Heirs of Jewish art dealers sue Germany in US, demanding restitution of medieval art treasure
The heirs of Nazi-era Jewish art dealers say they have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. suing Germany and a German museum for the return of a medieval treasure trove worth an estimated $226 million.
The suit, which attorneys said was filed late Monday in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., is the latest salvo in a long-running campaign by the heirs for return of the so-called Welfenschatz, or Guelph Treasure — which they claim their ancestors sold under Nazi pressure.
Originally collected over centuries by the Braunschweig Cathedral, the Welfenschatz includes some of the outstanding goldsmith works of the Middle Ages, among them ornate containers in the form of cathedrals used to store Christian relics. Many of the silver and gold pieces are decorated with jewels and pearls. Some are more than 800 years old.
Attorney Nicholas O’Donnell told The Associated Press in an interview in Berlin that the suit asks the Washington court to declare an American and a British descendant of a consortium that owned the collection in 1935 — when it was sold to the German state of Prussia — the rightful owners today.
“Any transaction in 1935, where the sellers on the one side were Jews and the buyer on the other side was the Nazi state itself is by definition a void transaction,” O’Donnell said.
The organization that oversees Berlin’s museums, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, says that the collectors were not forced to sell the pieces, arguing among other things that the collection was not even in Germany at the time of its sale.
Last year, a German government commission created to help resolve restitution claims evaluated both arguments and recommended that the collection stay in Germany. The commission wrote that after thoroughly investigating the sale process, it came to the conclusion that it was not a “forced sale due to persecution.”
I love these stories for some reason. For as long as I have been alive we have have lived in the shadow of you know who and his minions. No matter the topic, eventually it will devolve into some comparison to you know who. Godwin’s Law is an example of just how thoroughly we have been marinated in Nazi lore. What gets forgotten, of course, is that in the early days of the Internet, most people on line were open minded sorts who enjoyed arguing about everything and anything. Then the addle-minded liberals showed up and started calling everyone Nazis.
The typical commenter at Taki is convinced we have a you know who fetish because the secret, international Jewish conspiracy controlling America. These are the types who load up the Kathy Shaidle columns with comments about “the Joos.” I think it is accurate to say American Jews punch way above their weight as an ethnic group, but I’m pretty confident there’s no Hebrew Dr. Evil holed up in a mountain lair controlling the world.
My sense is you know who and the Nazis cast such a long shadow because they are the alter ego of the American Left. The European fascists borrowed a lot from American Progressives. So much so Hollywood was planning a Mussolini movie back in the bad old days. More than a few Progressives admired the fascists before World War II and some even admired you know who. Joe Kennedy was such a you know who fan, FDR had to recall him from his post as Ambassador to the Court of St. James.
The thing is, we are just about out of Nazis. The war ended 70 years ago. Even if you assume teenage boys were able to lie their way into service, the youngest Nazi soldier alive today is 85. This old article says there may be fewer than 1,000 camp guards alive. At this point, all of them are over 90 and that means the number could be in the hundreds now. Within the next decade, the final Nazi veterans will die and then what? We no longer fret over the Kaiser or King George. They’re long gone. At some point the books have to be closed on you know who and the Nazis.
Closing of the books on the Nazis seems long overdue when it comes to the claims in that Yahoo story. I think survivors had every right to try to get their property back after the war. If someone had their money, art or land stolen, then after the war they should have a chance to get it back. Land would be easiest. Money would be tougher, but there were plenty of records to track much of it. Other possessions might be tougher still and there should be a time limit. Once the claimant dies then that would be it. Letting great grandchildren of Jews killed by the Nazis make these claims seems like a stretch to me.
There’s also the little fact that just about every bit of the collection in question was stolen at one point from someone. That’s just the way it works. Everything from the Bronze Age in museums was stolen, for instance. If an Egyptian came forward with proof he was a descendent of Ramses II, we’re not giving him he contents of our museums. These people suing for their ancestors stuff seem like grifters playing the Hitler card. You can’t put your grievances in your will.