Cousin Had Challenged His Capacity to Make a Will Shortly Before 2014 Death
After a two-year legal battle, the Oberlandesgericht in Munich has upheld the dismissal of Uta Werner’s challenge to the will made by Cornelius Gurlitt in 2014 that designated the Kunstmuseum Bern as his heir, including the bequest of his controversial painting collection. Less than six months after it was revealed in November 2013 that the Bavarian authorities had seized 1,280 objects from his Schwabing home in Munich, Gurlitt wrote a will that designated that his entire collection would go to the Swiss museum. Barring some extraordinary appeal, the bequest will now be final and the collection will go to Switzerland. While lifting considerable uncertainty about the fate of the collection as a whole, this development does not address the lack of clarity about the process by which the objects that are suspected of having been looted by the Nazis will be examined or returned.
Nazi-looted art in Munich,
Free State of Bavaria,
Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB)
Paintings by Beckmann, Gris and Klee Valued at Nearly $20 Million That Once Belonged to Flechtheim Are at Issue in New York Lawsuit
Sullivan & Worcester LLP has filed suit against Bavaria and its state museums in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on behalf of our clients Dr. Michael Hulton and Mrs. Penny Hulton, heirs to the renowned and persecuted Jewish art dealer Alfred Flechtheim. The Hultons have asked the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to restitute several paintings by Max Beckmann, Paul Klee, and Juan Gris that are now in the possession of the German federal state of Bavaria, Adolf Hitler’s and the Nazi party’s homeland, and its Bavarian State Paintings Collections (known in German as the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, or BSGS). We are aided in this case by our co-counsel Markus Stoetzel and Mel Urbach, Esq.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,
Deutschlandradio. Deutsche Presse Agentur,
Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act,
Sullivan & Worcester LLP,
World War II,
Dr. Michael Hulton,
Three New Members Are Added but German Museums Can Still Decline to Participate
After nearly a year of hinting at changes the Advisory Commission in Germany that makes recommendations to state museums on claims for allegedly Nazi-looted works in their collections (“Beratende Kommission im Zusammenhang mit der Rückgabe NS-verfolgungsbedingt entzogener Kulturgüter, insbesondere aus jüdischem Besitz,” or “Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property”), the federal government announced last week the addition of three new members. Yet despite public outcry over the outdated and opaque procedures of the commission (better known as the Limbach Commission, in reference to the late Jutta Limbach, presiding member and former judge of the Constitutional Court), none of the fundamental flaws in the panel have been confronted or addressed. Instead, the occasion has served as little more than another photo opportunity for federal Minister of Culture Monika Grütters, whose visage dutifully accompanies all the recent announcements.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,
Bavarian State Paintings Collection,
World War II,
Simon Dubnow Institute,
American Academy in Berlin,
Jewish Claims Conference
Word came this week of two resolutions of claims to Nazi-looted art in museums in New York and Cologne, and a new Nazi-looted claim against Germany filed in Washington. Barely a month after the Neue Galerie (of Austrian and German art) in New York announced that it had discovered a “major work” in its collection had a clouded history, the museum announced an agreement concerning the Karl Schmitt-Rotloff painting Nude (1914). It is not known if the Schmitt-Rotloff is the same work to which the museum referred last month. Around the same time, the Wallraff-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, Germany, announced that it had agreed to return a drawing by Adolf Menzel that had been sold to Hildebrand Gurlitt as its owners fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Blick über die Dächer von Schandau (View over the rooves of Schandau) (1886) will be retuned to the heirs of Hamburg attorney Albert Martin Wolffson and his daughter Elsa Helene Cohen. These settlements are examples of constructive dialogue and enlightened treatment of the historical fact. The new litigation likely means the opposite approach from the German defendants.
