Websites and Resources
Conferences and Events
Welcome to lootedart.com
This site contains two fully searchable databases.
The Information Database contains information and documentation from forty nine countries, including laws and policies, reports and publications, archival records and resources, current cases and relevant websites.
The Object Database contains details of over 25,000 objects of all kinds – paintings, drawings, antiquities, Judaica, etc – looted, missing and/or identified from over fifteen countries.
All images on the site are published under fair use conditions for the purpose of criticism and research.
The French Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA) and the German Center for Art History Paris (DFK Paris) will be awarding a one-year grant for a research project on the art market in France during the Occupation. Application deadline 5 November 2019. For full details, click here.
To read the ruling of the Cour de Cassation denying the appellants' request for the case to be referred to the French Constitutional Court, click here. The case is thatof the Pissarro painting La Cueillette des pois looted from Simon Bauer, a French collector, in 1943 and sold by Christie's New York to an American couple in 1995. The Paris Court of Appeal had previously ruled that the painting must be returned to the Bauer heirs under the terms of a 1945 law which states that title to a looted work cannot pass.
The Heidelberg University Library has digitized thousands of pages of Weltkunst, a journal of the German and international art market which is a very important source of research for art historians, collectors and market experts. Lisa Zeitz, editor-in-chief, said: "Digitisation makes it possible to search for works, collectors, auctions or museums from the Weimar Republic and the Nazi era with just a few clicks, which was previously a lengthy undertaking. Our next goal is the digitization of post-war volumes."
To access the 1927-1944 issues, click here.
The third newsletter of the Networks of European Restitution Committees includes an editorial by Fred Hammerstein, chair of the Dutch Committee, who raises the question of definitions and asks 'what is actually meant by Nazi-looted art?'. He writes: 'It is not yet clear ...in which circumstances there is a ‘forced sale’ or ‘sale under duress’. An important issue, for instance, is the extent to which the loss of possession has to have been a direct consequence of the Nazi regime. And how should one address art that was sold while someone was on the run? In addition, how should a claim be processed if evidence is no longer available? The Washington Principles say that this should be taken into account, but not how. Obviously the answers to such questions are of interest to all five committees. I hope that cooperation between the committees and the sharing of experience and ideas in the Network can make a major contribution.'
To read the newsletter, click here.
Completing the GRI's Duveen Brothers Resources, this substantial donation from the Clark Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts documents the firm's exhibitions and publications of art works and collections as well as the firm's extensive files of documentation, including collectors' files and authentications from art experts. These records cover sales between 1829 and 1965, tracking the foundational periods of American private collections and their role in the formation of American museums. This is a rich resource for scholars, especially those conducting provenance research or researching the history of collecting and taste. For full details click here.
The University of Vienna has created an online database of 1,362 exhibitions and 180,191 catalogue entries of artworks (only paintings and drawings, no sculptures, prints, etc.) from over 11,800 artists for the period 1905-1915. The exhibitions took place in 302 venues in 100 cities.
The database results from the research project “Exhibitions of Modern European Painting 1905-1915”, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and located at the Department of Art History of the University of Vienna (PI: Prof. Raphael Rosenberg). The authors hope that DoME will be a research tool for multifold purposes, such as research on lesser-known artists, on specific art works and their provenance, on the role of specific institutions and/or cities for modern art. For further details and the announcement of the opening of the database see https://arthist.net/archive/21168
To access the database, go to https://exhibitions.univie.ac.at/
On 26 June 2019 the United States Court of Appeals upheld a prior decision that New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is the rightful owner of a Pablo Picasso painting The Actor (1904–05) which Laurel Zuckerman, the heir of Paul and Alice Leffmann, alleged had been sold under duress. The Leffmann estate has now filed a petition with the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit requesting a panel rehearing and rehearing en banc before the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Ms. Zuckerman’s Petition seeks review by a three-judge panel of its decision to dismiss the estate’s case on the ground that Paul and Alice Leffmann, victims of the Holocaust, on the run from Nazi and Fascist oppression, unreasonably delayed bringing a claim to recover The Actor after World War II ended, and that the Metropolitan Museum, which received The Actor by donation in 1952, was prejudiced by the delay. Ms. Zuckerman also requests that all of the judges of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals review the decision, because it involves exceptional issues concerning federal law and U.S. foreign policy, and is in conflict with a decision of the United States Supreme Court.
On 9 July 2019, the New York Appeals Court issued its ruling in the case of Reif v Nagy, regarding a claim for title to two Schiele paintings found in the possession of London dealer Richard Nagy by the heirs of Fritz Grunbaum, an Austrian cabaret artist and art collector. The court wrote: 'We find that plaintiffs made a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law that they have superior title to two pieces of art by Egon Schiele, "Woman Hiding Her Face (1912)" and "Woman in a Black Pinafore (1911)" (collectively the Artworks), and that defendants Richard Nagy and Richard Nagy Ltd. (collectively defendants) failed to raise a triable issue of material fact'. To read the ruling in full, click here.
The Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) (Amendment) Act 2019 received Royal Assent on 4 July 2019. The Act repeals the sunset clause of the 2009 Act which gave powers to named UK national museums to return Nazi looted works of art if recommended to do so by the UK Spoliation Advisory Panel for a period of ten years. The 2019 Act thereby extends these powers indefinitely. To read the 2009 Act, click here. To read the 2019 Act, click here.
