Germany sued by Jewish claimants in US over Nazi-acquired treasures

Two claimants seek Guelph Treasure in restitution claim, currently possessed by partly government-owned German museum.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
February 24, 2015 13:06
1 minute read.
Nazi art

Piece in German collection previously owned by Jewish art dealers. (photo credit: PRUSSIAN CULTURAL HERITAGE FOUNDATION)

Jewish claimants sued Germany in US courts over medieval relics worth millions of dollars acquired by the Nazi's, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ reported  that a suit was filed Monday by two Jewish claimants against the German government and a museum in control of the "Guelph Treasure," a collection of 42 medieval works purchased in 1935 by the government and gifted to Adolf Hitler. 

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According to the claim, the artifacts were sold by the claimants' ancestors under coercion to the then-Prussian government for 4.25 million Reich marks ($1.7 million) - a sum significantly lower than the 6 million Reich marks paid in 1929 by a consortium of Jewish dealers for the treasure.

In defense, the museum has claimed that the 1935 sale was consensual and issued at fair market price for an era burdened with an economic crisis.

This suit, the Wall Street Journal reports, is the latest in a series of artwork restitution suits that have plagued the German government since its early 2014 pledge to make the reparation process more transparent and efficient.

The Limbach commission is the designated German state body responsible for reviewing artwork restitution requests.

Despite the fact that German legislation considers all art sales between the years of 1933 to 1945 as invalid concessions made under duress, the commission has made an exception for the Guelph treasure, which it says was acquired by the Prussian government for fair market value.



Representatives of the Jewish claimants said the Limbach commission lacks resources and is representative of the slow manner in which art restitution claims are handled by the German government, according to the WSJ.

Lawyers question the presence of bias on the German government's behalf in the case of the Guelph Treasure, since it is currently owned by a partly state-controlled museum.

The WSJ reports that US courts are seen as more friendly than their German counterparts in art restitution rulings.


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