Glaser Heirs Reject British Art Panel Recommendation

MMD Newswire 9 July 2009

New York, New York -- The heirs of Professor Curt Glaser, a noted art historian and Nazi victim, have rejected the recommendation of the British Spoliation Advisory Panel (SAP) not to return eight drawings held by the Courtauld Institute in London and sold by Glaser in Berlin in May, 1933, as he hastily left Germany after losing his position as Director of the Berlin State Art Library and losing his state owned apartment due to Nazi persecution.

Although the SAP report found that Glaser was a Nazi victim and that Nazi persecution caused the sale of his artworks at two May 1933 auctions in Berlin, the SAP concluded that Glaser's claims to the artworks were "morally insufficient" to warrant their return. The SAP also concluded that Glaser had "mixed motives" for leaving Germany since he wrote to his good friend Edvard Munch that he was happy to unburden himself from his possessions and leave Germany with his new wife Maria Milch.

In a July 8, 2009 letter to the SAP the Glaser heirs criticized the decision and asked the SAP to reconsider it. They pointed out that the SAP had given too much weight to the Glaser letter to Munch and did not review the letter in its proper context. They point out that Glaser would not have to "unburden himself" of his belongings and leave Germany if he had not been a persecuted Jew and could have begun a new life in Germany with his new wife Maria (who was also from Berlin), if Germany had been a free country as opposed to a totalitarian country which persecuted its Jewish population.

The Glaser heirs also criticized the SAP report for not recommending the return of the artworks after the SAP reached the conclusion that the sale of the drawings was caused due to Nazi persecution. In their letter to the SAP requesting that it reconsider its decision they state "...having reached the factual determination that the loss of Glaser's substantial art collection was ‘caused' by Nazi persecution, the SAP does a sudden and inexplicable about-face and finds that Glaser has an ‘insufficient moral claim' to entitle his heirs to the return of his property. This conclusion flies in the face of the determination that Glaser was a Nazi victim and lost his collection due to Nazi persecution."

The Glaser heirs also found that the SAP did not give enough weight to prior German restitution decisions which found that Glaser was a Nazi Victim and was entitled to damages for the loss of his art collection. The German restitution decisions were made in the late 1950's and awarded a small compensation of 7,100 German Marks for the loss of Glaser's art collection, library and household items consisting of approximately 1,500 objects. The German 1950s compensation award amounted to just pennies on the dollar and is to be proportionally repaid when artworks are recovered, so that double compensation is avoided.

The SAP decision also failed to take the buyer, Count Antoine Seilern, to task for buying artworks from a persecuted Jew who had to flee Germany. Instead the SAP assessed no blame on either Count Seilern or the Courtauld Institute, even though Count Seilern was advised on the sale by a former colleague of Glaser who knew he was persecuted by the Nazis.

Commenting on the decision at the recent Prague Conference on Holocaust Looted Art, Olaf S. Ossman, an attorney and speaker at the conference called the SAP decision "tragic". The SAP decision also flies in the face of statements made by Dr. Michael Eissenhauer, President of the German Federation of Museums, at the Berlin Conference "Taking Responsibility" that the Glaser case was "...unequivocal: he financed the flight of himself and his wife by auctioning his library, his domestic furnishings and parts of his art collection." Mr. Eissenhauer then went on to say that the return of a Lovis Corinth painting by the Landesmuseum in Hannover (sold in the same May auctions as the Courtauld drawings) to the Glaser heirs was justified due to the distress sales which financed Glaser's flight.

The Glaser heirs have now asked the SAP to reconsider its decision and, in light of the SAP's finding that the sale of Glaser's art collection was caused due to Nazi persecution, that the outcome of the report be changed to recommend that the Glaser artworks at the Courtauld Institute be returned.

For further information contact:

David J. Rowland, Esq.
Rowland & Associates
Two Park Ave., 19nth Floor
New York, N.Y. 10016

Tel. 212-685-5509
Fax 212-685-8862


© website copyright Central Registry 2023