BOSTON GLOBE ARTICLES ABOUT LOOTED
Date sent: Thu, 5 Jun 1997 8:09:57 -0400
Subject: looted artworks
Atex TO: MAIL HUB:SMTP%"firstname.lastname@example.org";looted artworks
FROM: WROBIN 05-JUN-97,08:09
For: Ton Cremers
Just yesterday, someone told me about your website, and I have signed up. I
am a Boston Globe reporter, and have written extensively about WWII looted
art since March. Of course, I am hoping to find more information, and leads,
from your website.
I would also like to obtain lists of looted artworks from the Dutch
government. If you know where I might get them, please let me know. my e-mail
address is email@example.com
I am also sending along the articles that we have done on this subject.
Thanks for any help you can give me.
DATE: SUNDAY, March 16, 1997 TAG: 9703180195
SECTION: National/Foreign EDITION: Third
PAGE: A1 LENGTH: 297 lines
SOURCE: By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff
MEMO: Maureen Goggin and Kathleen Hennrikus of the Globe Staff contributed to
THE `LOST' MASTERPIECES
IN FRANCE, AN UNEASY LOOK INWARD
PARIS -- For almost 50 years, Francis Warin has searched for the paintings
that Nazi invaders plundered from the collection of his great uncle. He
concluded long ago that the works, by such masters as Picasso, Matisse and
Renoir, had disappeared into a post-war black market controlled by
But to his dismay, Warin learned 18 months ago that one of the paintings,
Picasso's ``Head of a Woman,'' has been hanging for years in a French
museum in Brittany. And another, a celebrated landscape by the Cubist painter
Albert Gleizes, has been on display here at the French National Museum of
What's more, Warin discovered that records in the French museum system
pointed to the fact that the paintings were owned by his great-uncle,
Kann, one of many French Jews whose artworks were systematically looted by
Nazis and France's wartime Vichy government.
This month, crowds are filling the Musee d'Orsay to admire paintings by
French impressionists such as Monet, Cezanne and Sisley. Across the Seine at
the Louvre, visitors pause before works by Courbet and Rubens. But as they
French museum officials are scrambling to determine how many of those works
were stolen from French Jews and then kept by the French museum system after
they were retrieved from Germany in 1945.
Among the works in question are at least 15 sculptures by Rodin, and 16
paintings by Renoir, 11 by Monet, seven by Degas, 15 by Delacroix and 11 by
Courbet. The museum system says it believes most were purchased by Germans
from Jews during the war, but critics say many were sold under duress, and
others were simply stolen by the Nazis.
In a country so passionate about art and its preeminent place in French
culture, the issue has become a national scandal -- and part of a painful
debate about the French government's wartime behavior in stripping Jews of
their rights, homes and possessions before sending about 75,000 men, women
children to die in Nazi concentration camps. All but 2,800 perished there.
Much of Europe is confronting similar issues. Fifty-two years after the
ended, several countries are accounting -- morally and financially -- for
possibly profiting from the Holocaust. The neutral Swiss, charged with
secretly bankrolling the Third Reich and expropriating bank deposits of
Holocaust victims, have offered reparations of almost $5 billion. Sweden,
Portugal and Spain also have launched inquiries into charges they retained
If France's self-examination is only now beginning in earnest, it is no
wonder. Just 20 months ago, President Jacques Chirac became the first French
leader to concede that the Vichy government willfully collaborated with the
Nazi occupation, plundering assets of Jews, including wallets and jewelry of
those deported to Nazi death camps.
Yet Chirac's government seems uncomfortable with the messy details of the
collaboration as they spill over a high wall of government secrecy, forced
into view by journalists and Jewish leaders who have found a stronger voice
since Chirac interred the myth that wartime France should be defined by its
``We are after the truth, and the truth is not always pleasant. But now it
is possible to begin that task, after 50 years in which we were instructed
that every Frenchman was an underground resistance fighter,'' Emanuel
Weintraub, vice president of the Representative Council of Jewish
Organizations in France, said in an interview.
Like most everything in France, the truth is the subject of intense
debate. And what Weintraub called ``this homeless art'' is at the debate's
center, in part because France's cultural elite, including many Jews who were
by no means wealthy, placed a premium on owning paintings prior to the war.
