Showing posts with label Lynn Nicholas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lynn Nicholas. Show all posts

February 5, 2014

Monuments Men Feature Film: George Clooney's new movie involves Nazi-looted art and seeing it is strictly professional

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog

Two more days until the new George Clooney movie on the Monuments Men. There are serious preparations to be done -- re-watch "The Rape of Europa" on Netflix; finish reading Robert E. Edsel's book on The Monuments Men (available in print, on audible, and in iBooks); peruse Lynn Nicholas' book The Rape of Europa (paperback and iBooks); and then watch tonight's show featuring ARCA founder Noah Charney on National Geographic, "Hunting Hitler's Treasures Stolen Treasures: the Monuments Men".

Nicholas' The Rape of Europa provides an overall view of the Nazi efforts to dominate and claim culture for the Third Reich, including the confiscation of "degenerate art" from German museums; theft from Jewish private collections; and the attempted obliteration of Slavic and Russian culture. Robert E. Edsel co-produced the film on Nichols' book and wrote Rescuing Da Vinci, a photographic essay on the Nazis' attempt to steal Europe's art.

Here's a link to an article published in the Harvard Gazette, "A monument to saved art: Harvard-trained conservators were key players in tracking, rescuing priceless works in World War II (written by Edward Mason, Harvard Correspondent)". The article, which covers a panel with Edsel and a Skype call from actor Matt Damon, points out that Clooney plays a fictional character.
The “Monuments Men” belonged to the U.S. Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section. Their ranks included Lincoln Kirstein ’30, the founder of the New York City Ballet; Paul Sachs, Class of 1900, a member of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, which recruited many of the team’s members; and Stout. Born in 1897, Stout was a tall, dashing man with a pencil-thin mustache ­— not unlike actor George Clooney, who in the film plays the Stout-like team leader, Frank Stokes. Clooney also produced and directed the movie and co-wrote the screenplay. Stout helped pioneer the field of art conservation while a graduate assistant at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum. Long before World War II, he had the vision to see the risk aerial bombing and firebombing posed to art, Edsel said. Stout had spent the early ’40s pushing for a national art conservation plan. The Allies and Stout knew that bombs were hardly the only danger to art. The Nazis engaged in “premeditated, organized looting never before seen in war,” Edsel said. The hunger their leaders displayed for European art put Western treasures at risk.
Other articles to read while you wait for the George Clooney movie on Nazi-looted art and the team of middle-aged art professionals who tried to save Europe's culture:

Anna Goldenberg interviews MM's Harry Ettlinger in The Jewish Daily Forward.

"Monuments Men" is a popular phrase for the MFAA section, the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives, which did include women as this article by Tom Mashberg points out here in The New York Times.

October 29, 2013

Tonality and the Delay of George Clooney's film on The Monuments Men

by Fern Smiley, Art Researcher and Consultant on Holocaust Era Cultural Property

George Clooney recently announced that that release of his film, The Monuments Men, will be delayed until 2014. Sharon Waxman, editor of The Wrap and author of LOOT: The Battle Over The Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World (Henry Holt & Company, 2008), ascertains that the cause of the delay is because George Clooney is struggling with the tone of ‘Monuments Men’: “He’d been grappling with balancing the movie’s comic elements with the serious subject matter of World War II and the Nazis’ theft of Europe’s most valuable art.”

Except Clooney has since denied that the delay had anything to do with tonality, insisting that it's all about timing, mostly getting the visual effects right. Even so, Waxman had published on October 23 that a person close to the film claimed, “The hard-to-nail tone was more the issue than the visual effects”.

Context is everything except in Hollywood

The 1964 thriller, The Train starring Burt Lancaster, was inspired by the true story of train No. 40,044 “liberated” outside Paris in 1944 by members of the French Resistance who prevented the train from crossing the border into Germany at the war’s end. In 1964, the year that John Frankenheimer released the film, Hollywood did not acknowledge that the content of the train, priceless artwork, was, in reality, confiscated from Jewish dealers and collectors throughout France and Belgium, but the “Monuments Men” knew.

Lynn Nicolas’ Rape of Europa, the 1995 book which became the benchmark for the subject of Nazi art looting and restitution, reveals the ironic fact that the Jewish American soldier who commandeered the actual train was the son of Paul Rosenberg, the venerated Parisian art dealer. Lt. Alexandre Rosenberg liberated hundreds of French impressionists pictures (many which he recognized that had hung in his parents’ home). Before fleeing France, Paul Rosenberg had tried to safeguard his possessions in a bank in Libourne and a rented chateau in Floirac but both were purloined by Nazi agents.

