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.
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