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.
Raymond J. Dowd