``These paintings are the soul of the people who owned them. And
for the families of people who died in the Nazi camps, the theft of the
paintings by the Nazis further robs the family of its identity,'' said Hector
Feliciano, a journalist whose book, ``The Lost Museum,'' broke new ground on
the fate of the paintings. ``To return one of these paintings is to help
restore the soul of the family.''
Since the late 1940s, the Louvre, the d'Orsay, the National Museum of
Modern Art, and even the president's and prime minister's residences have
homes for 1,955 works of art never returned to their owners after the war. Of
the 1,955 works, about half are paintings. Many of them, including the
best-known, are believed to have been once owned by Jewish collectors and
The works were among tens of thousands of pieces that were sold, sometimes
under duress, or stolen for the personal collections of Adolf Hitler, Hermann
Goering, and for a Third Reich museum system that Hitler transformed,
into the world's finest.
The French repatriated 45,000 works of art to their owners after the war
and auctioned off thousands more of lesser value. Decades ago, officials
abandoned any effort to locate the owners of the 1,955 remaining pieces.
``They were on deposit, they were not our property,'' Francoise Cachin,
director of the Museums of France, explained in an interview. ``We were not
charge of finding where they came from.''
If Cachin sounds defiant, she is not alone. When Feliciano's book,
published 15 months ago, disclosed the museum's odd caretaker status, he and
his book were denounced. That same year, the government's Audit Agency
concluded in a report that remains secret that the museum system ``had abused
the law'' by making no effort to return the works to their owners. Chirac's
government ignored the report.
The missing artworks are but one consequence of Vichy laws and Nazi rules
that stripped France's 330,000 Jews of their property, businesses and right
work. Some of the results of Vichy's eager collaboration have only recently
become public. Among them:
-- The post-war French government kept billions of francs in property and
cash the Vichy government had confiscated from Jews after the German
occupation began in May 1940, according to records compiled by Jewish groups.
The Chirac government has insisted the records remain secret.
-- When Jews were rounded up for deportation, they were told to bring
cash, jewelry, stocks and bonds. Those assets were placed in ``escrow,'' and
Jews were given receipts that many took on the trains that led to the gas
chambers. After the war, the escrow accounts went to the government, which
sold the assets and spent the revenue, according to Serge Klarsfeld, an
attorney known for prosecution of Nazi war criminals.
-- In the trendy Marais district, along the Seine River opposite the Ile
St. Louis, the city of Paris owns a large tract with more than 400 buildings.
Many of the flats are let to politically connected tenants -- including
relatives of Chirac and Paris Mayor Jean Tiberi -- at subsidized rents,
according to ``Private Domain,'' a book by journalist Brigitte Vital-Durand.
The city took the property in 1942, when it gave 20,000 residents -- 90
percent of them Jews -- a day to move.
Despite official collaboration with the Nazis, about 75 percent of
Jews survived the war, many of them hidden, at great risk, by non-Jews. And
recent efforts to make amends, the government several weeks ago appointed a
commission, headed by a resistance leader who was himself interned in a Nazi
concentration camp, to help locate and return property expropriated from
and to comb through 5,500 crates of Vichy documents that have been secret.
After years of delays, France's high court in January ordered that Maurice
Papon, a Vichy official who later became a postwar government minister, be
tried for crimes against humanity for ordering the deportation of 1,690 Jews.
But what concerns many is the difficulty of locating owners of looted
property, including buildings and paintings, in the face of the government's
indifference and its penchant for secrecy: Records needed to prove such
claims, for the most part, remain classified. With the passage of time, and
the dimming of memories, some families may have no idea one of the paintings
``After the war, we had owners in search of their paintings. But now . . .
we have paintings in search of their owners,'' Feliciano said.
Even if relatives of Holocaust victims are aware they have a claim, they
cannot see government archival records until they prove they are the rightful
heirs, according to Francois Louis A'Weng, a geneologist who has tried to
some families. ``It is a Catch-22 situation,'' A'Weng said.
Cachin, director of the museum system and a former curator at the d'Orsay,
said her staff has determined from auction records that most of the 1,955
artworks repatriated from Germany had been sold during the war to Germans,
she noted that the Paris art market was robust during the occupation. She
acknowledged, however, that some Jews, deprived of livelihoods, businesses
homes, sold their paintings to survive.
Even so, she said, the museums have received virtually no claims for
artworks -- she would not say how many exactly -- since their existence was
disclosed by Feliciano 15 months ago. Critics are not surprised.