Gurlitt Task Force,
28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3),
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner,
Alfred and Tekla Hess,
Streen Scene in Berlin,
Supposed Changes to German Advisory Commission on Nazi Looted Art Short on Specifics
There have been a number of articles this week indicating that Germany intends to reform the “Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property” (Beratende Kommission im Zusammenhang mit der Rückgabe NS-verfolgungsbedingt entzogener Kulturgüter, insbesondere aus jüdischem Besitz) that is charged with making recommendations to German museums on claims for art allegedly looted or bought under duress during the Nazi era. Yet the most astonishing part of the news is that it is no news at all. It is merely a repetition—if that—of what was promised in March. Only now it is not even a promise, it is an indication that proposals may be forthcoming at some indefinite point in the future. It is further evidence that the entire endeavor does not deserve to be taken seriously. At best, the “reforms” would address some of the appalling discriminatory comments made earlier this year. But nothing proposed so far would compel a museum to submit to the commission, about which Bavaria in particular—the federal state that isin the midst of its own scandal for returning art to actual Nazis while giving heirs the runaround—notoriously refuses even to appear before the commission
World War II,
Works returned by Monuments Men to Bavaria for restitution to victims instead sold to Nazis’ families
Journalists Catrin Lorch Jörg Häntzschel published this weekend an explosive revelation in Sueddeutsche Zeitung entitled “the Munich Looted Art Bazaar,” reporting on the work of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe (CLAE): the government of Bavaria sold artworks returned to it after World War II by the famed Monuments Men that were supposed to be restituted to the victims of Nazi looting. Not only was the art given back to the German state on the explicit condition that it be restituted to the victims of Nazi art plunder, in some cases it was literally returned to the families of Nazi officials, such as Emmy Goering (Hermann’s daughter) and Henriette von Schirach rather than to the victims themselves. Less than a month after the Federal Republic of Germany’s toxic and revisionist reply brief in the Welfenschatz case (which argued, among other things, that individual claimants cannot sue because the U.S. policy was this national level restitution), the ramifications are far reaching for Germany’s self-professed adherence to the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi Looted Art of 1998. While the specific artwork in question may be less significant than most of the works found in Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment four years ago, the revelation is in many ways much, much worse. The CLAE scholarship that lead to this schocking development cannot be praised enough.
World War II
Germany has apparently decided to postpone its ill-conceived plans to exhibit the hundreds of works of art that it still holds from the trove seized from the late Cornelius Gurlitt. This decision was announced as a date was set to hear the latest stage of the challenge brought by Gurlitt’s cousin Uta Werner to the will that Gurlitt wrote in the last weeks of his life, leaving the entire collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern. As the Gurlitt fiasco trudges through its fourth year, this move is emblematic of the too little too late approach that has characterized the entire affair.
World War II,
On the heels of the most recent restitution recommendation, there is more Gurlitt news. In October we discussed news that a Munich court had requested an expert opinion from a psychologist about whether Cornelius Gurlitt was competent to make the 2014 will that named the Kunstmuseum Bern as his sole heir—in particular to the roughly 1,400 works of art in his possession in Munich and Salzburg under suspicion of Nazi looting connections—to the exclusion of his relatives. Procedurally, the court is considering the appeal by Gurlitt's relatives of the denial by a lower court of their will contest.
I am looking forward to participating next month in a symposium entitled :"Ethics and Cultural Patrimony: Viewpoints" at L'Ecole du Louvre in Paris on October 20-21, 2015. The event is organized by L’Institut Droit Ethique Patrimoine (Institute of Law, Ethics and Heritage), in partnership with l’Institut d’Etudes de droit public (Institute of Public Law Studies) and l’Ecole du Louvre, and take place at the Ecole du Louvre, Palais du Louvre, porte Jaujard, place du Carrousel, 75001 Paris. The conference website (with registration) can be found here, and the brochure can be opened here.
Bordeaux University Montaigne,
Denis Michel Boëll,
Ecole du Louvre,
National Consultative Ethics Committee,
Geraldine Goffaux Callebau,
Musée de la Marine,
Council of Voluntary Sales,
University of Toulouse Capitole,
National Heritage Institute,
Michel Van Praët,
University of Shahid Beheshti,
University of Poitiers,
University Western Bretagne,
Pinacoteca di Brera,
French National Commission for UNESCO,
Céline Castets- Fox,
Sullivan & Worcester LLP,
University Institute of France,
University of Kent,
Museum for Byzantine Sculpture Collections and Art,
National Library of France,
Center for Research and Restoration of Museums of,
University of Montreal,
State Museums in Berlin,
Nicholas M. O'Donnell,
International Society For Law Research of Cultural,
Université Paris Sud,
EY Société d’avocats,