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Welcome to lootedart.com
This site contains two fully searchable databases.
The Information Database contains information and documentation from forty nine countries, including laws and policies, reports and publications, archival records and resources, current cases and relevant websites.
The Object Database contains details of over 25,000 objects of all kinds – paintings, drawings, antiquities, Judaica, etc – looted, missing and/or identified from over fifteen countries.
All images on the site are published under fair use conditions for the purpose of criticism and research.
For a list of Essential Website Links, showing all key research sites and resources,click here.
For details of international resources, see below, Online Resources and Case News.
For the Gurlitt collection at the Kunstmuseum Bern, click here. For the full range of developments on the Gurlitt case, click here. For all news stories, see the News Archive. For all other materials, including ALIU reports, etc, search 'Gurlitt'.
To subscribe to our looted art newsletter, click here.
In only his second public speech ever on art restitution, Ronald Lauder questioned the keenness of Bern to take the Gurlitt collection when it 'was probably stolen from Jewish homes by the Nazis'. The fact that only five works have so far been clearly identified as looted is, he says, likely due to the fact that most of the works in the collection are prints or drawings, which makes them hard to trace. Because of Bern's decision, he began to look at Switzerland’s role with 'lost art' and urges that term no longer be used, as it so misrepresents the thefts and 'sanitizes the crime', 'None of this art was “lost”', he says, so 'let's refer to it as stolen art'. Equally Switzerland should not continue to make the artificial distinction between art that was looted (Raubkunst) and art that was subject to a forced sale (Fluchtgut).
During the war, 'Switzerland quickly became a major center for Nazi stolen art' and justice remains to be done. Cases show 'a troubling lack of shame...these paintings should be given back to their rightful owners'. 'If people are honest, if they really want to solve this issue, if they have a conscience, then they should stop hiding behind excuses.' Reiterating the Washington Principles, he set out six requirements for fair and equitable solutions in Switzerland - and any country:
1. Stolen art must include all art losses caused by Nazi-persecution
2. Provenance research must be conducted pro-actively
3. Sufficient funds must be provided for provenance research
4. There must be complete transparency on all aspects of provenance research by means of one centralized internet database
5. One independent commission must be established to provide fair solutions
6. Auction houses must be open about looted works that they identify
To read the lecture, click here.
The heirs had previously applied for restitution of the cameo, now in Leiden, but that request was rejected in 2009. The Committee has recommended its return now because of new information coming to light showing that Bachstitz sold it for NLG 6,000 to the German museum director Hans Posse, Adolf Hitler’s art buyer in 1941 to pay for his very sick son to stay in a Swiss sanatorium. In the Committee’s opinion the choice of neutral Switzerland cannot be considered in isolation from the situation that was threatening Jews in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands and concluded that there was involuntary loss of possession as a result of the Nazi regime. Since it is plausible that Bachstitz spent the proceeds of the sale on his son’s stay in safety in Switzerland, the Committee recommended that the heirs should not be made to repay the sum concerned.
The heirs had also requested the return of 14 other works of art from the NK collection. Because there was no indication that the sale by Bachstitz took place forcibly, the Restitution Committee advised the minister not to restitute these works of art.
To read the recommendation, click here.
The final report of the Gurlitt Task Force, which began work in November 2013, has been published. 72 pages long, it is only in German, thereby continuing the Task Force's inward-looking record and failure to ensure communication to those most personally interested in its detailed findings - the families who were looted and who generally do not read German.
The Task Force's little known website - all enquiries have always been referred to the lostart.de website which made no reference to it - provides a short English language 'Fact Sheet'. This summarises the research by numbers and in an unclear way. Our attempt to clarify the findings suggests:
Of the 1,258 artworks found in Munich, 507 could be ruled out as looted because they came from German museums or the Gurlitt family; 499 were identified as possibly looted, of which 4 were definitively looted, 27 are very likely to be looted, and 344 are still unclear after some research; 252 still need to have research undertaken. Of the 186 artworks found in Salzburg, 1 is definitively looted, 45 are very likely to be looted, 1 is not, and 139 are still uncertain.
The Fact Sheet also summarises the claims made and how they were dealt with. Of the 118 claims made, 62 (53%) were 'resolved'. However, 15 of the 62 stated to be 'resolved' are also stated not to be as they are 'subject to a review procedure'. 1 artwork is stated to be looted but the family 'had not lodged a claim'. Has the Task Force contacted the family? The Fact Sheet does not say. The Fact Sheeet also does not say how many of the 5 works which are definitively looted have been returned. 56 (47%) of the 118 claims made are not resolved because the research is not completed.
