German panel hears Nazi art case

Seattle Post-Intelligencer 25 January 2007
David Rising (AP)

A special German panel convened Thursday to hear the case of a Jewish man from the United States seeking the return of a collection of rare posters stolen from his father by the Nazis that could be worth $50 million.

Peter Sachs, of Sarasota, Fla., was only a year old in 1938 when his father's collection of 12,500 posters was seized and his family fled for the U.S.

Now 69, he is seeking the return of what remains of the collection — some 4,300 posters with an estimated value of between $10 million and $50 million. The posters are in the possession of Berlin's German Historical Museum.
The collection includes elaborate advertisements for exhibitions, cabarets and consumer products, as well as political propaganda — all rare, with only small original print runs.

The museum maintains that since Sachs' father, Hans Sachs, received about $50,000 compensation from the West German government in 1961, the posters should remain in its collection.

Sachs argues that the compensation was paid when it was assumed the collection was destroyed in the war, and that once his father found out that part of it had survived, he started trying to get access to it in the East German museum where it had ended up.

Hans Sachs died in 1974 without ever seeing the collection again. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the German Historical Museum inherited the collection from its East German counterpart in 1990.

Peter Sachs is scheduled to testify behind closed-doors before the eight-member panel, a special commission set up in 2003 under an agreement between federal, state and local governments.

The panel's mandate is to mediate in disputes involving art looted by the Nazis and to make recommendations.

The Nazis looted an estimated 150,000 pieces of art from western Europe during World War II and some 500,000 pieces from eastern and central Europe.

New Jersey attorney Gary Osen, who is representing Sachs, said he was expecting a recommendation from the panel later in the day Thursday.
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