Art Law Report

Vienna Natural History Museum Restitutes Botanical Drawings to Nazi Victims' Heirs, Acknowledges the Too-Often-Ignored Reality of Persecution and Coerced Sales

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on October 6, 2014 at 10:35 AM

Vienna’s Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum) has restituted 177 botanical drawings and prints to the heirs of Dr. Ernst Moritz Kronfeld. The restitution, while somewhat delayed following a 2011 recommendation by Austria’s Advisory Council under the country’s Law for the Restitution of Artworks from the Austrian National Museums (Bundesgesetz über die Rückgabe von Kunstgegenstände aus den Österreichischen Bundesmuseen), highlights the increasing sophistication of that Advisory Council, particularly compared to recent steps backward by the Limbach Commission in Germany. Austria, once a lightening rod for criticism about confronting wartime and Nazi provenance issues, returned these drawings because of the clear problems with trying to portray any 1941 conveyance by a Viennese Jew as an arms’ length transaction—even without direct evidence of coercion. Just as importantly, it brushed away the defense that the drawings had been acquired in good faith as an excuse to continued possession, a dramatic change from the perspective usually taken by civil law countries.

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Topics: Theresienstadt, Lvov, Nationalbibliothek, Galicia, Law for the Restitution of Artworks from the Austr, Germany, Nuremberg, Nazi Victims, Treblinka, Dr. Rudolf Engel, Naturhistorisches Museum, Henry David Thoreau, Hermann Goring, Hitler Youth, Mario Lanzer, Gauleiter, Dr. Ernst Moritz Kronfeld, National Library, Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, Bundesgesetz über die Rückgabe von Kunstgegenständ, Restitution, Clara Levy, Hapsburg, Luxembourg, Vienna Natural History Museum, Ryk van der Schot, Empress Maria Theresia, World War II, The Three Graces, Franz Stefan von Lothringen, Lemberg, Ukraine, Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquinn, Rosalia Kronfeld, Austro-Hungarian empire, Drei Grazien, Lovis Corinth, Museums, Israeli Cultural Society, Austria’s Advisory Council, Gustav Klimt, Schönbrunn, Vienna, Anschluss, Welfenschatz, Baldur von Schirach, Limbach Commission

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