The record set out in the Fact Sheet, the result of two years' work, underscores the Task Force's lack of urgency and achievement in only certainly identifying five looted works of art and not even returning all of them.
To read the Report, click here. To read the Fact Sheet, click here.
5 January 2016: The German Lost Art Foundation has announced how it will undertake the provenance research into the Gurlitt collection following the 31 December 2015 winding up of the Task Force “Schwabinger Kunstfund”, for which the Foundation had assumed responsibility on 1 April 2015. The statement is below. The details and process remain as opaque as they were under the much criticised Task Force:
'In January 2016, the German Lost Art Foundation will launch a new project titled “Gurlitt Provenance Research” which will continue the investigation of the Gurlitt art collection. Research efforts will focus on determining the provenance of works which have not yet been conclusively clarified. Of primary interest are works for which there is a suspicion that they went missing as a result of Nazi persecution or for which such claims have been made.
The project team is headed by Dr. Andrea Baresel-Brand, who is responsible for controlling, administrating and coordinating tasks, and supported by researchers who will conduct provenance research on specific works. A panel of distinguished international experts will review the project’s research findings with regard to their credibility and the appropriate use of scientific methodology. The project will draw on the personal expertise and familiarity with the Gurlitt art collection gained over the past two years. The research findings will be published in German and English following their evaluation by the review experts.
The project is financed by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media and is scheduled to run for at least one year.'
In a speech at the conference of the Deutsches Zentrum Kultur-gutverluste (DZK) on 28 November 2015 in Berlin, Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Heritage Foundation (Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, SPK)) made a number of remarks which added up to a surprisingly clear call for a change of current standards of the Limbach Commission and an overhaul of the way the Commission works.
His proposals were the following:
1. That the Commission should also act if it is called upon by only one of the two parties to a dispute. Currently it only acts if both sides agree.
2. That the administration of the Commission should be carried out by an independent secretariat and not the DZK. This must probably be seen in the context that the DZK's task is to advise e.g. museums when they are confronted with claims, but at a later state may have to act for the Commission which should be neutral. Also the heir of the collector Hans Sachs recently questioned the neutrality of the Commission in a law suit at the Magdeburg Administrative Court. He said that the Koordinierungsstelle, a forrunner of the DZK, had originally advised the Deutsches Historisches Museum, assisting it on how to handle the restitution claim, while it later, in 2008, acted as the secretariat of the Commission which decided on the claim.
3. That there should be transparency, primarily in connection with the research of museums, as many currently do not publish their findings if they come to the conclusion that a work was not lost due to Nazi persecution. This may also relate to the Limbach Commission which is currently denying the Sachs heir access to the files of the 2008 procedure, and which is the cause for the current court case in Magdeburg.
4. That the Commission should have procedural rules like any arbitration body.
5. That a representative of a Jewish organisation be on the Commission.
Taken all together these changes would make the Commission a very different kind of Institution. Parzinger's proposals met with no opposition during the DZK 's conference.
Parzinger also stressed, like the German Cultural Minister Monika Grütters the day before, that there should be no doubt that the persecution of Jews in Germany started in 1933. This was apparently a reaction to criticism by Holocaust historians concerning a remark in a brief to a US Court related to the Guelph Treasure and to the publication here of an English translation of the Commission's Recommendation in the case of Behrens v. Düsseldorf in which the Advisory Commission had held that Jewish bankers had not been persecuted and had unimpaired access to the courts till mid 1935.
Parzinger also emphased that German cultural institutions confronted with claims must show (in cases of allegedly forced sales) that the price paid to a persecuted person was fair and that the persecuted person actually received the money at his/her free disposal, the implication being, contrary to the Behrens decision made by the Commission, that the work of art be considered looted if both conditions are not met. In its recommendation the Commission also deviated from the policies set out in the 'Handreichung', first issued in Germany in 2001.
2 December 2015: The Gurlitt Task Force announced the identification of a Menzel drawing, 'Inneres einer gotischen Kirche (Kirche in Hofgastein)' ('Church in Hofgastein'), as the fifth looted work found in the Gurlitt collection. The drawing originated in the collection of Dr Albert Martin Wolffson of Hamburg and was sold by his daughter Elsa Cohen to Hildebrand Gurlitt on 31 December 1938 with nine other works by Menzel just before she fled Germany. The drawing is on lostart.de at http://www.lostart.de/DE/Fund/478264.
