In a deeply researched opinion that it appears could embolden legal efforts by Jewish heirs to reclaim Nazi-stolen art worldwide, a state appeals court Tuesday ruled that two highly valued early 20th century paintings looted by the Nazis belong to the heirs of the Austrian Jewish entertainer who first collected them.NY Appeals Court Explains Why Nazi-Stolen Paintings Belong With Jewish Collector's Heirs _ New York Law Journal
Jonathan Petropoulos research and scholarship from 2008 to the present reaffirms that Fritz Grünbaum lost his art collection, including the Artworks, due to Nazispoliation. Historical records show that both Fritz Grünbaum’s property and the property of his wife and widow, Elisabeth Grünbaum (“Elisabeth”), were under the control of “Aryan” trustee Ludwig Rochlitzer who was appointed by the Nazis to liquidate their property in January 1939 pursuant to the 3 December 1938 Aryan Trustee Act.
In his striking report he summerizes and discusses the direct evidence showing Nazi control of Fritz Grünbaum’s art collection in 1939 through his death in 1941.
Jonathan Petropoulos Rebuttal Report
The evidence that the Nazis had custody of Fritz Grünbaum (imprisoned in the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps) and his artworks (stored and “blocked” in a Schenker & Co. warehouse, an entity utilized by the Nazis to despoil property) is overwhelming, reliable, and uncontroverted.
A Small Victory in Pursuit of Looted Art
By Louis Jacobson ’92
Published in the May 13, 2015, issue
[scribd id=265172140 key=key-3SRUhjs5BETN20NdvcaD mode=scroll]
Soon after writing this blog entry an e-mail arrived:
Dear Mr Dowd,
It has been brought to my attention that an item concerning loans to The Courtauld Gallery’s forthcoming Egon Schiele exhibition has been placed on a website for which you are listed as one of the contacts. On that basis I am writing to you to let you know that the three works mentioned there are not due to form part of the exhibition in London.
Ernst Vegelin van Claerbergen
Head of The Courtauld Gallery
The heirs of Fritz Grünbaum would like to thank Mr. Vegelin very much for promptness and proficiency in handling this matter.
Von Grünbaum bis Gurlitt – 60 Jahre Tradition des Handels mit Raubkunst
From Grünbaum to Gurlitt – a tradition for 60 years in trading with looted art
“ . . . I think we should come to terms with history.” And, he adds, “Nowadays, I don’t think a museum can afford not to approach this in a proactive and positive manner. What I think sets me apart from many other people of the same positive approach is that I think the best way to deal with it is to talk and to come to a mutually positive conclusion…”
(Diethard Leopold, Son of Rudolf Leopold)
We are very happy about Diethard Leopolds will to return looted artworks and therefore want to be of help in his efforts.
We kindly remind the Leopold Museum Privatstiftung of the claim for restitution regarding the collection Fritz Grünbaum, unanswered since February 15, 2011:
[scribd id=106133836 key=key-27gtplnzeunjihu3t2ji mode=scroll]
For the 15 Drawings & paintings from the Collection Grünbaum find details here
So, as stated by Diethard Leopold:
“. . . That’s why I say let’s get together and speak, …”
We are waiting for his reply!
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today in a case involving the Estate of Fritz Grunbaum.
Grunbaum was arrested while attempting to flee from the Nazis. After his arrest, he never again had physical possession of any of his artwork, including the Drawing. The power of attorney, which he was forced to execute while in the Dachau concentration camp, divested him of his legal control over the Drawing. Such an involuntary divestiture of possession and legal control rendered any subsequent transfer void.
Fritz Grunbaum’s art collection made headlines when D.A. Robert Morgenthau seized Egon Schiele’s Dead City from the MoMA in New York City. At the same time, Morgenthau seized Egon Schiele’s Portrait of Wally, which was also stolen. Portrait of Wally was returned by Austria this summer.
The Grunbaum heirs are waiting on Austria to make a decision on whether or not to return Dead City and the other artworks stolen from Fritz Grunbaum that are now in the Albertina and Leopold Museums. Austria has promised to issue a report soon, and then The Austrian Commission for Provenance Research is expected to rule.
In 1955, Austria signed a treaty with the United States promising to give back all of the property it stole from Jews during the period of Nazi “occupation” of Austria. Ever since, Austria has treated this obligation largely as a joke, thumbing its nose at Jews who attempted to get their property back. Only in the 1990’s through a combination of class action lawsuits and the actions of the Clinton Administration spearheaded by Amb. Stuart Eizenstat, did Austria instead agree to pay pittances to Jewish persecutees in lieu of giving them their property back. The sad tale is well told in Eizenstat’s book Imperfect Justice.
But the class action settlements did not cover stolen artworks in Austria. In 1998, in reaction to D.A. Morgenthau’s seizure of Egon Schiele’s Portrait of Wally and Dead City (Dead City belonged to Fritz Grunbaum), Austria passed an Art Restitution Law that permitted claims to be made against artworks in Austria’s federal museum collections. On April 13, 1999, the heirs of Fritz Grunbaum made claims to the following works by Egon Schiele that were stolen from Grunbaum while he was in the Dachau Concentration Camp:
Egon Schiele, Female Nude Seated on Red Drape, Back View
Sitzender weiblicher Rückenakt mit rotem Rock
Jane Kallir: Egon Schiele, The Complete Works 1998, New York №:1504
Gouache, watercolor, and pencil. Signed and dated, lower right. (48.2 x 31.8 cm).
