Tag: Leopold Museum

Can A Jewish Man Imprisoned In Dachau Concentration Camp Transfer Valid Legal Title To A Schiele Painting?

Egon Schiele’s Seated Woman With Bent Left Leg (1917)

On October 31, the family of Fritz Grunbaum gathered at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial To The Holocaust to thank former District Attorney Robert Morgenthau for his efforts to recover Egon Schiele’s Dead City III, an artwork he seized on behalf of Grunbaum’s family at the MoMA in 1998.

Mr. Morgenthau, referring to the above drawing, read the following from a concurrence written by Judge Edward Korman when he sat by designation on  a case called Bakalar v. Vavra at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals:

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.
Bakalar v. Vavra, 619 F.3d 136, 148 (2d. Cir. 2010)(concurrence)

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Erwiderung zur Presseaussendung der Sammlung Leopold

Am 01.11. erschien eine Presseaussendung des Leopold Museum:

Leopold Museum-Privatstiftung (ver)wehrt sich gegen Raubkunst-Vorwürfe

Darin behauptet das Museum, die Restitutionsforschung des BMUKK hätte eindeutig festgestellt, das die Sammlung Grünbaum nicht als Raubkunst zu bezeichnen sei.

Dies ist die Sicht des Leopold Museums, doch was sagen andere Stellen dazu? Read more

Neujahrswünsche / New Year Wishes

Wir wünschen Ihnen ein schönes und erfolgreiches Neues Jahr !

Den Erben von Fritz Grünbaum wünschen wir, dass die zuständigen Stellen zumindest auf Schreiben antworten.

Die Leopold Museum Privatstiftung und Mag. Dr. Sonja Niederacher, Provenienzforschung bm:ukk-lmp im Leopold Museum im MQ ließen dieses Minimum an Hochachtung vermissen.

[scribd id=76780701 key=key-1en2uiq4oumq0s98ny0e mode=list] Unbeantwortete Schreiben an das Leopoldmuseum

[scribd id=76782735 key=key-1f87ievq6kjy3rfk3fav mode=list]Unbeantwortetes Schreiben an Mag. Dr. Niederacher

Weiters wünschen wir den Erbe, dass das Verfahren auf Restitution der beiden Werke Egon Schieles aus der Sammlung Fritz Günbaums die in der  Albertina nach einer Schenkung von Erich Lederer verwahrt werden, nach mehr als 12- jähriger Dauer positiv abgeschlossen wird.

We wish you a happy and successful New Year!

We wish to the heirs of Fritz Grunbaum that the competent authorities at least respond to letters.

The Leopold Museum Privatstiftung and Mag. Dr. Sonja Niederacher, provenanceresearcher at the Leopold Museum missed to show this modicum of respect for the heirs.

Furthermore we wish the heirs to get back the two paintings, which are deposed at the Albertina, after 12 years of formal procedure.

Letter from Ray Dowd to Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture

This letter was send by laywer Raymond Dowd to the director of the Bureau of the Commission for Provenance Research, OR Dr. Christoph Bazil

For the cited quotes, please read Second Circuit decision Bakalar vs. Vavra (english)

From: Raymond Dowd
Sent: Sunday, September 05, 2010 12:53 PM
To: ‘Bazil Christoph’
Subject: Second Circuit Decision in Bakalar v Vavra (Estate of Fritz Grunbaum)

Dear Christoph:   I hope that all is well with you and that you enjoyed your summer.  I think you will be pleased to see that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with the Grunbaum heirs in a decision issued on September 2, 2010.   Please note on page 21 of the opinion:

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.

The opinion notes that this is consistent with Austrian legal principles, including recent decisions of the Austrian Supreme Court.

We note that Article 26 of the Austrian State Treaty obligates Austria to return Fritz Grunbaum’s property to his heirs, as does Austrian inheritance law.  You have made me many promises that you and Minister Schmied were going to investigate this case and issue a report.  It has been 11 years of waiting.

We note that Eberhard Kornfeld invented a fairy story about Fritz Grunbaum’s sister in law in 1999 after Dead City was seized at MoMA.  Our handwriting experts debunked this story, which is based on clearly false and fraudulent documents.

But based on the new Second Circuit decision, it is clear that the whole story of Mathilde Lukacs is legally irrelevant.   Even if she did steal it and sell it in Switzerland, this has no effect on legal title of Fritz Grunbaum or his heirs.  Austrian law respects exactly this principle as well.

As a lawyer, you can now appreciate that Austria has no additional excuses for holding onto Fritz Grunbaum’s property. Now that this is all crystal clear, can you please have Austria return the stolen Schieles currently in the Leopold and Albertina Museums that the Grunbaum heirs have demanded?   There is no reason that the Austrian police can’t do this at your request.

You will see that the recent case decided August 12, 2010 of Cassirer v Kingdom of Spain has reaffirmed the right of US citizens to sue foreign governments in the United States for purchasing or displaying stolen artworks.  http://www.scribd.com/doc/35962710/Cassirer-vs-Kingdom-of-Spain-9th-Cir-August-12-2010.  This also applied where the government has created a Foundation (like a Stiftung) to hold the stolen objects.   Spain bought the tainted Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection and tried to pretend that it could not be sued because it was in a foundation.

So you see that U.S. courts have rejected what you believed when we last spoke would be a valid defense.  Putting stolen goods in the Leopold does not shield Austria from liability under these principles.

As you know, we have been very patient based on our respect for the IKG (Jewish Community in Vienna) and their view that Minister Schmied would act with fairness and diligence if permitted the opportunity.

If you need a limited amount of additional time to make a decision, please let me know how much time you need.  If the amount of time is reasonable, we will of course forbear action to permit you to act.

Respectfully yours,

Raymond J. Dowd

On the Eve of Criminal Trial in U.S., Rudolph Leopold, Collector of Artworks Stolen from Jews, Dies in Vienna

Egon Schiele’s Dead City

Art collector Rudolph Leopold died today in Vienna, Austria.
In 1998, D.A. Robert Morgenthau seized two stolen artworks at the Museum of Modern Art that Leopold had loaned to the MoMA:  Egon Schiele’s Dead City and Schiele’s Portrait of Wally.
Leopold was scheduled to stand criminal trial this summer before the Hon. Loretta A. Preska in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after Judge Preska determined that Portrait of Wally was stolen.
But MoMA returned the stolen Dead City to the Leopold Museum in Austria.  The Austrian Provenance Commission’s head Dr. Christoph Bazil, has repeatedly promised to investigate Dead City‘s provenance and those of other Schiele’s stolen from Fritz Grunbaum that are in the Leopold and Albertina Museums in Vienna, but after 11 years, no report has issued.

Austria purchased Leopold’s collection and made Leopold director of the Leopold Museum for life.  It remains to be seen whether Austria will carry through on its promises to investigate and return the stolen works in Leopold’s collection.

Article 26 of the 1955 Austrian State Treaty requires Austria to return all property stolen from Nazi persecutees.  Yet Austria has not only failed to return the property, but repeatedly set up enabling legislation designed to frustrate claims and then let the legislation lapse.

Listen to the Speech by Raymond Downd at Yad Vashem

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.

Listen to the speech

Lecture at Yad Vashem by Raymond Dowd, 24.2.10

You can view the Powerpoint presentation that illustrates the audio here