Holocaust

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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“3,200-Year-Old Gold Artifact Transferred From L.I. Estate To German Museum”

Remember the post from back on Oct. 18? Well here is the result of that lawsuit. . . . 

“3,200-Year-Old Gold Artifact Transferred From L.I. Estate To German Museum”

Via “CBS New York”

“A 3,200-year-old Ishtar Temple gold artifact has been returned to a German museum that lost it during World War II.

The Assyrian gold tablet is a little more than an inch long.

As WCBS 880′s Sophia Hall reported Wednesday, some say it’s worth more than $10 million. Others say the artifact is priceless . . . ”

 

The Kindertransport Journey Museum QuiltingTraveling Exhibit

The Kindertransport Journey Museum Quilting Traveling Exhibit

The Story Behind the Exhibition:

Most people have forgotten about it, if they ever even knew in the first place.  They called it Operation Kindertransport–the mission that to save endangered children.  At the time it began, Hitler already ruled Germany and Austria; the holocaust was in its beginning stages.  Then Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) saw Nazi forces implementing a series of programs against Jewish families resulting in the death of 91 and the arrest and assignment to concentration camps for 30,000 others.  Suddenly, those watching knew that things were about to get a lot worse.  

Five days later, several concerned Jewish and Quaker UK citizens went to the British government asking for help in a rescue mission  they were planning to help children most at risk. The original idea was to collect children or teens in danger of arrest, orphans, and children whose parents were imprisoned.  The UK would then house and

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“German Museum Wants Holocaust Survivor to Return Ancient Gold Tablet”

“Berlin Museum Seeks Return of Ancient Gold Tablet”

“Berlin Museum Seeks Return of Ancient Gold Tablet”

by Michael Virtanen via Associated Press

“A Holocaust survivor’s family urged New York’s highest court Tuesday to let them keep an ancient gold tablet that their late father somehow obtained in Germany after World War II. 

Attorney Steven Schlesinger argued that the estate of Riven Flamenbaum has a legal claim, whether the native of Poland bought the relic from a Russian soldier or simply took it to compensate for losing his family at Auschwitz, the concentration camp where he spent several years. . . “ Read rest of article here .

Cultured Muse’s Input

The interesting part of this case is the legal element.  The concept of repatriation has been cause for much debate in the art world, particularly in regards to cultural resources taken in times of war.  The current world conflicts have only added to the anxiety of the issue, and this case regarding an WWII dispute may actually have bearing on cases dealing with items looted in war-torn countries today.  

Note that the Holocaust survivor’s attorney is arguing that the laws of war as in place at the time of the war should be applied to the case raised today.  Many cultural resource attorneys/parties have argued that rather the modern laws protecting cultural resources should be applied retroactively (i.e. to situations that happened before the law was enacted) because we are currently more interested in (more…)