In 2000, benefactor Clara Weitzenhoffer willed 33 pieces of art to OU, including the Camille Pissarro oil painting, which now hangs in the school’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.
Weitzenhoffer and her husband had purchased the painting in New York City in 1956, unaware of its troubled history.
When Germany overran Europe in the early days of World War II, the painting was stolen from Raoul Meyer, a French businessman. It was one of thousands of artworks looted from Jewish collectors by the Nazis.
In 1953, Meyer sued an art dealer to recover the painting, but the case was dismissed by a Swiss court, which found he had waited too long to make the claim. His adopted daughter, Leone Meyer is now suing OU, which stakes much of its legal response on the Swiss court’s ruling.
We find the Swiss court’s ruling to be clearly unjust. We also find a recent column by Tulsa World Community Advisory Board member Craig Rainey quite convincing on the complicity of Swiss courts in the transfer of property stolen from Jews by the Nazis.
In a recent letter to the editor, OU President David Boren said the school wants a fair and moral resolution to the issue. We’re glad to hear that.
We have enormous respect and affection for Boren. He truly is in the pantheon of great Oklahomans. We also wish to publicly salute the Weitzenhoffer family for their generosity. They bought the painting in good faith and gave it to the OU Foundation so that the public could see it free of charge.
But we are convinced that the fair and moral solution is clear: Give the painting back to the Meyer family.
There is no place for Nazi loot at a great university.