Nearly 570,000 records of artwork sales on the Austrian, German and Swiss art markets from 5,950 catalogues covering the period 1900 to 1929 have now been added to the Getty Provenance Index as part of a four-year 2013-2019 project at the Getty Research Institute in California. The original project digitised 3,200 auction catalogues from 1930-1945. Researchers of provenance and the art market now have unprecedented information on auction sales in Germany and Austria during the periods of World War I, the Weimar Republic, and the years of Nazi looting prior to and during World War II.
Through digitization and transcription, bibliographic information from more than 8,700 German sales catalogues over the entire period is now available to researchers. Over 830,000 individual auction sales records for paintings, sculptures, drawings, and miniatures have been transcribed from these catalogs, each of which is searchable in the Sales Catalogs section of the database. Each record also links to the full PDF of its corresponding catalog at the Heidelberg University Library's website.
Building on users' ability to search basic information about auction lots such as artist name, title, and seller, the database now disambiguates artist names, classifies works into broad subject categories, and provides published sale prices from primary sources such as Internationale Sammler-Zeitung, Weltkunst, and Der Kunstmarkt.
Dozens of libraries in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland were systematically searched to locate catalogs. Once found, at least one copy of each catalog published per identified sale was digitized. Optical character recognition software was then applied so that Provenance Index staff could edit, structure, and enrich the data extracted from the text, before entering it into the database.
This project is a partnership between the Getty Research Institute, the Heidelberg University Library, and the Kunstbibliothek—Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. More information about both phases of this project, Art—Auctions—Provenance: The German Art Trade as Reflected in Auction Catalogues from 1900–1929 and German Sales 1930–1945: Art Works, Art Markets, and Cultural Policy, is available on arthistoricum.net.
On 26 June the United States Court of Appeals upheld a prior decision that New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is the rightful owner of a Pablo Picasso painting The Actor (1904–05) which Laurel Zuckerman, the heir of Paul and Alice Leffmann, alleged had been sold under duress. In its decision, the court said that Zuckerman had waited too long before acting with her suit. “It is simply not plausible that the Leffmanns and their heirs would not have been able to seek replevin”—a legal term for an action involving the return of property—”of the Painting prior to 2010,” the decision reads. The court added that the HEAR Act, a commonly cited law in restitution cases allowing heirs of victims of Nazi persecution to reclaim art, did not apply because of the lapse in time.
To read the Court's ruling, click here.
The French INHA (Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art) digital library now includes over 6,000 20th century auction catalogues. French catalogues are from Drouot - 3,542, Christie, Manson and Woods - 921, Baudoin, Henri (1876-1963) - 636, Ader, Étienne (1903-1993) - 626, Sotheby's - 286, Lair-Dubreuil, Fernand (1867-1931) - 275, Dillée, Bernard - 251, Baudoin, Denis Émile Pierre - 249, Desvouges, André (1871-19??) - 249, Paulme, Marius (1863-1928) -239, Bottolier-Lasquin, Georges (18??-1932) - 228, Damidot, Paul - 198.
To access the catalogues, click here.
The lexicon, a project of the Austrian Kommission für Provenienzforschung (Commission for Provenance Research), can be found at https://www.lexikon-provenienzforschung.org/. In June 2019, 30 new articles were published on individuals and organisations including Alfred Arnstein, Josef Dettoni, Julius Freund, Ivo Hans Gayrsperg, Adolf Irtl, Richard Lányi, Fritz Novotny, Josef Siller and the Vugesta. For full details, click here.
Many of the records in the B323 Record Group (Treuhandverwaltung für Kulturgut bei der Oberfinanzdirektion München) (Trustee Administration for Cultural Property at the Regional Finance Office Munich) have now been digitised and are freely accessible.
A list of the remaining records in the B323 Record Group which will be digitised during the course of 2019 has been made available by the Bundesarchiv - see list here. Some photos have also been digitised - B 323/57-67 and B 323/311 - and are available in the Bundesarchiv picture archive here under the search term B323.
The B323 group includes files, documents and photographs that enabled the clarification of the ownership status of looted cultural property and its restitution after 1945.
For full details of the records and for information on how to access them, click here.
The newsletter of the new Network, established in October 2018, includes an article on the new French 'Mission de recherche et de restitution des biens culturels spoliés entre 1933 et 1945' which will work closely with the CIVS ((Commission pour l’indemnisation des victimes de spoliations) in the first instance to examine files on looted cultural property in French collections. Its four experts, appointed by the Prime Minister on 7 May, are Mrs Inès Rotermund-Reynard (art historian), Mr Dominique Ribeyre (auctioneer), Mrs Claire Andrieu (professor at the Institut d’études politiques in Paris) and Mr Xavier Perrot (professor at the Faculty of Law of Economic Sciences in Limoges). The structure and policy of the new French system is set out here. The newsletter also includes articles about the recent decisions of the Austrian panel re Ephrussi and Felsövanyi, of the German panel re Emden, of the Dutch Committee re Lierens and Kirstein, and of the Austrian review of one of the 266 looted artworks in Austrian custody since the 1960s which provenance research easily established had belonged to Louis Rothschild once archival material was digitised at the end of 2017. There is also a presentation by the Dutch Committee of its history, composition, tasks, powers and procedures.
