Netherlands Will Return 13 Artworks Lost During Nazi Occupation

Bloomberg 4 September 2009
By Catherine Hickley

The Netherlands will return 13 paintings in national museums to the heirs of Jewish collectors persecuted by the Nazis, the Culture Ministry said.

Culture Minister Ronald Plasterk said he would follow a recommendation by the Restitutions Committee to hand back 12 paintings, including Jan van Goyen’s “Village in Winter Time,” to the heirs of Hans Ludwig Larsen. The government also will return Thomas de Keyser’s “Portrait of a Man,” currently housed in a museum in Gouda, to the heirs of a Jewish collector named Richard Semmel, Plasterk said.

Larsen’s loss of the paintings was “due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime,” the Restitutions Committee said. Semmel probably sold his picture to fund his escape, it said.

During the five-year Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, thousands of artworks were looted. Many were returned to the Dutch government by the Allies after the war and remained in the national collection. The Restitutions Committee was founded by the government to handle claims for art in state hands. Since its foundation in 2002, the panel has dealt with 75 such cases.

After Larsen’s death in 1937, his widow and two children fled to the U.S. shortly before the outbreak of World War II. A museum in Leiden took the paintings into custody before a Nazi- appointed official sold them to buyers, including one of Adolf Hitler’s art purchasers.

Larsen’s heirs received the sale price, so the committee recommended that they should pay 325,000 euros ($464,000) to the Dutch state to recoup the paintings. In the case of Semmel, there was no evidence he ever received money for the lost picture, so no payment was requested.

Hals, Ruysdael

Separately, the committee rejected a claim for 31 works of art that the descendants of gallery owners Nathan and Benjamin Katz said may have been looted by the Nazis.

Heirs including Sybilla Goldstein-Katz, the daughter of Nathan Katz, filed for the return of 227 items in March 2007. The committee cited a lack of proof of ownership as the reason for its decision to reject the claim for 31 works, including paintings by Frans Hals and Salomon van Ruysdael.

A decision on the remaining works in the Katz claim isn’t expected before next year, said Evelien Campfens, a spokeswoman for the Restitutions Committee. The panel said it decided to split the investigation into two parts to reach a speedier ruling on artworks claimed by more than one party. Both the Van Goyen painting returned to Larsen and the De Keyser portrait returned to Semmel also were claimed by the Katz heirs.


Nathan and Benjamin Katz, of Jewish origin, took over the art dealership set up by their father in the city of Dieren in 1930, and established a second branch in The Hague in 1940. In February 1941, the company went into liquidation to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Germans.

The brothers established a new company with non-Jewish business partners as directors in 1941 to stay in business. The directors resigned after the war and Benjamin Katz ran the firm.

Goldstein-Katz is represented by Tina M. Talarchyk of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey L.L.P. in West Palm Beach, Florida. The heirs argued that the gallery’s records of purchases and sales, kept in a blue stock book, were lost while it was in the custody of the Dutch state and that therefore the burden of proof of ownership should shift to the Dutch government.

“We are confident that at the end of the process, the claim will be properly adjudicated,” Talarchyk said in a statement. “We will await the Dutch government’s decision regarding the rest of the claim before making any decisions about future actions.”

To contact the writer on the story: Catherine Hickley in Berlin at
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