Gutekunst & Klipstein, Nov. 24, 1955, lot 107 1
Exhibitions: London, 1964, no. 67, ill.; Hamburg, 1981, no. 214, ill.
Inventorylist Albertina: 39.931
Jane Kallier: Egon Schiele, The Complete Works 1998, New York №:1797: Heinrich Rieger; Gutekunst & Klipstein, Bern; Galerie St. Etienne, New York; Rudolf Leopold;
Provenance as per Catalog: “Egon Schiele” Würthle Gallery, Vienna 1925:
“Mutter und Kind”, sign Egon Schiele 1915 Sammlung Fritz Grünbaum
Austria never responded to the claims of Fritz Grunbaum’s heirs. From 2000 through 2009, Austria claimed that it was “investigating” the status of the works. In 2006, Mag. Eva Blimlinger was called in to oversee the investigation together with Mag. Annaliese Schallmeiner.
Blimlinger is a respected Austrian historian and oversaw the Austrian Historian Commission’s report found at http://www.provenienzforschung.gv.at/ The Blimlinger and Schallmeiner Report, which was supposed to have issued in the fall of 2009, never has seen the light of day, apparently the victim of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture. Why was that report killed and what did it say?
In the summer of 2009, at the Prague Conference on Holocaust Era Assets, Minister Claudia Schmid promised Congressman Wexler that she would investigate the status of the Grunbaum works at the Albertina. I spoke to Dr. Christophe Bazil and Dr. Thomas Baier, who reassured me that they would investigate the issue and be in contact. I wrote to them and never got any response.
In February, a client alerted me to a forum to take place in New York on Austrian Restitution. The program is here. I was rather shocked that the very Austrian officials who had promised to look into the Grunbaum affair and who did not have the time to answer my communications were to be speaking in New York City.
By failing to return property belonging to Jews, Austria has breached its obligations under the Austrian State Treaty of 1955. This treaty was a condition of Austria’s existence, like our Constitution. The Allies – Russians, French, British and Americans – pulled out of Austria on the promise that all property would be returned to Jews. Instead, Austrians continue to live in homes stolen from Jews, operate businesses stolen from Jews, and to buy, sell and enjoy art stolen from Jews.
Since the Allies left Austria, Austria has enacted successively a system of inadequate and insulting postwar laws that failed to restore property to Jews. To understand Austria’s obligations clearly (the treaty is written in plain English), we look to the actual writing. Article 26 of the 1955 Austrian State Treaty states as follows:
PROPERTY, RIGHTS AND INTERESTS OF MINORITY GROUPS IN AUSTRIA
1. In so far as such action has not already been taken, Austria undertakes that, in all cases where property, legal rights or interests in Austria have since 13th March, 1938, been subject of forced transfer or measures of sequestration, confiscation or control on account of the racial origin or religion of the owner, the said property shall be returned and the said legal rights and interests shall be restored together with their accessories. Where return or restoration is impossible, compensation shall be granted for losses incurred by reason of such measures to the same extent as is, or may be, given to Austrian nationals generally in respect of war damage.
The full text of the Austria is found here, courtesy Wikipedia. You will see that there are no “if’s” ands or “buts” in the Treaty. Its language is unconditional and does not depend on enabling legislation. Indeed, any enabling legislation that fell short of the absolute terms of the Treaty would be unconstitutional in Austria.
It is to be hoped that the U.S. State Department will assist the heirs of Fritz Grunbaum in obtaining a copy of the Blimlinger/Schallmeiner Report and in facilitating conversations through the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, consistent with the Washington Principles on Holocaust-Era Assets. It is to be hoped that President Obama’s Ambassador to Austria, Amb. William Eacho will take a personal interest in the plight of Jews dispossessed in the Holocaust.
Crossposted, see copyrightlitigation.blogspot.com
The International Institute for Holocaust Research-Yad Vashem
cordially invites you to attend the lecture
Egon Schiele’s Dead City
Current Issues In Nazi Art Looting and Recovery
Raymond Dowd, Esq.
Partner – Dunnington, Bartholow & Miller LLP New York
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Lecture Hall, Room 223, Administration and Research Building
Yad Vashem, Mount of Remembrance
In 1998, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau seized Egon Schiele’s Dead City and Portrait of Wally at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, creating a scandal that changed the legal landscape of Europe and the United States for victims of Nazi persecution and their survivors. Ray Dowd represents the heirs of Fritz Grunbaum, a Jewish cabaret performer murdered in the Dachau Concentration Camp. Fritz’s wife Lily died in the Minsk Death Camp. Grunbaum’s art collection surfaced in Switzerland in 1956 under disputed circumstances, and in the first Holocaust-era art recovery trial in U.S. history, Bakalar v. Vavra, the District Court found that passing the artwork through Switzerland gave it clean title. The case is on appeal. Many of Fritz’s artworks are in the Leopold Museum and the Albertina Museum in Austria. In over ten years, Austria has not even bothered to respond to the heirs’ claim.
You can view the Powerpoint presentation that illustrates the audio here