To read the first newsletter, published in March 2019, click here. This includes an editorial by Michel Jeannoutot, chair of the CIVS, who writes:
What is the Network about? It is a question of creating a strong link, but one that respects the distinctiveness of each committee, whose action is carried out within a national institutional framework with its own history and specific legal rules. Based on the exchange and sharing information and know-how, our Network offers a new response to the effectiveness of provenance research and the moral requirement of “clean museums”.
In a recommendation dated 16 April 2019, the DRC recommended the restititution of two NK paintings to the heirs of Jacob Lierens, an Amsterdam businessman with a substantial art collection. The DRC found that the Lierens family suffered increasingly as a result of the anti-Jewish measures taken by the Nazi occupation from forces from March 1941. Their house and contents were seized in March 1942 and Lierens and his wife were interned in Westerbork in 1943. On their release they went into hiding. The two paintings were sold at auction in Amsterdam in October 1941.
In making their recommendation, the DRC referred to the Ekkart principle:
In the assessment of the nature of the loss of possession, significance is attributed to the Ekkart Committee’s third recommendation of 26 April 2001, which stipulates that a sale by a private Jewish individual in the Netherlands after 10 May 1940 must be considered to be involuntary, unless the facts expressly show otherwise. The Committee concludes that there are no indications of such facts. It is plausible that the sale of the paintings was connected to the measures taken by the occupying forces against Jewish members of the population and took place in order to save the couple's lives. Given these measures and the threat they represented, Lierens was not able to continue running his business and he was robbed of his income and possessions. He was consequently forced to have part of his collection converted into cash. The sale at the auction in 1941 of NK 2584 and NK 2711 by Lierens must therefore be considered as involuntary.
In assessing whether restitution should be conferred, taking into account the need to refer to the principles of 'reasonableness and fairness', the DRC wrote:
The Committee has an obligation to advise on the present restitution application on the basis of the yardsticks of reasonableness and fairness, and it must therefore take all the interests involved into account. These yardsticks also imply that very great weight is given to the way in which possession was lost and to the need to right wrongs committed during, and as a result of, the Nazi regime. The restitution application concerns two works returned to the Netherlands after the end of the Second World War that were taken into custody by the Dutch State with the express instruction to return them – if possible – to the rightful claimants or their heirs. As explained in 20, the Committee is convinced that Lierens lost possession of the paintings under duress resulting from the dire circumstances caused by the occupying forces. In the Committee's opinion, giving advice about claims to works in the NK collection on the basis of the yardsticks of reasonableness and fairness does not change the underlying principle that if, as in this case, the requirements of ownership and involuntariness are met, the recommendation has to be to restitute without further weighing up of interests.
To read the recommendation in full, click here.
A German government funded research project on international practice in the restitution of artworks stolen under the Nazi regime has been established. Led by Prof. Dr. Matthias Weller, the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach professor of civil law, art and cultural property law at the University of Bonn, it aims "to provide a comprehensive, comparative analysis of international practice in the restitution of Nazi-looted art [and] to establish a generalized set of rules on how decisions are made based on considerations of fairness and justice. Once established, these rules can be used as guidance and support for those who make decisions and recommendations on matters of restitution."
For full details and to attend the presentation of the project in Bonn on 6 September, click here.
After fully setting out the history and loss of the Pissarro painting by the Cassirer family, its acquisition by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection and the legal principles applying, US Federal Judge John Walter concluded:
"... TBC’s refusal to return the Painting to the Cassirers is inconsistent with the Washington Principles and the Terezin Declaration. However, the Court has no alternative but to apply Spanish law and cannot force the Kingdom of Spain or TBC to comply with its moral commitments. Accordingly, after considering all of the evidence and the arguments of the parties, the Court concludes that TBC is the lawful owner of the Painting and the Court must enter judgment in favor of TBC...."
To read the judgement in full, click here.
On 26 March the German Advisory Commission made a recommendation that the German federal government return two paintings by Bernardo Bellotto (Canaletto) to the heirs of Max Emden. Their recommendation has now been published in English here, as well as in German, available here. To read the press release on this issued on 23 April by Markus H. Stötzel and Mel Urbach, the lawyers for the Emden heirs, see here.
To listen to the oral argument, click here.
On 8 February 2019, the UK Parliament supported a Bill to extend indefinitely the power to return Nazi looted works of art in UK collections. MPs from across the government and opposition parties spoke in favour of the Bill, expressing their understanding of the importance of restitution and the huge meaning of the looted cultural objects to the families who owned them. To read their statements to Parliament, click here.
The Free Democratic Party (FDP) proposal states that the aim and role of the proposed foundation would be to live up to Germany's historic responsibility and tackle comprehensively the issue of Nazi-looted art in German public collections. 73 years after the end of the war there are still thousands of suspected looted works of art in German public collections and current structures are not fit for purpose. The existing German Centre for Cultural Property Losses (DZK), set up in 2015, has a conflict of interest: on the one hand its role is to advise museums and fund provenance research; on the other its role is to act as the office of the German Advisory Commission and decide on the admissibility or inadmissibility of individual claim applications. This runs contrary to the Commission's independence, which is essential in order to act as a neutral authority in disputes between public museums and private plaintiffs.
The Bundestag (Parliament) therefore calls on the Federal Government to set up a foundation under the patronage of the German President to investigate all Nazi looted art in German Federal collections and all potential disputes regarding that art. The foundation would act as the office for the German Advisory Commission whose membership would be widened and which could in future be called upon unilaterally by either party to a claim. Both parties would have access to its files. An independent research institute under the foundation's umbrella would investigate all potential cases and submit dossiers to the Commission. All research would be published and collections digitised. The Foundation would encourage all states and local authorities to digitise their collections and make their collections available for the foundation to investigate. The DZK would in the future only deal with art losses relating to the Soviet occupation of Germany, with art seized in East Germany and with art taken by Germany in the colonial period.