The Task Force's press release, issued only in German, is available here. It makes no mention of whether the Task Force has traced the heirs, is already proceeding to restitution, expects the heirs to contact them, or etc. The drawing had already been identified as from the Wolffson collection by other researchers.
The provenance research report, also published only in German, can be read here.
16 November 2015: Papers were filed in the New York Supreme Court this week to recover two paintings by Egon Schiele, Woman in a black pinafore and Woman hiding her face, by lawyers acting for the heirs of Fritz Grunbaum. The plaintiffs allege that the paintings were stolen from Grunbaum by the Nazis. They were found being offered for sale at the Salon Art + Design Show at the Park Avenue Armory by the New York art dealer Richard Nagy. To read the summons, click here. The exhibits are listed below: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J.
The Recommendation of the German Advisory Commission in the case of ‘Behrens versus Düsseldorf’, issued Berlin 3 February 2015; and the publication in English translation of an article commenting on it by lawyers Dr Henning Kahmann and Varda Naumann
In light of the concern over historical revisionism in the decisions and legal actions of the German Federal Republic, its Advisory (Limbach) Commission and the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SPK, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation), the Central Registry is making available two documents:
The first is an English translation of the Recommendation in which the German Advisory (Limbach) Commission rejected the claim of the Behrens' heirs on the basis that the loss of the painting claimed, Pariser Wochentag by Adolph von Menzel, was not due to persecution, asserting that transfers of assets in Germany by Jewish people in 1935 were not coerced, that the Jewish sellers received the market price that prevailed at the time and that they received the proceeds of the sale at their free disposal. The Limbach Commission further asserted that no financial distress associated with persecution was involved as Jewish private banks were doing well in 1935 and were not directly affected by persecution, both official and unofficial, between 1933 and 1935. They specifically assert that Jewish banks benefited from the upswing between 1933 and 1935.
In other cases, currently re Welfenschatz (Guelph), the Limbach Commission, together with the German Federal Republic and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK), also asserts that their similar positions are based on the undisputed findings of the available body of research, although the source of this research is not indicated. It is considered that this represents a move towards a revised view of the history of the Nazi era in which transfers of Jewish owned assets up to 1935 are to be considered as normal, despite the available historical evidence and common understanding. In order to address the signficance of this departure from post-war restitution principles, the Central Registry is publishing a second new document.
The second document is the first publication in English of an article by the German lawyers Dr Henning Kahmann and Varda Naumann, 'Comment on the Recommendation by the Advisory Commission in the case of “Behrens v. Düsseldorf”'.
In their article, Kahmann and Naumann set out the ways in which they consider Germany is now departing from the Washington Principles and specifically deviating from the 2001 Guidelines for Implementing the 1999 German Declaration with regard to the 'period of collective persecution' and the 'presumption of persecution'. They further explore these new assertions as to the historical facts which are being 'utilised to show that Nazi persecution was not causative for the loss of property' and provide examples to disprove these assertions. These include measures taken against Jewish-owned banks by the Nazis starting in 1933 and the question of whether equal access to justice was available to Jews after 1933.
If you wish to submit any comments for publication, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Motion to Dismiss the suit of the heirs of the four dealers who sold the Guelph Treasure or Welfenschatz to Germany in 1935 was filed in the New York courts on 29 October by the defendants, the German State and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation which has possession of the Treasure. To read the motion and the grounds on which they are seeking to dismiss the case, click here.
ESLi, the European Shoah Legacy Institute, in cooperation with Pavel Svoboda MEP, Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs, hosted a conference and exhibition on conflict looting and the importance of provenance research to cultural heritage protection. To read the press release, click here.
Lawsuits: provides details of claims and cases ruled on or being settled in court with copies of court filings and judgements.
Research Resources: provides details of family records, tracing services, art historical resources, texts of post-war reports, and books and publications.
Web Resources: provides details of various online databases of looted paintings, results of provenance research in countries around the world, archival records available online and other research materials.
Seeking Owners of Identified Looted Property: provides lists of names of individuals whose looted property has been identified in institutions in Germany and whose heirs are being sought.
Other categories of information include Governmental Conferences and Hearings, Laws, Policies and Guidelines, Art Trade, and Press, Television, Radio and Film. To explore all these sections, click here.
The site is regularly updated with new resources and developments. To provide details of resources or cases to add to the site, please email email@example.com.