When an entire family perished at Auschwitz, author Feliciano said, how
could surviving relatives know they might have a claim? French authorities,
added, never sought next of kin or interviewed the families of those who sold
paintings to determine whether the sales were legitimate. In fact, an Allied
Commission ruled in 1943 that any sale of art to Nazis in occupied Europe was
to be considered invalid.
Added A'Weng: ``The museum curators were interested only in displaying
artworks, and not in finding owners.''
An eye for art
When the Germans swept into Paris in May 1940, they had more than
on their minds. Documents discovered in the US National Archives by Feliciano
and other researchers show that Hitler and Goering were determined to loot
art held by Jews, and buy other art, for German museums and for their
collections. By Feliciano's estimate, a third of all the private artwork in
France ultimately was shipped to Germany.
Goering, the German Reichsmarshal, wrote in letters on file in the US
archives that he had hired French detectives to track down the best works
by Jews. And he boasted of perhaps the finest private art collection in the
world, the bulk of it 700 paintings taken for him from France.
Warin, now 66, has a copy of the meticulous records the Nazis kept of
pillaging of his great-uncle's estate, with the initials ``HG'' stamped
the names of many of the works, indicating they had been earmarked for
It was Feliciano who discovered that Kann's Picasso and Gleizes were in
During his research he found French museums had retained possession of
paintings and other artworks. ``Since they had not been returned, I assumed
they were works by second- or third-rate painters,'' he said. ``So I was so
surprised when I discovered that many of them were works by Bouchet, Courbet,
Cezanne, Monet, Manet, Degas, Picasso, Matisse and Sisley.''
Both the Picasso and Gleizes were listed as having been taken on Nazi
records publicly available in the United States and available to the French
government. With that list and the museum's list of ownerless paintings,
Feliciano tracked the Picasso to a French museum in Rennes and the Gleizes to
the Museum of Modern Art here.
The museum could have found the Picasso's owner even without the list.
Stamped on the back was the the dealer who sold it in 1924. His records show
it was sold to Kann.
``The museum system knew they had a Picasso. They considered themselves
lucky that its ownership was not immediately obvious. So they decided to go
further,'' Warin said in an interview. The Picasso's value has been estimated
at $8 to $10 million.
Six months ago, Warin filed a claim for the two paintings. He has yet to
receive them. But Cachin, director of the museum system, said Warin and his
relatives are likely to prevail. ``I am pretty sure they will obtain them,''
Feliciano also discovered the museums kept a major work by the great
modern artist, Fernand Leger, when it returned many works owned by the
collector Leonce Rosenberg after the war. The painting, long a major
attraction at the Museum of Modern Art and estimated to be worth several
million dollars, is also listed on Nazi manifests as looted from Rosenberg,
who died shortly after the war.
Robert Fohr, the museum system's communications director, acknowledged the
museum could have returned the Leger. ``It is a very famous painting, and we
always knew it was part of the Rosenberg family collection,'' Fohr said. But,
he added, ``the family never claimed it.''
Under a hail of criticism, the museums recently began to examine their
records and others at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to determine how many
paintings might be returned.
But definitive answers may be elusive. For example, when Fohr was asked
during a recent interview who owned an 1881 Eugene Boudin painting in the
d'Orsay that was transferred to Germany during the war, he said research was
not complete. Ten minutes later, during the course of the interview, he
received a fax: The work had been sold to a German museum by a Paris gallery
in 1941. Where the gallery obtained it remains a mystery, he said, because
such records are private.
In fact, although Fohr and Cachin emphasized they have published a list of
artworks on the Internet, few contain information about who owned them before
the war or how the Nazis obtained them.
Of the 900 paintings at issue -- part of the group of 1,955 total pieces
Feliciano believes between 200 and 300 are looted works that the museums
ultimately will have to return to the owners or their heirs. Geneologist
A'Weng said it is possible to locate the heirs in 90 percent of the cases.
Feliciano, whose book will be published in the United States in May, noted
that thousands of other artworks from the wartime plundering remain missing.
Nazis didn't care for impressionist works, and considered modern art by
painters like Matisse and Picasso to be degenerate. So using a network of
unscrupulous art dealers, in Switzerland and France, they traded many such
works for the old masters they prized. The dealers, in turn, sold many of
these paintings and smuggled others out of Europe, some into a vibrant
post-war American market.
To Cachin, the museum system finger-pointing is but one manifestation of a
nation starting to come to grips with its wartime complicity. ``It is all
related to French interest in knowing more about this period,'' she said.
