CDU minister: Put Jewish member on looted art panel

The Limbach commission is an important initiative for many Germans and Jews whose property was stolen by the Nazis.

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May 30, 2016 00:47
1 minute read.
Amedeo Modigliani, Seated Man with a Cane (1918).

Amedeo Modigliani, Seated Man with a Cane (1918).. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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BERLIN – Monika Grütters, Germany’s minister of culture, reversed her opposition to including a Jewish member on a commission set up to return cultural property stolen by the Nazis.

Speaking Sunday to The Jerusalem Post from New York City, Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal confirmed the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician’s decision. He said “she is strongly considering including a Jewish member. She is personally for it. The final decision has to be an agreement with the 16 German states for the Limbach commission.”

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Teichtal, a rabbi in the Berlin Jewish community, met with Grütters on Tuesday and is on his way back to Berlin.

The commission to assess the restitution of stolen property during the Holocaust is named after Jutta Limbach, the former head of the German Federal Constitutional Court. According to a March New York Times report, Grütters justified the exclusion of Jews from the panel, saying: “We did not do this, and for good reason,” because a Jewish committee member “would be the only voice who would be prejudiced.”

Teichtal told the Post that he asked her about the Times interview. He said that Grütters claimed it was a “misunderstanding” and the she did not wish to express “such a meaning.”

He also said: “I do not know what happened during the interview. She never had that intention to be biased.”

He added: “the way she described it in the New York Times did not express how she felt. She was never against it from the beginning.”

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The Limbach commission is an important initiative for many Germans and Jews whose property was stolen by the Nazis. In 2012, German customs inspectors discovered more than 1,400 artworks in the home of Cornelius Gurlitt in Munich. His collection is estimated to be valued at over $1 billion.

Since Gurlitt died in 2014, the fate of the art has not been decided. The legal process appears to have ground to a halt.

World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder voiced intense criticism of the Limbach commission earlier this year for having “no teeth” to conclude the restitution process.

He described the Limbach investigatory process as “meager and not satisfactory.” He has since called for a Jewish community representative to serve on the commission.

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