To read the full details of the proposal, click here.
Otto Wittmann was a key member of the Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU), aiding in its efforts to gather and analyze intelligence on and uncover art looted by Nazi Germany. The archive, held at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, documents his work across Europe in 1946—particularly in Germany, France, and Switzerland—through personal notes, meeting agendas and notes, draft analyses, and news clippings, among other ephemera. Once his work with the ALIU was completed, Wittmann joined the staff of the Toledo Museum of Art and went on to become its long-time director.
To view the finding aid, click here.
The first compilation of the artist’s complete works since Lionello Venturi's 1936 oeuvre catalogue, the online catalogue is dynamic and is updated on a regular basis so that users can be assured of the most current information about the artist. Primary source material will be added as publications increasingly come online. To view the catalogue, click here.
The Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin has digitised this important 1926 handbook of German art dealers and collectors so it is now available to all as a major resource for provenance research. To access the Handbuch, click here. Other digitised books in the ZLB digital collection include the Berliner Adreßbücher (Berlin Address Books) for 1873-1943, the two volume Jüdisches Adressbuch für Gross-Berlin 1929/30 - 1931/32, the Amtliches Fernsprechbuch für Berlin (Berlin telephone directory) for 1936, 1945-6, 1948, and 1950-1953, the two volume KC-Adressbuch (Mitgliederverzeichnis des Jüdischen K.-C. / Kartell-Convent der Verbindungen Deutscher Studenten Jüdischen Glaubens - Association of Jewish Students) for 1929 and 1937, and many other valuable resources.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Austrian Commission for Provenance Research (Kommission für Provenienzforschung) and of the Washington Principles, the Commission has published a digitised encyclopaedia of provenance research. It contains more than 200 articles and online entries with the main focus on individuals and institutions in Austria between 1930 and 1960 in the fields of museums, art and cultural policy, collecting and the art trade. The Lexicon combines interdisciplinary and cross-institutional research and will be continuously expanded. The work of the Commission over the past 20 years has led to the return of thousands of objects from Austrian federal collections and the Lexicon is intended as a way to transmit and share the knowledge obtained in the course of that work.
In December 2018 the Kunsthaus Zürich has published a complete list of its collection of approximately 4,000 paintings and sculptures with provenances, which is available here. The Kunsthaus collection is also published with images in a comprehensive catalogue. While the Museum states that 'there do not appear to be any cases of unjust enrichment at the expense of an individual seller in personal distress', most of the provenances are incomplete for the Nazi era.
Supported by a grant from the Swiss Federal Office of Culture (BAK), a current project aims to research and make public the provenance of all new acquisitions made by the Collection of Prints and Drawings from 1933 to 1950. Initial results were to be published online in autumn 2018 on the Kunsthaus website but these have not yet appeared. A Provenance Information overview in on the Kunsthaus site here.
On 17 January 2019 the European Parliament will vote on the Draft Report on cross-border restitution claims of looted works and cultural goods, published by the Committee on Legal Affairs on 5 November and which had its first reading on 20 November 2018. The Report notes that 'insufficient attention has been paid at EU level to the restitution of works of art and cultural goods looted in armed conflicts, in particular in the fields of private law, private international law and civil procedure', calls on the European Commission to address a number of central issues. These include protecting cross-border restitution claims, identifying civil law measures to help overcome the problems encountered by individuals seeking the restitution of works of art found on the art market, creating a comprehensive listing of all Jewish-owned cultural objects plundered by the Nazis and their allies, establishing appropriate limitation periods for Nazi-looted art, clarifying the notion of due diligence in relation to good faith, developing common principles for access to public and private archives, and for how ownership or title are established as well as rules on prescription and standards of proof and the concept of looting and art.
Following rejection of their claim by the Dutch Restitutions Committee in October, the Lewenstein heirs have filed suit to have the decision reviewed in court. In their press release, the heirs say that the decision 'contradicts the internationally accepted standards for restitution of Nazi looted art as laid down in the Washington Principles'. Their lawyer writes that the Committee 'based its rejection decision on a series of unproven assumptions' and refers to historian Gerard Aalders who wrote that its rules of evidence are simply too restrictive.To read the release, click here.
Alfred Hammerstein, Chair, Dutch Restitutions Committee:
The Committee follows the Washington Principles and will do that in the future. So, there is no reason to worry about that. And my third remark is that in the balance of interests, in all cases where we see a Nazi-related confiscation of art, the balance will always be in the favour of the claimant. I'd like to say that today because I heard some remarks otherwise. Thank you very much and thank you for organising this conference.
Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, Adviser to US State Dept, Negotiator of Washington Principles:
This is to my Dutch colleague. I think that your country has been a model at the outset of following the Washington Principles. Your definitions, the breadth of your research, the comprehensive nature of what you've attempted to do, the transparency of your Commission. But I have to say that the recent, and it's very recent, introduction of the ‘balance of interests’ is totally contrary to the Washington Principles. It's not sufficient to say that where there's a confiscation the balance will always be in the favour. The whole point is that 'just and fair solutions' was not intended to focus on the interest of the museum in keeping collections. It was entirely to focus on the claimants' just solutions. Now, that doesn't mean when a case is brought that the claimant will always be able to prove sufficiently that there was a compensation due or a restitution due or that it was a forced sale. That's a factual situation. But as a matter of policy, respectfully, the balance that you've tried to make of the emotional attachment of the particular claimant to the importance of the museum keeping the painting is completely contrary to our whole intention and it's out of step with the tradition that the Dutch have had in the beginning of the whole process and really up until the last year or so. It's almost unfathomable where this came from, and I would really urge you in the strongest way to try to take a look at this and go back to where you were up to this point. What occasioned this new balance is very hard to say, but it was not the way in which you proceeded and I would simply urge you to continue in the process that you had done so forcefully and been such a leader.
We certainly hear the critics and take that seriously. I don't want to discuss in this forum and on this moment of the day a singular case. So, we disagree about that and the discussion will go further, but I emphasise that we follow the Washington Principles as good as possible.
Avraham Roet, first chair of Israel's Restitution Agency:
I would like to make just one remark for Mr Hammerstein. In the year 2000 we had negotiations about the restitution in Holland, and in these negotiations that were held between the Jewish community in Israel and in Holland and the Dutch government. At this stage, there is no communication between the Dutch Jewish communities and art recovery in Holland and I would like to ask Mr Hammerstein to receive our delegation together with some people of your ministry, to receive a delegation with us and to argue about all what is going on in respect of lost art and heirless art in Holland. Thank you.
James Smalhout, claimant
Thank you. My name is James Smalhout. I am the descendant of Dutch Holocaust victims and I would like to clarify some of the points that have just been made here. There has always been a problem with restitution in the Netherlands and it stems from a misguided legal philosophy which applied a doctrine of voluntary action to property losses as though somehow Jewish persecutees had any say in the matter and there are many cases, some involving property that my family lost, that were adjudicated against us for that very reason. So, this is a longstanding problem in the Netherlands, despite many perceptions to the contrary.
To read the keynote speech given by Ambassador Ronald Lauder on Monday 26 November 2018 at the Berlin conference '20 Years of the Washington Principles: Roadmap to the Future', click here.
The Joint Declaration was signed at the Berlin Conference '20 Years of the Washington Principles' by Monika Grütters and Andreas Goergen for the German government and by Stuart Eizenstat and Thomas Yazdgerdi for the US government.
The Declaration recognises how far both countries 'still have to go to implement the Washington Conference Principles' and urges 'German museums and other collections to expedite the review of their collections' and make 'additional efforts..to locate heirs'.
The Declaration afffirms that the 1998 Washington Principles and the 2009 Terezin Declaration 'apply to public and private collections' while pointing out that 'the latter represents a particular challenge'. The signatories 'call on art auction houses and other private dealers in each of our countries to adhere to the Washington Principles' and notes that 'Germany has recently enabled private collectors to seek government assistance to check the provenance of works in their collections, provided they agree to uphold the Washington Principles'.
The Declaration sets out a new German policy regarding the referral of cases to the German Advisory (Limbach) Commission which until now has required the consent of both parties to a claim. Under the new policy, 'museums and other institutions possessing cultural property, which are supported by the Federal Government, have to consent to mediation by the Commission upon claimants' requests'.
To read the Declaration in English click here and for the German language version click here. The associated German government press release is here.
Following the September 2017 UK Spoliation Conference '70 Years and Counting: The Final Opportunity?', the recommendations that emerged from each panel and which were summarised in the final session, were compiled as an Action Plan and published on the UK Government Spoliation webpage. The governments of the UK, Austria, France, Germany and the Netherlands have agreed the Action Plan as a shared statement of intent. Last month, October 2018, representatives of the five claims panels of those countries met in London and agreed to create a permanent working group to promote closer engagement, improved information sharing and to address the recommendations in the Action Plan. Further details of the working group are to be announced .
The recommendations include establishing common definitions of loss, consistency of criteria, procedure and standards in claims handling, producing best practice guidance and providing central sources of information for claimants in each country. To see the Action Plan, click here.
South Carolina resident Bruce Berg, a grandson of the late Benjamin Katz and a great-nephew of the late Nathan Katz, brothers and partners in the Firma D. Katz partnership in the Netherlands, has filed suit in the USA to recover 143 paintings in the possession of the Dutch government or Dutch museums. The paintings were sold or traded under duress by Firma D. Katz to representatives of the Nazi regime between mid-1940 and 1942, during the occupation of the Netherlands, according to the lawsuit. They were returned by the US to Holland at the end of the war for restitution to their original owners. The Dutch government and Restitutions Committee has repeatedly refused to return them despite the undisputable historical facts of duress facing Dutch Jews during the occupation, according to the lawsuit. The Restitution Committee relied on a faulty notion that sales by Jewish art dealers “in principle constituted ordinary sales” because the art trade’s objective is to sell art, ignoring the weight of history and evidence of duress endured by the Katz brothers. After the Committee’s arbitrary denial of the heirs’ claim for restitution, Mr. Berg was left with no choice but to pursue the paintings in United States court, the lawsuit asserts.To read the lawsuit click here.
Available online until 20 November, the subject of the 45 minute German language documentary by Jan N. Lorenzen and Michael Schönherr is the auctioneer Hans Klemm of Leipzig, who bought up the property of fleeing or deported Jews between 1933-1944, documenting every item purchased and sold. His lists include beds and sheets, socks and shirts, cupboards, plates, violins, pictures and porcelain.