``Everyone now admits the truth about this period, and wants to know more.
parents' generation just wanted to forget.''
The museums, reacting to public interest and hoping to generate clues that
might lead to some owners, next month will open special exhibitions of the
paintings and other artworks among the 1,955 -- 600 at the Louvre, 70 at the
d'Orsay and 40 at the Museum of Modern Art.
And what if the museums discover in their midst more paintings looted from
Jews, but cannot locate the heirs?
``Maybe,'' said Cachin, ``we can put up a memorial panel by the painting.
Why not? Of course, until now we had no reason to do that, because we were
sure of anything.''
Across Europe, countries are examining whether they profited from Nazi spoils
SWITZERLAND: Swiss banks have been accused of helping to keep Germany's
economy afloat by laundering $7 billion in Nazi gold, plundering bank
of Holocaust victims and keeping much of the gold when the war ended. For
years, the Swiss have been rebuffed efforts for a full accounting.
Buffeted by demands for reparations from the World Jewish Congress, Swiss
banks pledged to establish a $70 million fund for Holocaust survivors. Last
month, the bankers doubled that and the Swiss government offered to establish
a separate $4.7 billion fund for victims of the Holocaust and other
SWEDEN: Swedish companies sold war materials to the Nazis. The Swedish
government has appointed a commission to investigate the apparent
disappearance after the war of 7.5 tons of Nazi gold in Swedish banks.
PORTUGAL: The government has promised a report by the end of next month
explaining the movement of Nazi gold into Portugal during the war. Records in
the US National Archives contain evidence that 79 truckloads of gold looted
the Nazis were sent to Portugal between January 1942 and May 1944. The
government has denied a report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center that some of
that gold was shipped to Argentina.
SPAIN: Declassified US documents also show that 45 truckloads of Nazi gold
were shipped to Spain.
Artwork on line
The French National Museums have posted on the Internet an incomplete, but
growing list of the 1,955 paintings and other art objects that were removed
Germany during World War II, returned to France after the war, but never
returned to their original owners. Color pictures accompany many of the
To access the site, go to http://www.culture.fr/images/mnr/mnr/pres.htm.
The listings are in French. To review the works, go to the bottom of the
initial page and click on the box labeled Sommaire. Then click on the
Consultation. Then enter the surname of an artist and click on the box
Executer. That will bring up a list of the painter's works. To see one of the
works, and a brief description, click on the title of the painting.
CAPTION: 1. A visitor to the Louvre in Paris admires ``The Raising of the
Cross'' by Rubens. / GLOBE PHOTO / ALASTAIR MILLER
2. For almost 50 years, Francis Warin has searched for paintings taken from
his great uncle. He uses a record kept by the Nazis of what they plundered
from the estate and stamped with the initials of Hermann Goering on specific
paintings. / GLOBE PHOTO / ALASTAIR MILLER
3. Woman in Red and Green, Fernand Leger
MUSEE NATIONAL D'ART MODERNE
4. Head of a Woman, Pablo Picasso
MUSEE DE BEAUX-ARTS
5. Landscape with Ruins and People, Filippo Napoletano
MUSEE DU LOUVRE
6. Carnations and Clematis In a crystal vase, Edouard Manet
DATE: MONDAY, March 17, 1997 TAG: 9703180362
SECTION: National/Foreign EDITION: Third
PAGE: A2 LENGTH: 84 lines
ILLUSTRATION: MAP PHOTO
SOURCE: By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff
ANTI-SEMITISM OF WWII ERA STILL BURDENS
IN MARAIS, AMBIVALENCE RECALLS VICHY REGIME
PARIS -- It took 49 years of prodding by Sarah Yalibez. But last summer,
the city finally erected a monument to her father and brothers in the
courtyard where her father's antiques shop once stood, before French police
painted the word ``Jew'' across his storefront, shut him down, confiscated
Later, French police rounded up the family for shipment to Auschwitz,
her father and three brothers died.
But last month, it took the new monument's neighbors, in the trendy Marais
district, a single day to persuade the city to plant a row of saplings just
high enough to shield the memorial and its bronze plaque from view. Just
across the street from the memorial, newly painted graffiti of a swastika
adorn a doorway.
