Art Law Report

What to Make of Nazi “Gold Train” Supposedly Buried in Poland

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 1, 2015 at 1:45 PM

I mostly ignored the initial twitterings about a supposedly secret train laden with gold and other Nazi-looted treasures that was buried somewhere near Wrocław, formerly Breslau, in Poland. My reasons were straightforward: just like supposed sightings of the Gardner Museum heist art, or the Amber Room, the story had all the hallmarks of a fable being peddled by someone who, perhaps not coincidentally, was suggesting that they be paid something for their trouble. Whether this is the next Gurlitt saga or just Al Capone’s vault, it’s too early to tell.

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Topics: the Holy Roman Empire, Al Capone’s vault, Soviet, Gauleiter Karl Hanke, Königsberg, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Wrocław, Prussia, Max Liebermann, East Prussia, Red Army, Nazi Gold Train, Amber Room, Bernsteinzimmer, the Hanseatic League, Walbrzych, Restitution, Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski, World War II, Markus Stötzel, Poland, the Duchy of Silesia, Bohemia, Riders on the Beach, David Friedmann, the Kingdom of Poland, Gardner Museum heist, the German Empire

First Painting Restituted from Gurlitt Trove to be Sold; Appellate Court in Munich Breathes New Life Into Will Contest

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 25, 2015 at 2:40 AM

After the restitution of the first two works of Nazi-looted art from the trove of works found in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, David Toren has announced his intention to auction his work, Two Riders on the Beach by Max Liebermann. Toren, now more than 90 years old, remembers the theft of the painting from his uncle David Friedmann in Breslau (now Wrocław). Toren is the only claimant to date to have filed litigation over the Gurlitt case. Sotheby’s will auction the work on June 24. Toren explained his motivation for the sale as follows:

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Topics: Petra Willner, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Wrocław, Zwei Reiter am Strand, Uta Werner, Max Liebermann, Gurlitt Collection, Two Riders on the Beach, Verena Osgyan, Oberlandesgericht, Gurlitt, Restitution, David Toren, World War II, Mittelbayerische Zeitung, Kunstmuseum Bern, Museums, Berner Zeitung, David Friedmann

Gurlitt Bequest to Kunstmuseum Bern is Upheld, Little Else Resolved

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 30, 2015 at 10:05 AM

A Munich court ruled last week that the will written by Cornelius Gurlitt in the last days of his life that named the Kunstmuseum Bern (an institution with which he had no relationship whatsoever) was valid, rejecting a challenge by Gurlitt’s cousin Uta Werner. It is emblematic of the strange case of Gurlitt and of German’s bizarre handling of the affair, that this decision resolves very few of the pending issues.

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Topics: Conny Leaks, Focus, Carl Spitzweg, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Potemkin Village, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Henri Hinrichsen, German Minister of Culture, Uta Werner, Gurlitt Task Force, Max Liebermann, Germany, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Seated Woman, Two Riders on the Beach, Entartete Kunst, Salzburg, Gurlitt, NS Raubkunst, Seuddeutsche Zeitung, Restitution, Catrin Lorch, Bavaria, David Toren, World War II, degenerate art, beschlagnahmte Kunst, Austria, Kunstmuseum Bern, Monika Grütters, Martha Hinrichsen, David Friedmann, Henri Matisse, Jörg Häntzschel, Paul Rosenberg

Kunstmuseum Bern Blames Gurlitt Restitution Delay on Will Contest, Claimants Are Having None of it

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 18, 2015 at 8:04 AM

We recently discussed how the will contest concerning the will in which Cornelius Gurlitt left his estate to the Kunstmuseum Bern was complicating efforts to restitute any Nazi-looted works within the collection. Since the will contest, in and it itself, certainly seemed plausible, the resulting effect it could have on returning questionable works was not hard to see.

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Topics: Uta Werner, Max Liebermann, Gurlitt Collection, Seated Woman, Two Riders on the Beach, Matisse, Carl Spitweg, Gurlitt, Breslau David Toren, Art Recovery International, Kunstmuseum Bern, Henri Henrichsen, Christopher Marinello, David Friedmann, ArtNet, Paul Rosenberg

Toren Amends Complaint Against Bavaria Over Liebermann Seized from Gurlitt, Spotlights Task Force Recommendation of Restitution in Support of Bailment Theory

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 27, 2014 at 6:31 AM

Two weeks ago, the Federal Republic of Germany and Bavaria moved to dismiss the restitution claims brought by David Toren over ownership of Two Riders on the Beach (Zwei Ritter am Strand) by the German painter Max Liebermann. Toren’s uncle David Friedmann owned the painting in Breslau before he was targeted for his collection and it was stolen. Toren had not seen it since adolescence. The painting is further notable for two (related) reasons: it is among the 1,280 works of art found in Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment in 2012, and it is one of only two that the Gurlitt Task Force has recommended be restituted (to Toren). As we noted at the time of the motion, Germany’s tactics seemed odd; Bavaria has committed to complying with the Task Force’s recommendations, and contesting this case seems to make little sense. The likeliest reason, in our view, is to try to make some jurisdictional law that will weaken other potential claimants to the Gurlitt trove.

