Showing posts with label WWII. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WWII. Show all posts

July 26, 2011

South African Lawyer Specializing in art law, shares his experiences with conferences in Milan and Amelia

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

The ARCA blog has been running a series of posts about the speakers who presented at ARCA's third annual Art Crime Conference on July 9th and 10th. Toby Orford, a lawyer specializing in art law in South Africa, attended ARCA's conference in Amelia this year. He also attended a conference in Milan. We decided to share his experiences with readers of our blog. During the conference, Mr. Orford stayed at Palazzo Farrattini, a Renaissance building within the walls of this medieval town.

ARCA Blog: Toby, what conference did you attend in Milan and what was your perception?
Toby: Speakers at Christie's Holocaust Art Looting and Restitution Symposium included eminent international lawyers, academics and activists. The choice of Milan was deliberate. Italy's inconsistent track record of restitution "requires a more extensive explanation" and some of the speakers - notably Charles Goldstein from the Commission for Art Recovery - pointed out inter alia that missing art works taken from Italian Jews is probably still in Italian museums, institutions and private collections. The lack of serious research or restitution in Italy (and indeed instances where restitution has been revoked and export licenses blocked) is in contrast to Italy's recent campaigns for the recovery of its own cultural property. Other countries have made greater efforts. Norman Palmer spoke about the work of the UK's restitution commission - the Spoliation Advisory Panel. He and the other experts highlighted the on-going and unresolved moral and legal aspects of restitution - as well as changes in government policy and (post the Washington Conference) the development of changing legal principles and claims procedures. All in all the Milan conference was a thought-provoking precursor to ARCA's Amelia conference.
ARCA Blog: This is the first time you attended the ARCA art crime conference. What had you expected and did the conference meet your expectations?
Toby: The focus of ARCA goes beyond World War II restitution. The conference dealt with all kinds of present-day threats to cultural property, including looting, theft, fraud and destruction. Not surprisingly, as a lawyer I appreciated the legal discussions. I think that there is scope for some more "law" next time - with reference to the achievements noted during the Milan conference. But the other disciplines created new insights into the practical and theoretical aspects of heritage protection. The more academic topics were usefully balanced at the end of the proceedings by Chris Maranello's matter-of-fact talk on the day to day work of the Art Loss Register. He reminded us that it is vital to translate words into action. So, yes, the conference met all of my expectations and expanded my understanding considerably. I am also finding the ARCA blog's talk summaries very useful.
ARCA Blog: What do you think will most be carried back with you to South Africa as far as knowledge and experience?
Toby: Restitution is much talked about in Africa but in a confused and undisciplined way. This is mostly due to misunderstanding and misinformation. And, thanks to colonial complications, frustration. The hard won and piecemeal progress, and the on-going challenges in other parts of the world, explain the nature and scope of the problem - and identify some of the solutions. And so both of these disciplined and focused conferences - in their different ways - helped me to understand what has happened, and what still must happen. Others should benefit too and, for example, I am recommending the work of ARCA to the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). Perhaps ARCA will benefit from closer ties with similar agencies in other countries?

October 20, 2010

The Norton Simon Museum’s Adam and Eve Part II

The following is part two of an examination of the Norton Simon Museum's Adam and Eve by Catherine Sezgin. The first installment can be found here.

Goudstikker Collection sold to Nazis in 1940
When war broke out in the Netherlands on May 14, 1940, Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker fled his home and was forced to leave behind his gallery and a trading stock of 1,113 inventoried works of art. During the war, the Nazis occupied the Netherlands for five years and sent more than 100,000 Dutch Jews to concentration camps. Only 5,000 Dutch Jews survived. More than 45,000 Dutch citizens were charged with collaborating with the Nazis. Goudstikker’s art gallery, his artworks, and his real estate were all sold without either his or his family’s permission.

The Goudstikker trio escaped on the SS Bodegraven, a ship traveling to South America, when on May 16th Jacques, seeking some fresh air from the hull, went up to the deck of the ship and died when he fell through an uncovered hatch. He was carrying a black notebook, which his wife Désirée recovered, that detailed and numbered his artworks. The Goudstikker “Blackbook” described works by Rembrandt, Steen, Ruisdael, Van Gogh, and listed Cranach’s Adam and Eve as Numbers 2721 and 2722 with a note that they were purchased at the Lepke Auction House and were from the Church of Holy Trinity in Kiev. 