The eagerness of the auctioneers and the German population to buy this Jewish property and profit from the fate of the Jews is shown in striking photographs and footage of the time, giving the lie to any idea that no one knew what was happening. The profiteering is shown in the innumerable valuations and invoices listing the items bought from the Jews at minimal prices. Families who still own that Jewish property are interviewed. To watch the film,click here.
In its latest Binding Opinion issued on 1 Novbember 2018 on a claim opened in 2013, the Committee considered the case of a Kandinsky painting acquired at auction in October 1940 from the Lewenstein family by the Amsterdam City Council on behalf of the Stedelijk Museum.
While acknowledging the 1940 sale 'cannot be considered in isolation from the Nazi regime' and that it had not been established that the 'loss of possession of the work was voluntary and that the loss of possession cannot be linked to the Nazi regime', the Committee considered that the sale was also due to pre-existing financial difficulties 'well before the German invasion' [of May 1940].
The Committee wrote that at that time family members had already left Holland or knew they would be subject to persecution there. In the Committee’s view this provided 'a less powerful basis for restitution than a case in which there was theft or confiscation'.
As regards the museum's acquisition, the Committee stated that 'the mere fact that at a sale in October 1940 the City Council purchased a work that came from a Jewish owner does not mean that this transaction did not take place in good faith'.
Consequently the Committee concluded that and, as regards the outcome of the claim, 'the determining factor is therefore the weighing up of interests' . This refers to the 'balance of interests test' in which the interest of the two parties in the art work is weighed against each other. In this regard, the claimant wrote, ‘For me, as far as it matters, I think the story simply may not end with people, institutions, governments, or anyone, getting away with what they wrongfully did. This is about more than the painting itself. Returning the ownership of the painting would do justice to the memory of [the family] and to those who stand near them’.
The Committee stated that the Stedelijk museum 'has had the work in its possession since . Its contention that the work has important art historical value and is an essential link in the limited overview of Kandinsky’s work in the Museum’s collection, has a corresponding place in that collection, and is included in the permanent display has been insufficiently contested by the [claimant] and is in accordance with the Committee’s own opinion. As regards the interests of the [claimant], all that is known is that she is acting as heir [of the owner] without declaring any past emotional or other intense bond with the work.
Taking all this into account, the Committee concludes that the interest of the [claimant] in restitution does not outweigh the interest of the City Council in retaining the work.'
To read the full decision RC 3.141, click here.
The biographical details of over 400,000 people from the 1939 German Minority Census
Tracing the Past has announced the launch of their Mapping the Lives site at https://www.mappingthelives.org/. The details of the over 400,000 individuals taken from the 1939 Census have been expanded with data from the German Federal Archives and other sources and tied in to interactive maps showing where the individuals lived. The site is and English or German and an introductory video, detailed instructions and a user guide are available. Tracing the Past is a non-profit organization dedicated to researching and memorializing the persecuted in Europe 1933–1945.
The French government issued an order reorganising the administration that deals with claims on art held by museums and public institutions, with the aim of streamlining the process. Going forward, any investigations and proposals for restitution will be done by a special unit created under the authority of the Prime Minister.
The independent Centre, whose establishment was announced two years ago by the Dutch government, has now opened under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and is sited at the NIOD (Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies) in Amsterdam. See the NIOD announcement here.
The Centre combines the expertise of the Research Department of the Restitutions Committee and of the Origins Unknown Agency.
The Centre has two purposes as set out in a Decree of the Dutch Government of 20 September 2018:
One purpose is to carry out research for the Dutch Restitution Committee, set up by the government in 2001 to deal with all claims in The Netherlands.
The second and entirely new purpose is to provide an alternative route for decision-making. Rather than having to submit all claims to the Committee, claimants and institutions will now be able to request that the Centre conduct an impartial fact-finding investigation. On the basis of the independent investigation, parties may then arrive at a mutually acceptable solution. If they need additional guidanc or assistance, they may seek mediation or advice in the form they desire, including a recommendation from the Restitutions Committee.
The intention of this new purpose which gives the claimant and the current owner a more central role in the restitution procedure than they had previously, was first set out in a letter of 4 October 2016 from Mrs Bussemaker, the Minister of Culture to the House of Representatives, in which she stated:
“The applicant and the current owner will be given a more central role in the procedure for restituting art stolen by the Nazis than they had previously. They are primarily responsible for finding a mutually satisfactory solution. The parties can decide jointly to submit their case to the Restitutions Committee. However, they can also decide first to commission a factual report from the Centre of Expertise, which they can use to decide whether they can arrive at a solution that is satisfactory to both of them. The factual report gives them initial guidance for making a decision. If they cannot find a mutually satisfactory solution, they can still submit their case to the Restitutions Committee.”
For further details, click here.
The Stern Cooperation Project (SCP), a joint German, Israei and Canadian project based at Munich's Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (Central Institute for Art History), started work in July 2018. The project deals with the history of the German Jewish art dealer family of Julius, Selma, Max, Hedi and Gerda Stern, and the history of the galleries owned by the Stern family from 1913-1987: Galerie Stern (Dusseldorf), West's Galleries (London ) and Dominion Gallery (Montreal).
This field of research has been studied since 2002 by the Max Stern Art Restitution Project (MSARP) under the direction of Drs Clarence Epstein and Willi Korte. This concentrated on the identification and return of individual stolen art works. SCP is taking a broader approach and, through international and interdisciplinary cooperation, it will try to reconstruct the persecution-related migration history of both the family and their art business.