Determined as ever, Yalibez forced the city to take the trees out, but not
before the ebullient 69-year-old great-grandmother pulled a few up by the
Nowadays, the episode is a metaphor for France's current examination of
wartime past. The country is eager, officially at least, to acknowledge the
virulent anti-Semitism that fueled anti-Jewish actions by the wartime Vichy
government. But it is reluctant to look directly at the details.
While much of the public focus here has been on disclosures that the
Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, and other national museums have kept artworks that
the Nazis stole or bought from Jews during the war, many French Jews are just
as horrified by what the French did to Jews in their ethnic enclave here not
long after the Nazi occupation began in May 1940.
With almost no notice, the pro-Nazi Vichy government targeted a
400-building area in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood for urban renewal.
An estimated 20,000 residents, 90 percent of them Jewish, were given a day's
notice or less to leave. The government paid no indemnities to those evicted,
and the estimated 20 percent of the building owners who were Jews saw their
buildings confiscated by the government, according to a new book, ``Private
Domain,'' by Brigitte Vital-Durand.
Anti-Semitism remains a troubling concern for most Jews and many others in
France. Even as the government moves to address the wrongs of World War II,
France's growing far-right nationalist party, the National Front, has become
more openly anti-Semitic. Earlier this month, the National Front's leader,
Jean-Marie Le Pen, charged that Jews have ``control'' over President Jacques
With France in dire economic straits, Le Pen's nationalistic fervor is
aimed more directly at black and North African immigrants. His party, which
has now won majorities in four French municipal elections, wants to
denaturalize anybody who immigrated to France after 1974.
To Jews, that sounds a lot like what the Vichy regime did to Jews, many of
them new immigrants, who were living in the Marais district. The Vichy passed
a law stripping French citizenship from anyone who arrived in France after
``Le Pen's rhetoric sounds a lot like what we heard between the two world
wars -- this myth of the Jews controlling the world,'' said Jacques Fredj,
director of the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation. ``Of course,
North Africans and the blacks are the targets of the National Front. But we
are next in line.''
Yalibez, who was 14 when her father's shop was shuttered and 16 when the
family was rousted out on a Sunday morning in 1944 to be deported to
Auschwitz, said both actions were taken by French police. ``There was not a
single German soldier involved,'' she said last week as she sat at the site
the memorial, where new grass has replaced the saplings.
The evicted Marais residents, poorer than many of their Jewish brethren,
were deported in much higher numbers, according to Vital-Durand, a journalist
and author. They had few possessions, and none of the artwork that the Nazis
stole from cultured middle class and wealthy Jews.
Yalibez's father and three brothers died at Auschwitz -- two of them,
15-year-old twins, during experiments by Nazi doctors. And Yalibez still has
the dim outline on her left forearm of her tattooed Auschwitz identification
number -- A5657.
Today, she said she seeks no reparations from the French government.
is all I want,'' she said, gesturing at the memorial. ``I just want for the
memory of my family and all the families that were deported from here to be
WROBIN;03/10 CAWLEY;03/17,05:29 PARIS17
CAPTION: 1. Sarah Yalibez stands by the monument erected in Paris in memory
her father and brothers, who were rounded up by French police for shipment to
Auschwitz. / GLOBE PHOTO/ALASTAIR MILLER
2. GLOBE STAFF MAP
DATE: TUESDAY, April 1, 1997 TAG: 9704020129
SECTION: National/Foreign EDITION: Third
PAGE: A1 LENGTH: 252 lines
SOURCE: By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff
A DISPUTE IN MINIATURES
SHERBORN MAN SEEKS TO KEEP ART GERMANY WANTS BACK
Thomas P. Chatalbash thought little of the fateful purchase he made in the
mid-1970s: seven reproductions of 16th-century miniature paintings that he
bought for a total of about $200. He thought them so inconsequential, he
that for some time he kept four of the seven in a drawer.
But his nonchalant view of the paintings, and his life too, changed
dramatically one day in 1989, when Alan Shestack, then the director of the
Boston Museum of Fine Arts, walked into Chatalbash's antique oriental rug
store in Brookline.
Shestack was looking to buy a rug. But amid the woven masterpieces, what
drew Shestack's attention were the framed paintings on a back wall. As both
men recall it, Shestack said it was likely they were valuable originals, and
he offered to have the MFA's staff authenticate the works.
The seven paintings, the experts discovered, were valuable miniatures
the early 1500s, four of them by Simon Bening, the most famous Flemish master
of miniaturist painting. And the works had vanished from the collection of a
German state library at the end of World War II. Their conclusion: It was
likely that they had been stolen at war's end, and now that Chatalbash had
them, he should return them.
