMT+1  Edward Zbierański grants an interview to Polish news agency TNV24.  He says that when he was 14 years old he lived and worked on a farm located just outside the railway line.  During the war he recalls his sister telling him that she had heard a German woman said that prisoner of war had pushed part or all of a train into a tunnel and were never seen again. He also said that there were rumours that the train cars where booby-trapped with toxic gas. 

September 05, 2015 - Richter and Koper give credit to retired miner Tadeusz Slowikowski, from whom they first learned of the Nazi train's possible existence. They also say the fury over their claim surrounding the trains discovery was not of their doing, rather the leaking of documents submitted to Polish authorities that found their way into the press. Both claim they have backers to fund the extraction and recovery of the train and the exploration of nearby territories while protecting the nearby environment and want to build a museum to bring tourism to the area. Richter and Koper post a statement to their website reiterating what was read over the polish news service. 

Screen grab of graphic taken with a
GPR KS-700 reportedly showing train and nearby terrain.
September 04, 2015 09:00 GMT+2 - Builder Piotr Koper from Walbrzych, Poland, and genealogist Andreas Richter from Germany, revealed their identities for the first time reading a statement on Polish news service TVP.INFO where they declared “As the finders of a second world war armoured train, we, Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper, declare that we have legally informed state authorities about the find and have precisely indicated the location in the presence of Wałbrzych authorities and the police.” 

After reading their statement, the men released an image purportedly taken with ground-penetrating radar that seemed to show the armoured Nazi train, not in a tunnel, as previously thought, but buried under ground.  The authenticity of the image is greatly debated. 

September 03, 2015, 18:26 GMT+1 - Retired miner Tadeusz Slowikowski, 84, believed to be the main living source of the nazi train legend admits to knowing the two "engineers" who have purportedly found the train but will not release their names. Mr. Slowikowsk says that the two had visited his home to review prewar German maps of the area, current photographs and a model that he built which indicates the spot where he personally believes the train disappeared.  

September 02, 2015 11:03 GMT+2 - Minister of Defence Tomasz Siemoniak says Polish military reconnaissance team will help Nazi train search near Wałbrzych.

September 01, 2015 12:00 GMT+2 Koper and Richter write their first two posts on their website page.  The first is titled "GPS Survey of Tunnel During the Second World War." Post shows a floating image supposedly taken from a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) test performed using KS ANALYSIS Ground Penetrating Radar KS700 device.  Company website for device says it is commonly used by archaeologists and metal detectors.   Second post states that it is an image of a fifty meter shaft where the Nazi train is located.

September 01, 2015 - Train fever escalates.  Treasure hunters, some equipped with metal detectors, and curious locals have swarmed into the wooded hills and Owl Mountains . Governor Tomasz Smolarz deploys police to block entry points into the woods along a four kilometer-long track of rail so that treasure seekers do not attempt to walk along the still active train tracks where they could be injured.  

August 31, 2015 - World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer calls for any Holocaust-related valuables found to be returned to their rightful owners, or their heirs. “To the extent that any items now being discovered in Poland may have been stolen from Jews before they were sent to death.....It is essential that every measure is taken to return the property to its rightful owners or to their heirs.” 

August 30, 2015 - The train is said to be located in an underground tunnel constructed by the Nazis along a 4km stretch of track on the Wroclaw-Wałbrzych line. However, its exact location is still being kept hiddenwhile being investigated through a careful operation conducted by the Army, Police and Fire Brigade.

August 28, 2015 13:50 GMT+  - Piotr Koper from Walbrzych, Poland, and genealogist Andreas Richter from Germany open their "company" website.  

August 28, 2015 15:00 GMT+2  - Deputy Culture Minister of Poland, Piotr Zuchowski says images appeared to definitively show a train equipped with gun turrets. He also states that the two treasure hunters received information about the train’s location in a deathbed confession from a man who reportedly helped hide the train some 70 years ago and wanted to pass on his knowledge before he died.  Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski warns of the danger to civilians and amateur cave spelunkers and treasure seekers of entering the disused World War II tunnels around Wałbrzych. Authorities say it will take weeks for the area to be secured and the suspected location explored.

Wałbrzych's deputy mayor, Zygmunt Nowaczyk relays that the train's is located within the his city’s administrative zone but that the location was not being disclosed. Authorities in Poland's cultural ministry continue to state that the site may pose a risk to "foragers" and urges World War II and Train buffs to stear clear of the area as they risk harming themselves.

August 24, 2015 Authorities in the southwestern district of Wałbrzych, where the 495-foot-long train is said to have been found, reportedly hold an emergency meeting and warn treasure hunters that the train is 'probably mined'.

August 21, 2015 - Artnet news speculates that if the contents of the train do prove to include Holocaust art returning the valuables to their rightful owners and heirs will likely be as contentious as the ownership debates surrounding the Cornelius Gurlitt's art hoard, or the dispute over Adele Block-Bauer's, Gustav Klimt collection. 

August 20, 2015 19:42 GMT+2 - Marika Tokarska, an official at the Wałbrzych district council says the two treasure hunters claim they have found a 490-foot (150-meter) train seventy meters below ground which they believe may contain Nazi treasure that could be worth "well over a million dollars.” The pair still won't reveal the train's location without a guarantee of a percentage of the finds. Despite warnings from academics that they may be dealing with a hoax or dangerous chemicals, fortune hunters from Europe begin flocking to Poland.  With stars in their eyes, some begin speculating if the train could contain the 8th wonder of the world, the long-lost Czarist Amber Room from the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg or if the finds might reconnect Jewish heirs with stolen art never recovered after the war. 

