Germany

This painting was looted by the Nazis, then seized from my living room

“This painting was looted by the Nazis, then seized from my living room”

by Craig Gilmore via “LA Times”

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Two agents from U.S. Homeland Security’s ICE unit arrived at my door in September looking for a Polish lady — not a person, but a painting: Melchior Geldorp’s “Portrait of a Lady.” She had, they informed me, been looted by the Nazis from the National Museum in Warsaw.

Unsure if these gentlemen were indeed who they claimed to be, I didn’t invite them in. But I knew exactly what they were seeking: My partner, David, and I had purchased this very portrait — ostensibly the work of a different artist — a decade earlier from a major auction house in New York. 

Upon their leaving, I stood dumbfounded, holding a packet of information about the alleged provenance of our painting. After calling David at work to drop this bombshell, I began a Googling frenzy, eventually bringing me to Poland’s Division for Looted Art website. Seconds later I was gawking at an old black-and-white photo of our beloved lady, a beautiful portrait painted on oak panel in 1628. Tears welled in my eyes with the realization that, without question, if this were true we needed to do our duty and get her safely home.

Being an opera singer, I was among a group of vocalists on a government-sponsored tour of Israel some years ago. During a visit to a community center for Holocaust survivors I was asked to sing. The emotion of being surrounded by people who had prevailed through such unimaginable horrors was overwhelming, and I found myself unable. Excusing myself, I attempted to make up for it by spinning several of the ladies around the dance floor — all the while trying not to look down at the numbers tattooed on their wrists. 

Now this memory flooded back to me, and I found myself once again in tears, hyper-aware of how Nazi atrocities affect us still to this day.

The toll of World War II in Poland — including the deaths of 6 million Poles, Jews, and other outcasts, including homosexuals — is unimaginable. Being gay men, David and I feel a personal connection with these losses and are conscious of how political shiftings can lead to vulnerability. This, added to the knowledge that Poland’s LGBTQ community is still in a struggle for its basic rights, has weighed heavily on our minds. 

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How my family recovered a painting stolen by the Nazis and sold it for $2.9 million

“How my family recovered a painting stolen by the Nazis and sold it for $2.9 million”

by Peter J. Toren via “Yahoo! News

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On a warm, humid June evening on Regent Street in London, among the fanciest stores in the world, the international art auction house, Sotheby’s, auctioned the Max Liebermann painting Two Riders on a Beach, for many times the pre-sale estimate to an unknown buyer. The painting, a 1901 scene of two elegantly dressed men riding chestnut horses with the surf breaking behind them, belonged to my great great uncle David Friedmann, and was stolen from him by the Nazis.

I saw the painting in person with my son for the first time the day before the auction. German tax investigators found the painting in the Munich home of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of the infamous art dealer to the Nazis, Hildebrand Gurlitt. Two Riders was part of a 1,200-work trove that was found in Gurlitt’s home in Munich, which included some invaluable pieces that had been stored in tomato crates. While a number of the other works were likely also stolen from Jewish owners, the German government has only returned one painting to its rightful Jewish owner other than Two Riders.

The history of the painting, and especially its recovery, represents a story of success, struggle, survival and redemption that many Jewish families have gone through in the last 100 years.

David Friedmann’s family, a wealthy and successful German-Jewish family, owned a 10,000-acre sugar beet farm, that included a distillery for making schnapps and a “castle,” near Breslau, now Wroclaw in western Poland. Friedmann was an avid collector of art, and in addition to Two Riders, also owned works by Camille Pissarro, Gustave Courbet, Jean Francois Raffaelli, and Henri Rousseau, along with a remarkably comprehensive collection of Italian, German and Dutch fine pottery.

Villa Grisebach, the German auction house, also sold from the Gurlitt trove another Liebermann, The Basket Weavers, looted from Friedmann. My father, who vividly remembers Two Riders hanging in a sunroom in Friedmann’s home in Breslau, recalls him as a kindly, though imposing man, who liked to give parties, attended by German intellectuals including the composer Richard Strauss.