Robert Edsel’s book of the same name and upon which George Clooney based his film details the recovery starting in 1944 of an astonishing number of works of art stored in salt mines and repositories throughout Europe. For six more years the Monuments Men uncovered deposits; protected, documented, and eventually returned what could be traced to the country of origin to be restituted to the rightful owners.

The meticulously detailed German records of confiscation of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) aided the officers in the recovery. Nancy Yeide, curator of the National Gallery of Art, once commented on the system of ERR plunder: "The very people they were eradicating, they were taking their art and keeping track of whom they take the art from”… except in the case of the M-Aktion, of course, where owners were unidentifiable, since the art and furnishings seized were from abandoned Jewish lodgings, constituting a rich haul of significant and not-so-significant works and objects.

Despite the remarkable recovery work of the "Monuments Men", the whereabouts of tens of thousands of works remained unknown. Meanwhile, according to Marc Masurovsky, founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, the art trade suddenly flourished, and an unprecedented boom in sales occurred throughout a newly infused international art market, ready to embrace stolen property.

Especially in North America

Collections assembled and museums opened during and after the WWII era are still coming to grips with the identification of ‘Holocaust Looted Art’. “The Monuments Men” returned to the US and Canada and Britain after WWII. Some found senior positions in the countries’ museums. Others were academics in the nations’ colleges and universities However, in at least one uncomfortable case, the estate of an ex-Monuments officer contained many seventeen and eighteenth century European works which, because of their unknown provenance, made their ultimate disposition difficult.

American museums have identified 16,000 objects in their possession that may have been seized by the Nazis. Chapter 6 of the 1972 catalogue of The National Gallery of Canada 1938-1955: “Great Years of Collecting” raises eyebrows. This April, Canada’s federal government announced the funding of $200,000 to support the research efforts in six Canadian museums to help establish the provenance of works of art. “It is an important initiative for researchers and heirs around the world who are trying to identify and locate artworks and other cultural artifacts displaced during the Holocaust” said Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, at the Ottawa’s Carleton University conference examining “If not now, when? Responsibility and Memory after the Holocaust.”

It is 2013. George Clooney has a challenge. Waiting a bit longer for a movie, which “means something” according to him, will necessitate a considered approach to the topic. (In the meantime, one could do well by reading the non-fiction book, the above mentioned, Rape of Europa.)

One simply cannot speak about Nazi art looting without referencing the Holocaust. There is international cooperation, legal papers, institutes and conferences examining Nazi art looting and restitution as a component of the Holocaust. News stories run weekly describing successes and failures of claimants, a popularized one, being Elizabeth Taylor’s 2007 pre-emptive lawsuit to keep her Van Gogh from the heirs of Mrs. Margaret Mauthner.

Even in Italy, even by Italians

In Italy, after the first Fascist Racial Laws took hold in the fall of 1938, seizure of works of art from Jews began even without any Nazi presence. Circular n. 43, issued by the Ministry of Education on 4th of March 1939, called upon Royal Customs Offices, responsible for granting export licenses for art and antiquities, to create difficulties and discourage exports of all Jewish emigrants. This was in response to an earlier measure, of the 7th of December 1938, ordering the actual expulsion of all foreign born Jews living on Italian soil, giving them six months to leave the country. According to the Italian scholar Dr. Ilaria Pavan, many of their possessions languished in crates at ports like Genoa. In 1947, the owner of such a crate, containing 558 works of art applied for removal of her property, according to archival material in the Superintendency in Liguria, but then returned them in 1948, their poor condition being in direct relation to the unsuitability of the storage space in which they had been held.

“Sequestrations” in Italian towns and cities took place in earnest, facilitated by the arrest and deportation of its Jewish citizens in 1943/44. A report dated 7 July 1944 from the Superintendency of Florence, Pistoia and Prato concerning removal of all property owned by Jews noted that “lesser objects be sold at Materazzi’s” with added commentary that translates, “it is better to leave as few traces as possible, either of receipts or of the stuff taken from Jews”. In this case sequestration of art was actually undertaken by the Italian local Fascist authorities, not the Nazis.

In the northeast where the German occupying forces carried out confiscations and deportations, records of the Pollitzer, Luzzato, Jesurum, Lescovitch and Morpurgo families, had their art given to local museums that is, after the Nazis skimmed off the best. Musei Civico Trieste and Udine were enriched according to OMGUS post-war documents of Preparations and Restitution Branch, Office of the Military Government (US).

