Holocaust survivor living in San Diego continues battle for painting

SDNN 8 September 2009

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that an elderly Holocaust survivor living in San Diego can continue his legal battle against the Spanish government to reclaim a valuable painting he contends was stolen from his grandmother by the Nazis.

"Rue Saint-Honore: Afternoon, Rain Effect," by Camille Pissarro 
"Rue Saint-Honore: Afternoon, Rain Effect," by Camille Pissarro

In his original 2005 complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Claude Cassirer, now 88, sued Spain’s government and the foundation that runs the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, where the painting by Camille Pissarro is on display.

Soon afterward, the foundation and the Spanish government filed motions to have the case dismissed by a lower court judge in Los Angeles, who rejected their arguments.

Both entities appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the case could go forward against them.

“We are very happy to have this decision,” said Stuart Dunwoody, Cassirer’s attorney. “It confirms our arguments

Cassirer is “gratified and eager to see this through,” the lawyer added.

According to Cassirer’s court papers, his grandmother was forced to sell the oil painting for about $360 to escape from Nazi Germany in 1939.

The painting, “Rue Saint-Honore: Afternoon, Rain Effect,” depicts a 19th century Paris street scene.

The Spanish government bought the painting in 1993 as part of the collection of Swiss industrialist Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemiszain for about $350 million and placed it on display in the Madrid museum named for the art collector, according to the lawsuit.

Cassirer filed the suit in U.S. District Court following a Supreme Court decision allowing U.S. citizens to sue foreign governments in federal court over art plundered during the Nazi regime.
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