August 19, 2015 15:56 GMT+2 - Reuters breaks the news of the possible Nazi train claim for the first time in English. Interviewing local authorities in Poland’s southwestern district of Wałbrzych, the world learns that city officials had been contacted by a law firm representing two individuals, one Polish, and one German, who claim to have located a German train and who are also seeking 10 percent of the value of any findings.  Under current Polish law, any valuables found from that era would be state property.

August 19, 2015 09:25 GMT+2 - During an interview with Wałbrzych District Head Jacek Cichura, a public official, Polish Radio Wroclaw breaks the news to Polish listeners in its morning audience that a letter of demands has been received at the District Office in Wałbrzych on August 13th informing authorities that individuals have information on a purported armoured Nazi train still loaded with its original cargo. There is no precise indication of the location released during the broadcast.

August 12, 2015 14:01: GMT+2 - In an eery premonition, British newspaper The Daily Mail presents an article titled “Abandoned guns, forgotten munitions carts and peeling paint: Inside the eerie military shelters in Poland where children were forced to dig tunnels to help the Nazi military machine”  No mention is made of a lost Nazi Train or the frenzy that is about to erupt a few days later.

May 2015 - Unauthorised drilling and georadar testing in May leaves six large holes in the ground somewhere near Walim, a village about 12 miles west of Wałbrzych.

Image Credit Reuters -Tadeusz Slowikowski, retired miner 
Date Undetermined-  A second "Nazi Train source, Tadeusz Slowikowski, is cited as a retired miner from Wałbrzych, who said that just after the close of the Second World War a German living in the area had informed him that there was a train hidden near the 13th century Książ Castle.  He has been following up on leads regarding the mystery train's existence for half a century.

Date Undetermined - The train legend can be traced to at least two different Polish sources. The first was reported to be a deceased businessman known only as Mr. Posibirski, who said he saw a document locating the train near Piechowice, a town in Jelenia Góra County, Lower Silesian Voivodeship, located in south-western Poland, 104 km from Warsaw.

Date Undetermined - It is believed that a Nazi train, “went missing” in 1945 as the Red Army closed in during the final days of World War II. Said train was purportedly filled with a variety of contents, possibly gold bullion, originating from the Lower Silesian capital of Breslau (now Wroclaw) then eastern Germany, now Poland.

By Lynda Albertson

November 21, 2014

Editorial Essay on the Kunstmuseum Bern's Upcoming Decision on Whether to Accept the Gurlitt Collection

By Judge Arthur Tompkins

It appears that on Monday 24 November (or thereabouts) we will know whether the Kunstmuseum Bern will take on the Gurlitt collection. In an article in the New York Times on 20 November ("Nazi-Era Art Collection Appears to Find a Home" by Melissa Eddy), a number of sources are cited as expressing confidence that the Kunstmuseum will indeed accept Cornelius Gurlitt’s unexpected bequest made public at the time of his death in May this year: 
“Sources ... said it was likely that the board members [of the Kunstmuseum Bern] would gather in Switzerland on Saturday to decide on Mr Gurlitt’s gift. Stuart E. Eizenstadt ... now special adviser on Holocaust issues to Secretary of State John Kerry, said Thursday that it was his understanding that the museum would accept the offer.”
Image Credit
The magnitude of the challenges that will come with the collection should not be underestimated.  As the NYT article notes, many of the works are likely to be “badly in need of restoration”, and furthermore the resources required to, as the Kunstmuseum Bern will most likely have to do, determine the provenance of each item in the collection, will be significant.

In an open letter I sent to the Trustees of the Kunstmuseum Bern back in June published on ARCA’s Blog here where I suggested:
What should happen, and immediately after the acceptance of the inheritance, is the creation by the Kunstmuseum Bern of an independent, well-resourced international tribunal to determine the fate of each and every one of the many art works. The tribunal itself should consist of international jurists and others with a range of art-crime related skills, assisted by a staff of independent provenance researchers, cataloguers, art and general historians, claimant advocates, and dispute resolution specialists.

After identifying each art work, promulgating identifying and other characteristics widely, and proactively inviting and assisting claimant contact with the tribunal, the tribunal should resolve the fate of each art work by employing first a range of appropriate dispute resolution processes so as to reach an agreed, just and fair solution. Failing agreement, the tribunal should determine each individual case by giving due weight and recognition both to the relevant legal factors, but also and crucially to the moral aspects as well.

A transparent and just process as outlined would avoid heaping future injustice on the top of past wrongs. It would propel the Kunstmuseum Bern to the forefront of efforts to undo some of the great harms done 70 years ago, amid the chaos and confusion of war.
The NYT article quotes similar sentiments as being expressed by an attorney for Mr David Toren, an 89-year-old descendant of the Jewish industrialist David Friedmann, who has a strong claim to Max Liebermann's "Two Riders on the Beach,":
“ ... this presents a real opportunity for the museum to raise its international profile by doing the right thing with regard to the portion of the collection that was stolen by the Nazis.”
There is clearly more to come on this continuing story early next week.

Read the full New York Times article here.