Set in Italy, during this moment of genocide, “Monuments Men, the movie”, cannot sidestep the full historical record. George Clooney, thankfully, is exquisitely placed to increase understanding of Nazi art looting. As lives were threatened or lost by deportation to death camps, stolen private and communal Jewish cultural property shifted from one place to another. At the Italians’ pleading, shipments from museum deposits at risk from bombing were transported by the Germans to the Vatican for safety. Perhaps even the Vatican may have safeguarded objects of Jewish origin, which it still possesses. With the new Pope promising transparency and access to archives, that question may just get answered.

Now that would be a movie.

Ms. Smiley, a former arts volunteer and weblog editor, has advised the Canadian Jewish Congress on their file for Holocaust era art restitution and attended ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in 2011. 


Interministerial Commission for Works of Art
In October 1995, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities established this commission to research missing artwork plundered by the Nazis during World War II

The Commissione Anselmi did not carry out a detailed research in state and private museum in order to verify the presence of works of art taken from Jews. The  Interministerial Commission for the recovery of art works assured that no such instance is documented in its records.

Research carried out by the Historical Archive of the Fondazione Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea. Examples of Material Losses suffered by the Jews in the period 1938-1945.

Series: Records Relating to Monuments. Museums, Libraries, Archives and Fine Arts of the Cultural Affairs Branch, OMGUS, 1946-49 and FA. NARA, RG 260.
Category: JI Allied Commission- Italy. 65 pp, 

Doctor Ilaria Pavan, Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa)
The Italian Experience. Paper delivered at Christie’s and International Union of Lawyers  “Holocaust Art Looting & Restitution Symposium”.
Milan, Italy. Thursday, June 23, 2011

L’Opera di Ritrovare. Sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry for the Cultural and Environmental Heritage. Italian State Publishing House, 1995.

October 11, 2013

The Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation Presents The Monuments Men, Social Media, the Law and Cultural Heritage

The Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation Presents "The Monuments Men, Social Media, the Law and Cultural Heritage" on Friday, November 1, 2013 at Fordham Law School in New York City. Map and directions:

The program will begin with Diane Penneys Edelman, Villanova University School of Law; President, Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation; Leila Amineddoleh, Adjunct Professor of Law, Fordham Law School; Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation; and Irina Tarsis, Chair, American Society of International Law Cultural Heritage & the Arts Interest Group.

The first panel, Monuments Officers, the Roberts Commission, Rose Valland, Ardelia Hall, the protection of monuments in Europe and Asia during WWII, law governing the “Spoils of War Doctrine,” legacy issues for museums and the art market, will be chaired by Thomas R. Kline, Of Counsel, Andrews Kurth, LLP; Assistant Professorial Lecturer, George Washington University, Museum Studies. Speakers: Elizabeth Hudson, Chief Researcher, Monuments Men Foundation; Marc Masurovsky, Independent Historian and Author and formerly with U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; Anne Rothfeld, Independent Historian, Ph.D. Candidate, American University; and Victoria Reed, Curator for Provenance, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The second panel, Prevention efforts in problem areas since WWII: Evolution of U.S. law, policy and practice concerning looting prevention and restitution efforts in post-WWII conflicts, will be chaired by Lucille Roussin, Founder and Director, Holocaust Restitution and Claims Practicum, and Adjunct Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Speakers: Richard B. Jackson, Special Assistant to the Army Judge Advocate General for Law of War Matters; Salam al-Kuntar, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania Department of Anthropology; James McAndrew, Forensic Specialist, Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz, Silverman & Klestadt.

Lunchtime Conversation with Lynn H. Nicholas, Independent Researcher and Author, The Rape of Europa: 12:15-1:30p.m. Interview by Thomas Kline.

The third panel, Present-day initiatives taken by the US armed forces, law enforcement, the art market and others to prevent and remedy looting and the trade of works looted during times of conflict, as well as law governing trade in looted objects, will be chaired by Chair: Elizabeth Varner, Executive Director, National Art Museum of Sport. Speakers: Corine Wegener, Preservation Specialist for Cultural Heritage, Smithsonian Institution; Laurie W. Rush, Anthropologist and Cultural Resources Manager, United States Army; Thomas Mulhall, Supervisory Special Agent, Department of Homeland Security (ICE); Monica Dugot, Senior Vice President, International Director of Restitution, Christie’s.