But Chatalbash decided to keep the paintings, and their existence remained
a closely held secret for almost seven years. It was not until January 1996,
when one of the experts threatened to go to authorities, that Chatalbash's
lawyers notified the German government that he has the paintings -- and said
he is legally entitled to keep them.
Nowadays, some art historians would pay that same $200 just to see the
paintings, which have been in safe deposit boxes since April 1989. And for
good reason: Eberhard Konig, the leading German expert in Bening's work, said
last week that the four Benings are very important for their rare quality,
excellent condition, and for the influence the works had on German
Bening miniatures of similar quality have fetched $80,000 apiece at public
auctions in recent years. And art specialists familiar with the seven
miniatures variously estimate that altogether they are worth between
and $1 million.
The German state library at Kassel University, and the American lawyers
whom it has retained to sue Chatalbash, say the seven works were probably
stolen by US soldiers in 1945. Chatalbash's lawyers, however, say the theft
cannot be proved, although they concede that after six years of legal
exploration they have no evidence that the paintings left the library's
A Boston Globe review of documents in the case, along with extensive
interviews, suggests that what has happened in the past eight years is as
fascinating as the path the works took from Bening's studio in Bruges in 1521
to Chatalbash's Beacon Street shop 4 1/2 centuries later.
Shestack and two 16th-century-manuscript experts who authenticated the
works in 1989 said in separate interviews that they initially believed that
Chatalbash had decided to follow their recommendation and return the
paintings, but that they eventually realized he had decided to keep them.
One of the experts, Richard A. Linenthal, a director of the London
antiquarian manuscript firm Bernard Quaritch Ltd., wrote more than a dozen
letters to Chatalbash and his attorneys over the years, urging the return of
the works to Kassel University. It was Linenthal's 1996 warning that he would
report Chatalbash to authorities that appears to have forced his lawyers'
And although Shestack involved the MFA staff in authenticating the works,
his concern about potential legal fallout prompted him in 1990 to extricate
the museum from the matter. The MFA made no effort to notify Kassel about the
works, although it is MFA policy to do so in such cases.
Chatalbash's attorneys insisted last week that they intended all along to
notify the German government about the paintings, and they denied that they
ultimately did so because Linenthal threatened to report them to authorities.
What's more, they said, Chatalbash has a sound legal claim to the
paintings, despite the principle that even a good-faith purchaser cannot
obtain legal title to stolen property. For that principle to apply, the
Germans must provide evidence that the paintings were stolen, and that they
made a diligent effort to recover them, according to Henry Herrmann, one of
Chatalbash's lawyers. The Germans, Herrmann said, cannot do either.
But Thomas R. Kline, an expert in art restitution at the Washington law
firm of Andrews & Kurth who represents the German government, disagreed.
said there are records indicating that the paintings were stolen. And
increasingly, Kline said, US courts have ruled that the statute of
does not begin to run until an owner discovers who has the paintings.
Chatalbash, in an interview last week at which two of his three attorneys
were present, said he once considered the paintings to be no more of an
adornment than wallpaper. But once he discovered how valuable they were, he
said, ``I wanted to enjoy them. What a wonderful thing to have.''
A prosperous businessman, nattily attired in a suit and a bow tie, the
67-year-old Sherborn resident said in an interview that he has no doubt that
the paintings were originally the property of the German library. ``But I
thought I might get to keep them because the statute'' of limitations ``had
expired,'' he said. It was at that point, in 1990, that he sought legal
``It's bittersweet, to find you have something so valuable, but not to
what the outcome is going to be,'' he said.
Willi Korte, an associate of Kline's who specializes in tracking stolen
art, acknowledged that Chatalbash has some hope of winning on the narrow
grounds that Kassel might not have mounted an extensive effort to solve the
``But one way or the other, he is in possession of stolen goods, and that
is not something to be proud of, despite his feeling that he was a good-faith
purchaser,'' Korte said. ``He should make a grand gesture, return them, get
little money and a hero's welcome in Germany.''
In 1989, that is the very course Chatalbash was urged to take by Shestack
and Linenthal, who helped authenticate the works.
Linenthal, who carried on a lone six-year crusade urging that the
be returned, finally sent a letter on Jan. 8, 1996, to Robert W. Holmes Jr.,
Chatalbash's principal attorney at Warner & Stackpole, reiterating his views
that the paintings belong to Kassel.