My father and his brother were the only members of his family to survive the Holocaust and as a child of a survivor, I grew up listening to my father tell me stories of my family’s German history and the connection to David Friedmann. My grandfather was a prominent lawyer in Breslau, and as dispensation for serving as a Colonel in the German Army in the First World War, he was able to continue to represent Jewish clients even after other German Jewish lawyers could no longer do legal work. On November 10, 1938, the morning after Kristallnacht, when Jewish stores and businesses were looted, and Jews were beaten and killed, my grandfather was required to assist Friedmann in “selling” some of his property to the Nazi General Ewald von Kleist. . . . .

 

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Based on a True Story

The lawsuit this film is based upon opened up a can of worms legally, completely changing Art Law, Cultural Heritage Law, Museum Law, and the Law of Wars forever.  In regards to justice for a long-ago wrong, it is satisfying to know the bad guys didn’t win.  🙂  I’m curious to see if this film is any good!

Ohio Art Museum to Return Likely Stolen Artifact to Germany

“Ohio Art Museum to Return Likely Stolen Artifact to Germany”

via “ABC News

A 450-year-old German artifact that was used to tell time and to make astronomical calculations will be returned to a German museum from which it was likely stolen, according to the Toledo Museum of Art.

The device, called an astronomical compendium or astrolabe, disappeared from the Gotha Museum in Gotha, Germany, sometime in 1945.

“This was a one-of-a-kind scientific device,” said Brian Kennedy, president and director of the Toledo museum. “It’s sad to see it go, but it’s not ours.”

Americans occupied Gotha during the war and many of the museum’s collections were moved in 1945 to the former Soviet Union once authority over the area was transferred from United States.

The astronomical device, though, was one of the few items from the museum that didn’t end up in the Soviet Union. Instead, it landed in the hands of a New York art dealer before it was sold for $6,500 in 1954.

The museum in 2013 received a letter from the director of the Gotha Museum, saying that it found out about the piece in Toledo and believed it was theirs.

Kennedy said they reviewed documentation, including photographs, from the Gotha Museum and determined that the piece on display in Toledo was “most likely one and the same.”

The two museums then reached an agreement to get the historically valuable piece back to its rightful owner, Kennedy said. . . .

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The Mystery of the Magical ‘Ulfberht’ Viking Sword – Researchers Close in on the German ‘Supermonks’ Believed to have Forged the Superstrong Weapons

“The Mystery of the Magical ‘Ulfberht’ Viking Sword – Researchers Close in on the German ‘Supermonks’ Believed to have Forged the Superstrong Weapons”

by Mark Prigg via “Daily Mail

It was the sword of choice for the discerning Viking – superstrong, and almost unbeatable in battle.

Yet mystery surrounds a small number of Viking swords researchers have uncovered.

They are all inscribed with a single word – ‘Ulfberht’, which experts believe may reveal their maker.

a single word - 'Ulfberht' - on the blade of a Viking sword. Experts believe a German monastry may have been responsible for the product of the superstrong weapons.

a single word – ‘Ulfberht’ – on the blade of a Viking sword. Experts believe a German monastry may have been responsible for the product of the superstrong weapons.

About 170 Ulfberhts have been found, dating from 800 to 1,000 A.D. They are made of metal so pure it baffled archaeologists, who thought the technology to forge such metal was not invented for another 800 or more years, during the Industrial Revolution.

About 170 Ulfberhts have been found, dating from 800 to 1,000 A.D. They are made of metal so pure it baffled archaeologists, who thought the technology to forge such metal was not invented for another 800 or more years, during the Industrial Revolution.

HOW A SWORD IS MADE

In the process of forging iron, the ore must be heated to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit to liquify, allowing the blacksmith to remove the impurities, known as ‘slag’

Carbon is also mixed in to make the brittle iron stronger.

Medieval technology did not allow iron to be heated to such a high temperature, so slag was removed by pounding it out, a far less effective method.

The Ulfberht, however, has almost no slag, and it has a carbon content three times that of other metals from the time.

It was made of a metal called ‘crucible steel.’

It was thought that the furnaces invented during the industrial revolution were the first tools for heating iron to this extent.

According to Ancient Origins, researchers are now closing in on the mysterious maker.

‘New research brings us closer to the source of the swords, to the kiln in which these legendary weapons were forged,’ it claims.

About 170 Ulfberhts have been found, dating from 800 to 1,000 A.D.

They are made of metal so pure it baffled archaeologists, who thought the technology to forge such metal was not invented for another 800 or more years, during the Industrial Revolution.

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