The fourth panel, The use of the Internet, social media, television, news industry and film to raise awareness of looting, theft, and cultural heritage issues. A discussion about alternative channels used to reduce cultural heritage loss and increase restitution, will be chaired by Ms. Amineddoleh. Speakers: Darius Arya, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, American Institute for Culture; Jason Felch, Reporter, Los Angeles Times; Co-Author, Chasing Aphrodite; David D’Arcy, Correspondent, The Art Newspaper; Screenwriter/Producer, Portrait of Wally.

Afterword by Robert Edsel, Author and President, Monuments Men Foundation, WWII Monuments Men to the Present: What have we learned? What do we need to relearn? Introduction by Thomas R. Kline.

November 7, 2012

Lynn Nicholas spoke as keynote speaker at DePaul's conference "Restitution and Repatriation: The Return of Cultural Objects"

Image of Nefertiti
by Sarah Wilson, Second Year Law Student at DePaul University

Lynn Nicholas, the noted author of The Rape of Europa, presented a captivating and thoughtful keynote lecture at the “Restitution and Repatriation: The Return of Cultural Objects” conference held at the DePaul University College of Law. Hurricane Sandy may have hindered the quantity of speakers that attended the event, but the super-storm could not hinder the quality of Nicholas’ lecture. She addressed several issues surrounding restitution, many of which were raised in the acclaimed film about the dreadful lootings that occurred during World War II.

Nicholas examined Holocaust-era pillaging from a various perspectives, providing the audience with a broad roadmap of the different ideologies surrounding stolen objects. Of particular interest was the work of the Monuments Men (and Women) who dedicated their efforts to protecting the cultural identities of war-ravished countries. This group of American servicemen saved many of Europe’s artistic treasures and preserved much of the continental cultural heritage that came under threat of destruction during the war. Nicholas commented on the dichotomy of stolen objects: on one hand these objects are considered prizes of war, but on the other there is an essential consideration for common justice and decency that desires the return of such objects.

Nicholas raised an interesting point in the stance that Russia takes regarding looted Holocaust art. Russia—following the “prize of war” outlook—approaches restitution with an unwavering determination to maintain possession. This position is echoed in the final scenes of The Rape of Europa movie, and displays the reasons why these issues are not soon to be resolved. The government of the former Soviet Union nationalized all of the WWII works in its control at the close of the war. The country refused then—and still refuses now—to restitute the works to the pre-war owners. Whether this is viewed as the collateral damage to be suffered by other countries as the cost of doing war, or whether Russia simply feels entitled to the works that ended up within its borders, the debate continues: who are the proper owners of looted works?

The Hermitage Museum admittedly houses numerous items of suspicious origin, both on its gallery walls and hidden in the labyrinth of passageways beneath the building. Russian museums have even gone so far as to publish books about the Holocaust-era objects in their collections, an obvious display of their apathy for persons pillaged during the war. The country’s refusal to participate in restitution efforts displays a further problem: will these looted works ever be returned to the proper owners without a significant effort to harmonize international laws? In Nicholas’ opinion, the answer is no. Restitution may be morally admirable, but it appears that morals are often secondary to possession. Until the affected countries can develop mutually-beneficial methods for dealing with the problem, a solution remains elusive. As the search continues for a global resolution, the focus should remain on providing fair outcomes for all parties. Ex post facto looting from good faith purchasers of stolen objects is not the objective that Nicholas advocates.

Thousands of objects stolen during the war are still unclaimed and unrestituted. Increased litigation in the coming years appears inevitable. This is also due to the passing of the WWII generation, many of whom bequeathed stolen art to their unknowing heirs. Issues of ownership and proper title become increasingly relevant as these works find their way to the marketplace. While lawyers may aim to facilitate the harm suffered by wronged parties, their work may actually exacerbate the injury. Legal professionals often lack a proper understanding of provenance and the importance that it has on restitution attempts, and Nicholas stressed the imperative need of educating lawyers working in this field. Restituting objects becomes increasingly complicated if the ownership line is not given adequate weight. The issue is compounded by the fact that claims for looted works are frequently exaggerated, not only by lawyers, but also by media publicity. Numerous cases that result in amicable settlements regularly go unacknowledged. Nicholas also voiced her apprehension against litigation, claiming that efforts to enact restitution laws may be too political to be effective.

Nicholas served the audience well by using her all-encompassing expertise to educate the listeners about the importance of restitution. Nicholas refrained from giving a rosy-colored outlook of the future of looted objects. However, her candor leads one to believe that the path to global restitution is possible, albeit with several obstructions to overcome first.

Ms. Wilson is President of the Art and Cultural Heritage Law Society at DePaul.