Anger as commission for return of looted Nazi art fails

The Scotsman 27 November 2003
Allan Hall

GERMANY'S Commission for the Return of Looted Art, the body set up to return treasures plundered by the Nazis, has failed in its first test - to get a painting worth more than £350,000 returned to the heir of its owner.

The Box Tree, by the German impressionist Emil Hansen, was sold by a Jewish lawyer’s family in 1935 at a legal auction to raise money to get to safety.

The museum in the Ruhr city of Duisburg that owns the painting refuses to part with it. It was bought from the collector who acquired it in 1935.

While the museum is legally correct, the decision not to hand the artwork over to the sole surviving daughter of the lawyer is seen as morally wrong.

Christina Weiss, the German government minister for culture, and Johannes Rau, the president, had lobbied for its return to Ruth Haller, 86.

The case was the first to be handled by the commission, which was set up this year.

The result has led to it being branded a "toothless tiger" by lawyers for Mrs Haller.

But the museum said: "It was acquired legally from a Jewish family and that family also doesn’t want us to return it."
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