For full details, click here.
The 3-0 ruling against the claim for two Cranach paintings depicting Adam and Eve invoked the act of state doctrine, where U.S. courts typically defer to foreign governments’ sovereign actions and avoid interfering with the executive branch’s ability to conduct foreign policy. Judge Margaret McKeown said ruling for von Saher would require nullifying three “official” Dutch government actions: their 1966 sale to George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff, a onetime U.S. Navy commander and descendant of Russian aristocracy who sold the painting to the Norton Simon Museum, a 1999 decision not to restore von Saher’s rights, and a 2006 decision that her claim had been “settled.” “Without question, the Nazi plunder of artwork was a moral atrocity that compels an appropriate governmental response,” McKeown wrote. “But the record ... reveals an official conveyance from the Dutch government to Stroganoff thrice ‘settled’ by Dutch authorities. For all the reasons the doctrine exists, we decline the invitation to invalidate the official actions of the Netherlands.” To read the ruling, click here.
The 301-page searchable dossier provides the full results of provenance research into 85 paintings and 9 sculptures, the status of some of which remains questionable. Only 17 of the paintings are listed on lostart.de here and with minimal information. The dossier, published as a pdf, can be reviewed here. It contains extensive information on the provenance of and literature on each work of art.
Sourced from the archive of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM) (5,900 file cards) and the Federal Monuments Office (BDA) (5,600 file cards), the two Central Depot card indexes provide a record of objects from private art collections in Vienna confiscated from Jews after March 1938 by the Nazi regime and subsequently dispersed in museums, including the planned Führer Museum in Linz.
The Central Depot for Confiscated Collections was established in autumn 1938 on the first floor of the Neue Burg in Vienna, as a depository for objects from Viennese collections confiscated from Jews by the Nazi regime from mid-March 1938 onwards for subsequent dispersal in various museums. They included artworks belonging to the collectors Emmy Aldor, Bernhard Altmann, Alois Bauer, Leo Fürst, David Goldmann, Rudolf Gutmann, Felix Haas, Felix Kornfeld, Moritz Kuffner, Wally Kulka, Otto Pick, N. Pilzer, Valentin Viktor Rosenfeld, Alphonse Rothschild, Louis Rothschild and Alfons Thorsch, as well as objects of unknown origin.
The Central Depot was initiated by Fritz Dworschak, director of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, whose idea was to create a central collection point where the artworks, hitherto stored at different locations, could be united under one roof, his own. Together with the KHM employees Leopold Ruprecht and Karl Pollhammer, who were responsible for cataloguing the objects, and employees of other state museums (Heinrich Leporini, Ignaz Schlosser), Dworschak acted until July 1940 as manager of the depot. At his instigation, Julius Scherb and Paul Frankenstein photographed the most important confiscated objects until late summer 1939. At the start of the war, the first objects were transferred from the Central Depot, and from July 1940 it was managed by the Institute for Monument Protection, the present-day Federal Monuments Office, until the depot was gradually closed in 1941.
To access the site which is now in English and German, click here.
On 18 and 19 November 1938, 43 works from the 'O.' collection of Frankfurt am Main, designated in the auction catalogue as 'non-Aryan' or 'Nichtarischer Besitz', were sold by the Hans Lange auction house in Berlin. They included paintings by Aert van der Neer, Jacob Ruysdael, Thomas Wijck, Franz von Lenbach, Adolf Lier, Caspar Scheuren, Carl Spitzweg and Adolf von Menzel. If anyone has information on the identity of the owner of the 'O' collection, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. To see the Lange catalogue, click here.
In the International Tracing Service archive in Bad Arolsen, Germany, there are nearly 3,000 personal effects from concentration camps: pocket watches and wristwatches, engraved wedding rings, wallets, family photos, letters, everyday items such as combs and powder compacts, etc. Often they were the last remaining belongings of the victims of Nazi persecution, the last items they had with them at the time of their detention by the National Socialists. The personal effects are mainly from the concentration camps of Neuengamme and Dachau, Natzweiler and Bergen-Belsen, as well as the transit camps of Amersfoort and Compiègne. In addition there are some from prisoners of the Hamburg Gestapo.
Through an initiative of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, efforts began by the ITS in 2008 to document and return these effects, and, as a result, several hundred were returned. In 2018, the ITS started an international campaign to return the remaining personal possessions. In January and February 2018 an exhibition #StolenMemory was mounted at UNESCO in Paris showing what it means to people to have back these mementoes and showing objects whose owners the ITS has yet to find.
See the names list here
Leibl Rosenberg, in charge of the project on looted books in the City Library, has, almost single-handedly, over the last few years, identified and effected the return of hundreds of books to their former owners in eleven countries. The most recent list of former owners of looted books still in the library and which come from all over Europe has been published on the Library website and on this website as a searchable list and he writes:
'We ask you once again today to give the victims a little bit of justice after all this time. This project was, is and remains pro bono, there are no costs for the applicants. Please read our latest search list on the homepage of the City Library and make this project known to your friends and partners by publishing this link on your pages. There are still many people waiting for these fragments of memory.'
For information in German on the history of the collection, which originates in the library of Julius Streicher, and details on how to make a claim, click here. For information in English, click here
The International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-era Cultural Property, till now hosted by the US National Archives (NARA), is now hosted by the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) as part of the suite of Holocaust-related research resources available through the EHRI website.
