The Advisory Commission held a hearing on the 15th of January to consider the return of the Welfenschatz (Guelph Treasure) that was taken from three Jewish Frankfurt art dealers in 1935. The Commission, chaired by the respected Prof. Dr. Jutta Limbach, consists of eight prominent, honorable and distinguished members of German society and has the case for over 18 months, along with all the evidence and arguments. The heirs of Saemy Rosenberg, Isaac Rosenbaum, Zacharias Max Hackenbroch and of Julius Falk and Arthur Goldschmidt welcomed the opportunity to present their claim in a professional and friendly atmosphere where recognition and justice can be achieved. They have been informed that a decision would be issued in the coming weeks.
Three Jewish Art Dealers from Frankfurt and Berlin purchased the Guelph collection in 1929. After 1933 all of them became victims of racial persecution and in 1935 they were forced to sign the collection over to the Nazis, represented by the Dresdner Bank and Nazi-Prussia under Hermann Goering. They were forced to close their businesses soon after. Except for Saemy Rosenberg and Isaac Rosenbaum, they only managed to flee Germany afterwards, or, like Zacharias Max Hackenbroch, died in Germany.
The heirs recently discovered a trove of documents detailing the Nazi scheme, tagged for Hitler. This proof allowed them to prove the claim.
Alan Philipp, the grandson of Zacharias Max Hackenbroch, said, “Hermann Goering had an insatiable appetite for art and set his lethal authority against the Jewish dealers for owning this great historic German iconic collection. No Jew wanted to be under the microscope in 1935, no Jew wanted to be approached by any member of the Third Reich or any Nazi institution. The Welfenschatz, which was the highlight of my grandfather’s professional career in 1929, turned into his worst nightmare after the Nazis took over. The Jewish art dealers were frozen out of the economy.”
He added “There was no way out, these were unbearable times for Jews, especially if you were religious and went to Synagogue, as my family did. Newspapers from the time confirm this dire situation and also bear witness to the fact that ordinary Jews in Frankfurt were banned from buying food. My grandfather became ill and died at the early age of 52. We believe this was related to suffering, he and the others endured. They were dealing with the Nazis, and not just any Nazis, we are talking about Hermann Goering and Adolf Hitler.”
The claimants, backed by extensive documents, including the Welfenschatz records which were only recently found in the archive of the Dresdner Bank, presented a meticulously and comprehensively researched claim, clearly showing that the Nazis wanted to take away the Welfenschatz from the Jewish art dealers at a fraction of the market price.
A few weeks after the Nazis coerced the handing over of the Welfenschatz collection to the Prussian State, Goering made a surprise party for Hitler and presented the collection to him, as a gift (see attachment). Goering himself subsequently was celebrated as a “savior” who had “rescued” and “brought home” the collection for Germany.
For several years the current owner, the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SPK), has contested the claim. The SPK has a functioning record in returning looted Art since 1998 and does not want to have Nazi tainted property in its collection:
• According to the principles of the German “Joint Declaration”, the art dealers were victims of racial persecution and the legal presumption that this deal was a “NS-verfolgungsbedingter Vermögensverlust” (persecution-related loss of assets) applies.
• Prussia, the Nazi rogue state and subsequent buyer, eliminated the art dealers in every respect and deliberately exploited them in setting up a manipulated, organized scheme in early 1934, executed through the Dresdner Bank, to strip them of their property.
• The Prussian Prime Minister Hermann Goering was heavily involved from the beginning and spearheaded the negotiations, dominated by an imbalance of power between the parties.
• The price paid by the Nazis was less than one third of the market value, according to a professional evaluation presented to the Limbach Commission.
• All of the art dealers, with the exception of the Rosenbaum owners, who had fled Germany in 1934 after they received a warning, had been German residents at the time of the sale, financially stripped by the Nazis, and they, their families and friends were vulnerable to omnipresent Nazi terror.
• In 2006 the German Federal Finance Ministry clarified restitution law under the requirements of the “Bundeshaushaltsgesetz”: According to that law, all sales made by Nazi victims between 1933 and 1945 under financial distress are tainted, even if the artifact was outside Germany. Therefore it is irrelevant that the Guelph collection was deposited in Amsterdam.
The claim has received extensive attention and support in Germany, the United States, in Israel and in the UK.
Several prominent experts have examined the documents and rendered an independent supporting opinion, including:
• Prof. Dr. Andreas Nachama, Historian, Director of the Foundation and Museum “Topography of Terror”, Berlin.
• Prof. Dr. Wolf Gruner, Historian, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
• Prof. Dr. Stephan Meder, Lawyer, Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz University, Hanover.
• Dr. Helen Junz, Special Master, Lawyer, Former Judicator for the Claims Resolution Tribunal and member of international commissions on Holocaust Restitution, New York.
On the basis of the Washington Principles and the Joint Declaration, the SPK and the claimant families have agreed to submit the claim for final determination to the Limbach Commission in order to bring closure to this matter. The claimants and their representatives look forward to her decision with greatest respect.
For further information please contact:
Markus H. Stoetzel, Rechtsanwalt
35037 Marburg, Germany
Phone: +49 6421-794560
Law Office of Mel Urbach
275 Madison Ave, Suite 1105
New York, New York 10016, USA
Phone: +1 201-984-4720