Not long after Goudstikker’s fatal accident, the person he left in charge of his business also died. Two employees, friendly to the Nazis, assumed control of the business and then sold all of Goudstikker’s assets to a German banker, Alois Miedl, who lived in the Netherlands. Within two weeks, two more purchase agreements were executed – one that gave the gallery and real estate to Miedl and another that gave a majority of the artworks to General Field Marshall Hermann Göring, the second-in-command for the Third Reich. During the war, Göring looted paintings, drawings, antiquities, and sculptures for his private estate. Both Goudstikker’s widow and his mother, the other shareholder, objected to these transactions. In addition to payment of more than 2.5 million Dutch guilders – a gross amount not the net proceeds set aside for the Goudstikker heirs -- the involuntary sale promised personal protection to Goudstikker’s mother who had chose to remain in Amsterdam. The gallery employees who arranged the sale also received proceeds from the illegal transaction for their cooperation.

Göring sent Cranach’s Adam and Eve to Carinhall, his country estate near Berlin, where they remained until the Allied Forces’ invasion of Germany.

Goudstikker’s widow recovers only some assets after World War II
In 1943, the United Nations declared that looted property recovered after the war was to be restored to its nation of origin for return to its original owner. In May 1945, Allied Forces discovered Göring’s collection of artworks, including Cranach’s “Adam” and “Eve”, and sent them to the Munich Central Collecting Point. In 1946, Allied Forces returned the artworks from the Goudstikker Collection to the government of the Netherlands so that they could be restituted to their owners.

In 1946, Jacques Goudstikker’s widow, Désirée, returned to Amsterdam to retrieve her property. For five years she negotiated with the Dutch government and in an agreement in 1952, Goudstikker settled with the Dutch state to “(re-)purchase” more than 300 art objects in exchange for waiving any ownership rights to any other art objects delivered to Miedl during the war. However, the agreement did not address the almost 800 artworks that were delivered to Göring in Germany.

From Scherbatoff to Simon
In 1961, a Russian American Naval Officer, George Stroganoff Scherbatoff, found “Adam” and “Eve” in the national collection in The Netherlands and claimed that his ancestor Stroganoff had owned the painting. In 1966, Scherbatoff made a payment to the Dutch Government and received possession of the diptych. Norton Simon purchased the paintings in 1971 for $800,000 from Scherbatoff through a dealer in New York. Simon displayed the paintings at the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 1971 and the Princeton University Art Museum in 1972. “Adam” and “Eve” have been on display in Simon’s Pasadena museum since 1979.

Reclaiming the Goudstikker Collection
Through the help of a Dutch journalist who wrote a book about the Goudstikker Collection, Marei von Saher, received new information about her father-in-law’s gallery inventory and made a claim for the paintings in 1998 that the Dutch government declined. That same year, 44 governments participated in the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets to acknowledge that many Nazi looted art objects had not been reunited with their wartime owners and encouraged countries to create databases and processes to return un-restituted art. In 2004, she applied for recovery to the Restitutions Committee to investigate wartime claims, and two years later, the Committee affirmed that the sale of the Goudstikker Gallery had been illegal, regardless of the amount paid, as it occurred under Nazi occupation. However, the Dutch Resolutions Committee wrote that the 1952 agreement that addressed the artworks held by Miedl would remain in force but that it did not preclude the Goudstikker heir from claiming 202 art objects in the Dutch national collection that had been sold and delivered to Göring from the Goudstikker Gallery.

The Resolutions Committee wrote in its recommendation in 2005 that the sale was “involuntary” because Goudstikker’s widow and his mother had refused permission for the transaction and that it had been done by employees sympathetic toward “German buyers.” Since the sale had occurred “immediately after the capitulation of the Netherlands, a situation in which Göring could – and ultimately did – use the influence of his high rank in the Nazi hierarchy,” according to the recommendation.

When Göring transported about 800 paintings from the Goudstikker Collection to Germany, he kept about 300 for his personal collection and sold the others to political cronies or wealthy German industrialists. Many of these works remain lost, according to the Goudstikker Provenance Project that provides the family of Jacques Goudstikker with information to regain possession of their lost artworks. The Project uses many sources to identify the collection. Jacques Goudstikker’s small black leather binder, which he recorded in anticipation of the German invasion, identified his current stock in alphabetical order by artists’ name. In addition, information is also obtained from an inventory register of the stock held in the gallery in May 1940 and the Goudstikker gallery’s photographic archive. A visual record of the collection is also extracted from examining six million photographs of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie. Through this method, the Goudstikker Collection has reclaimed more than 30 additional paintings from private collections and museums.

Cranach’s “Adam” and “Eve” at the Norton Simon Museum have traveled from the Ukraine to California and survived both the Soviet Union and the Third Reich in the 20th century and they will survive the current controversy.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Books:
Sutton, Peter C. Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2008.