The Portal links researchers to archival materials at 22 participating institutions, consisting of descriptions of records and, in many cases, digital images of the records that relate to cultural property that was stolen, looted, seized, forcibly sold, or otherwise lost during the Nazi era. The International Research Portal is an important resource for provenance, claims, and academic researchers to locate relevant archival materials across institutions.
The Portal was enhanced prior to the move to enable searching simultaneously across many of the resources available through the Portal that previously had to be accessed individually. This additional capability greatly improves the ability of researchers to access archival materials across multiple institutions while conducting cross-institutional research. A short article outlining the new search features can be found here. For further information about the Portal and the records available, click here.
Copies of lawsuits filed in various cases, stages and jurisdictions are provided on this site. Cases with recent filings include the claim on 3 March 2017 by the Lewenstein heirs for the Kandinsky painting owned by Munich's Bavarian Landesbank, the claim by the heirs of Alice Leffmann for the Picasso painting 'The Actor' in the Metropolitan Museum NY, the claim for the Guelph Treasure against the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Federal Republic of Germany, and the claim by the heirs of Fritz Grunbaum for a Schiele drawing owned by Richard Nagy. To view the filings, click here.
Museums are increasingly putting their collections online, most with images. The Metropolitan Museum in New York has 1.5 million objects of which 447,000 are currently online, 307,000 with images. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC which encompasses 19 museums has 154 million objects, 10 million of which are available online, 2.2 million of them with images. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has 1 million objects of which 602,000 are online, all of them with images. The UK has put online the country's 200,000 oil paintings in 3,250 public venues from museums to hospitals and even a lighthouse, all with images, some which had never been photographed before. There are also watercolours and works on paper. Among the online collections are the following:
ArtUK: 200,000 oil paintings, watercolours and works on paper, all with images https://artuk.org/
Bavarian State Paintings Collections, Munich (18 museums): 25,000 works online https://www.pinakothek.de/sammlung
Berlin State Museums (17 collections): 180,000 works online, all with images http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus
- also Ancient Bronzes in Berlin: 8,200 objects online acquired by 1945 http://ww2.smb.museum/antikebronzenberlin/index.htm
British Museum, London: 4 million works online, 1 million with one or more images https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/search.aspx
Dresden State Collections: No information about the number of works online; only published are those with 'cleared' provenances http://skd-online-collection.skd.museum/
Louvre, Paris: 30,000 objects online with images, all are works on display http://cartelen.louvre.fr/cartelen/visite?srv=crt_frm_rs&langue=en&initCritere=true
Metropolitan Museum, New York: 447,000 works online 307,000 with images http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York: 75,000 works online (of 200,000 in total in the collection), 63,000 with images https://www.moma.org/collection/
Prado Museum, Madrid: 3,500 works online with images https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-works
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam: 604,000 works online, all with images https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/search?ii=0&p=1
Smithsonian, Washington: 10 million works online, 1.6 million with images http://collections.si.edu/search/about.htm
V&A, London: 1.2 million works online, 675,000 with images https://collections.vam.ac.uk/
Country-specific information is available on this site for 48 countries, from Albania to Yugoslavia, in the Information by Country section. Details of important, non country-specific, online resources are available in the International section of the site which contains several categories of information. For example:
Restitutions and Case News: provides details of claims and cases ruled on or settled outside the courts with copies of reports and rulings. Full details of a comprehensive range of cases can be found in the News Archive, which is fully searchable by name of family, artwork, museum, city, etc.
Lawsuits: provides details of claims and cases ruled on or being settled in court with copies of court filings and judgements.
Research Resources: provides details of family records, tracing services, art historical resources, texts of post-war reports, and books and publications.
Web Resources: provides details of various online databases of looted paintings, results of provenance research in countries around the world, archival records available online and other research materials.
Seeking Owners of Identified Looted Property: provides lists of names of individuals whose looted property has been identified in institutions in Germany and whose heirs are being sought.
Other categories of information include Governmental Conferences and Hearings, Laws, Policies and Guidelines, Art Trade, and Press, Television, Radio and Film. To explore all these sections, click here.
The site is regularly updated with new resources and developments. To provide details of resources or cases to add to the site, please email email@example.com.
On 25 June CLAE published its groundbreaking original research showing that Germany returned Nazi looted artworks to the high-ranking Nazi families who stole it rather than to the families from whom this was taken, and that this remarkable scandal has been covered up by Germany for decades. At the same time, the looted families had their claims thrown out or impossible hurdles created to prevent them recovering their artworks - and this continues today. CLAE is now calling for a full accounting of these shameful transactions with the high-ranking Nazis and the way they have been hidden, as well as for three essential changes in the way Germany handles research and restitution:
1. Lists of all artworks in German collections whose provenance is unclear or problematic must be published so families have a chance of finding their missing paintings; there can be no more waiting for individual item provenance research to be done first;
2. All relevant records must be open and accessible. In particular, the records of the Bavarian Museums must be handed over to the State Archives in accordance with German law;
3. Germany must create a single, fair, transparent and accountable claims process that applies to all collections throughout Germany, at both federal and state level, so that all families can be confident their claims will be dealt with justly.
Germany already made these commitments 18 years ago at the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, but has not implemented them. CLAE says that without total transparency and accountability, the victims of the Nazi looting will continue to be denied the justice that is so long overdue.