Lawsuit Over $100 Million Art Collection Illegally Held by Hungary Will Resolve Largest Unsettled Holocaust Art Claim

Eon 28 July 2010

WASHINGTON--Heirs to the Herzog Collection, the largest private art collection in Hungary prior to World War II, filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia late yesterday to seek the return of artworks illegally held by Hungary since the Holocaust. The heirs are also demanding a full and transparent inventory of looted art from the Herzog Collection held by Hungary, marking the first time a request of this nature has ever been made in an art restitution lawsuit.

“Repeatedly failing to live up to its treaty obligations and commitments to the Washington Principles and Terezín Declaration, Hungary must acknowledge its actions during the Holocaust and return the Herzog art.”

The lawsuit seeks the return of over 40 artworks with a combined value of over $100 million, including masterworks by El Greco, Francisco de Zurbarán, and Lucas Cranach the Elder. The works come from the collection of Baron Mór Lipót Herzog, a passionate Jewish art collector, and the case is regarded by experts as the world’s largest unresolved Holocaust art claim. Hungary, a WWII-era ally of Nazi Germany that organized the dispossession, seizure, deportation, and eventual deaths of more than 500,000 Hungarian Jews, has held the artworks since the genocide of its Jewish population, despite years of negotiations and international appeals for the collection’s return from multiple U.S. Senators.

Major Works in Herzog Collection

Before his death in 1934, Baron Mór Lipót Herzog amassed approximately 2,500 paintings, sculptures, and other artworks in what was one of the finest collections of art in all of Europe. Among the artworks at issue in this case are:

Case Summary

The complaint filed yesterday sets out the remarkable and disturbing facts of the case, including:


The following are comments from the Herzog heirs, their counsel, and experts on Holocaust-era art recovery:

Michael S. Shuster of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP, the lead attorney in the Herzog lawsuit, stated:

Martha Nierenberg, the daughter of Erzsébet (Herzog) Weiss de Csepel, who fled the Hungarian Holocaust with her family in 1944 and has long championed efforts for the return of the collection, stated:

David de Csepel, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit and grandson of Erzsébet (Herzog) Weiss de Csepel, stated:

Charles Goldstein, counsel to the Commission for Art Recovery, a not-for-profit organization that works to ensure that governments comply with the Washington Principles for Holocaust-era looted art, stated:

Constance Lowenthal, Ph.D., art historian and former executive director of the International Foundation for Art Research, said:

László Mravik, author of Sacco di Budapest, the authoritative catalog on Holocaust-era looted art from Hungarian art collections, said:

Additional materials, including a copy of the publicly filed complaint and photos of the artwork, are available online at


Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP
Michael S. Shuster, 212-506-1700
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