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Max Liebermann, Germany, Silesia, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, bailment, Entartete Kunst, FSIA, Restitution, Bavaria, David Toren, Zwei Ritter am Strand, Free State of Bavaria, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), Looted Art, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Freistaat Bayern, Kunstmuseum Bern, Riders on the Beach, Federal Republic of Germany, Raubkunst, David Friedmann, Münchner Kunstfund

Bavaria and Germany Move to Dismiss Gurlitt Litigation, But Raise Questions About Why They Are Resisting a Lawsuit Over Painting that Task Force Recommended They Restitute to David Toren

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 10, 2014 at 11:04 AM

To date, only one lawsuit has been filed in the United States related to the seizure from Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment of some 1,280 works of art, a story that broke a year ago with the concern about the objects’ Nazi-looting connections via his father Hildebrand Gurlitt (the view here last winter was that the longer Germany failed to address the situation comprehensively, the more likely such U.S. litigation became). That lawsuit, brought by David Toren, seeks the return of Two Riders on the Beach (Zwei Ritter am Strand), by Max Liebermann. Germany and Bavaria moved to dismiss the case yesterday, which is particularly puzzling given that among the very few determinations made by the Gurlitt Task Force (in August), it is that the Liebermann should be returned. The cynical view is that they are looking to forestall future claims, but it is past time for the painting to be returned.

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Max Liebermann, Germany, Silesia, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, bailment, Entartete Kunst, FSIA, Restitution, Bavaria, David Toren, Zwei Ritter am Meer, Free State of Bavaria, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), Looted Art, World War II, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Freistaat Bayern, Kunstmuseum Bern, Riders on the Beach, Federal Republic of Germany, Raubkunst, David Friedmann, Münchner Kunstfund

Gurlitt Task Force Issues Second Public Recommendation, Urges Restitution of Liebermann painting to David Toren—Lawsuit Not Over Yet

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 15, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Eileen Kinsella at ArtNet news reported today that the Gurlitt Taskforce has recommended the restitution of the Max Liebermann painting Riders on the Beach (Reiter am Strand) to David Toren, a New York man who left Germany at age 14 in 1939. His great uncle David Friedmann lived in Breslau, the capital of Silesia (now part of Poland, known as Wrocław). The Nazis catalogued and seized Friedmann’s art collection in 1939-40, and the Liebermann painting appears on those records. It was later found among those 1,280 objects seized from Gurlitt a little over two years ago when he aroused suspicion returning from Switzerland with a large amount of cash.

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Topics: Breslau, Eileen Kinsella, Wrocław, Gurlitt Task Force, Max Liebermann, Silesia, Nazi-looted art, Gurlitt Collection, Entartete Kunst, Reiter am Strand, August Matteis, Restitution, David Toren, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), World War II, Switzerland, degenerate art, Poland, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Kunstmuseum Bern, www.lostart.de, Berner Zeitung, Riders on the Beach, David Friedmann, ArtNet news

New York Man Sues Germany For Liebermann Found With Gurlitt, but Allegations Face Real FSIA and Pleading Challenges

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 6, 2014 at 1:53 AM

When I spoke in Heidelberg in January at the Institute for Jewish Studies conference “Appropriated Art—the Gurlitt Case,” one of the points I stressed in discussing U.S. restitution litigation was that the longer the Gurlitt case went unresolved (and do not be distracted by the “Voice of Russia” article that is being circulated as “Holocaust victims’ heirs to reclaim Nazi-looted artwork if Gurlitt bill passsed”­—it is not remotely a simple or likely as that), the more certain it would be that litigation would follow in the U.S. Gurlitt himself and his legal team have done their part recently to make any meaningful agreement impossible, and in the absence of unilateral action by Germany (which would probably be illegal), it has now come to pass. The first civil claim related to paintings seized from Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment has now been filed by David Toren in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Free State of Bavaria and the Federal Republic of Germany.

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Topics: Focus, Schwabinger Kunstfund, Voice of Russia, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Breslau, Hungary, de Csepel, Max Liebermann, Germany, Silesia, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Appropriated Art the Gurlitt Case, Hans Sachs, Baron Herzog, bailment, Madame Soler, Entartete Kunst, FSIA, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, conversion, Bavaria, David Toren, Zwei Ritter am Meer, Free State of Bavaria, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), Looted Art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Pinakothek der Moderne, Hochschule für Jüdische Studien, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Freistaat Bayern, Ersessene Kunst¬—der Fall Gurlitt, Picasso, Riders on the Beach, Federal Republic of Germany, Raubkunst, David Friedmann, Institute for Jewish Studies, Münchner Kunstfund, Heidelberg

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