Primary sources:
Schmidt, James. “The Stroganoff Collection in Leningrad [now St. Petersburg].” Translated by Hess Translations, Inc. from German into English, August 11, 2007. Schmidt’s article accompanied the catalogue for the 1931 “Stroganoff” auction in May 1931 in Berlin.


Complaint filed May 1, 2007 in the US District Court for the Central District of California, Plaintiff Marei Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena, Norton Simon Art Foundation, and the Norton Simon Foundation, defendants.
Case No. DV 07-02866


Getty Provenance Research Database. Record 27653 “Adam” and Record 27343 “Eve”.


Websites:
http://www.thejewishmuseum.org/GoudstikkerRelease
http://www.rapeofeuropa.com/stolenRestitutions.asp#saher
http://www.goudstikkerblackbook.info/
www.nortonsimon.org
www.getty.edu

October 18, 2010

Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume

By Catherine Sezgin

During World War II in Nazi-occupied Paris, more than 20,000 art objects were systematically looted from over 200 Jewish families, and either sold or transported to Germany. Seventy years later, at least half of the objects have not yet been restituted to the owners, or their heirs, in accordance with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The Claims Conference and the United State Holocaust Museum have just released an online database of art objects that were processed from 1940 to 1944 in the center of Paris at the Jeu de Paume on the Place de la Concorde.

As the Nazis’s special task force the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) confiscated paintings, sculptures, objets d’art, and antiquities from private collections. More than sixty people at the Jeu de Paume inventoried, photographed, and arranged for the transportation of the artworks on 120 railways coaches from France to Germany. Every looted painting was registered and stamped by the Nazis. The French national, Rose Volland, a volunteer at the museum before the war who observed the operation, kept a secret account of everything the Nazis stole and where they planned to deliver the art. Using secret couriers during the war, she notified the Allied Forces of the Nazis’s activities. After the defeat of the Third Reich, much of the stolen art was found and returned to their countries of origin to be reunited with their owners. However, many families, who were devastated by the Holocaust, did not have the records to identify or claim artworks.

Now the Claims Conference, working with the technical support of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, has transferred the information from the index cards, or inventory lists, to a database “Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume.”

“Decades after the greatest mass theft in history, families robbed of their prize artworks can now search this list to help them locate long-lost treasures,” said Julius Berman, Claims Conference Chairman [in a press release]. “It is now the responsibility of museums, art dealers, and auction houses to check their holdings against these records to determine whether they might be in possession of art stolen from Holocaust victims. Organizing Nazi art-looting records is an important step in righting a historical wrong. It is not too late to restore art that should have been passed down within Jewish families instead of decorating Nazi homes or stored at Nazi sites.”

The public can access the newly released online database on Nazi looted art from Paris through the URL: www.errproject.org/jeudepaume. Users can search by collection, owner, artist, and type of art object (paintings, works on paper, sculpture, decorative arts or antiquities). Information in the database will be regularly updated, according to Project Director Marc Masurovsky, a consultant to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Masurovsky used some ARCA graduates to assist in the inputting of the datasets.

Masurovsky, the co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), which began in 1997, spoke about documenting and recovering Nazi looted art last March at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment for ARCA’s exhibit “The Dark Arts: Thieves, Forgers and Tomb Raiders” in Washington, DC this past February. He also spoke about “Nazi Plunder of Looted Cultural Property and Its Impact on Today’s Art Market” at ARCA’s International Art Crime Conference in July in Amelia, Italy.

In the future, users will be able to find individual datasets through Google by typing specific artists’ names in the search box, Masurovsky wrote in an email. Each object in the database is described based on the information from the card that the Nazis filled out and includes any images that may have been taken. The database also provides information about whether or not the artwork was returned to France and if it was restituted to its owner. For example, Arthur Levy’s collection of 125 artworks has not been returned to the family. Database users can even search by Artist. For example, a landscape by Vincent van Gogh from the collection of Alfred Weinberger in Paris was photographed and measured (60 x 100 cm) when it was brought to the Jeu de Paume in 1941 on December 4.

The Jeu de Paume as a looted art center was of particular interest to the German army’s second-in-command, Hermann Göring who spent two days there during the war looking at the art. He then asked that photographs of the art be sent to Hitler for him to make selections from the spoils of war. Unfortunately, in July 1942, the Jeu de Paume collection center was overburdened. Paintings declared unfit for German collections and too degenerate to be sold on the art market were burned in the garden. Rose Volland was said to have cried at the destruction of works by Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Jean Míro and Salvador Dali.