``We are embarrassed to be in the position of knowing that these
survive and not knowing if they have been returned to where, in our view,
clearly belong. . . . You will understand that now, after such long delays,
feel obliged to notify an appropriate authority of the existence of these
miniatures,'' Linenthal warned.
Three weeks later, Chatalbash's lawyers filed notice in US District Court
in Boston that their client has the paintings, and believes he is legally
entitled to keep them. The German government was notified of the action. Two
months ago, Konig examined the paintings, and certified for the German
government that they are the missing Kassel miniatures. That finding set the
stage for the planned lawsuit.
Linenthal, in interviews from London last week, said he was convinced from
the beginning that Chatalbash bought the works in good faith, but also that
had no right to keep them. ``I feel quite badly for Mr. Chatalbash right now.
This cannot be what he wanted to happen,'' Linenthal said.
The looming lawsuit over the Kassel miniatures is the latest in a number
of recent cases, in Europe and the United States, in which some of the
thousands of artworks that disappeared during World War II have resurfaced.
most cases, the pursuers have been seeking art that was plundered by the
Nazis, mostly from Jews, and then funneled through unscrupulous dealers to
museums and private collections around the world.
But there have also been cases in which American GIs stole artworks from
Germany in mid-1945. Some of these have been returned. In the most celebrated
case, medieval artifacts worth about $200 million were returned to Germany in
1992 after two of the heirs to an Army lieutenant who stole them were exposed
after selling some items surreptitiously. The heirs are still awaiting trial
in Texas on charges of receiving stolen property.
In seeking to keep the seven paintings, Chatalbash is up against a lawyer,
Kline, and an art investigator, Korte, who solved the Texas case. Working
together, they have also won several other cases in which collectors have
pushed to return artworks that were either plundered by the Nazis or taken
from Germany at war's end. In the Chatalbash case, they are working with
E. Falby of Hill & Barlow.
There is no dispute that the seven paintings belonged to the University of
Kassel library. And during months of legal bickering between lawyers over
discovery in the case, no one has suggested that Chatalbash was anything but
good-faith purchaser who bought the paintings from an art dealer without
knowing their value.
The seven miniatures -- which measure about 5 by 7 inches each -- are
44 that once were part of the ornate prayer book of a German nobleman, well
known to art historians, called the ``Book of Hours'' of Duke Johann Albrecht
Of the 44 miniatures in the manuscript, 23 are believed to have been done
by Bening, according to Judith Anne Testa, an art historian at Northern
Illinois University who has specialized in the art form and in Bening's work.
Bening, a Flemish painter who worked in Bruges in what is now Belgium, had a
team of artists who did such miniature paintings -- tempera, an egg-yolk-base
paint on parchment -- for the manuscripts and prayer books of royalty
Konig, the Berlin art historian who viewed the paintings in Boston in
February at Kassel's request, said he found it easy to identify them because
the works, especially the four by Bening, played an influential role in
Northern European Renaissance art.
The four, he said, were painted by Bening between 1512 and 1521 for a
nobleman from Nuremberg, and had a profound influence on Germany's own
miniaturists. ``These paintings represent the cornerstone of the influence
that Flemish art had in Germany in the 1500s, and as such are an important
part of the cultural history of the German people,'' said Konig, who is the
author of a book on Bening's work.
The ``Book of Hours,'' Testa said, was donated to the Kassel library in
17th century. In the 19th century, she said, the library's curators took the
``barbaric'' step of removing the miniatures from the tightly bound
so they could be displayed separately.
Like other art historians, Testa said scholars have long known that the
seven paintings vanished at the end of the war, and have assumed that they
According to Korte, the art investigator, Allied bombing forced the Kassel
library to move its collection during the war, and it eventually ended up in
mineshaft for safekeeping. The seven miniatures disappeared, along with other
works, when US soldiers helped evacuate several collections from the
in June and July 1945, he said. The whereabouts of the seven paintings were
unknown to the library until last year.
In 1979, Korte said, a Connecticut man tried to sell a medieval
of Cicero that disappeared from the mineshaft, but an art dealer reported
The German government eventually paid the man a small sum for the work's
return. The man, a US soldier stationed briefly at the mineshaft, admitted he
had taken the manuscript as a souvenir.
Korte and Kline said they have no doubt that the seven miniatures were
stolen in much the same way.
What Chatalbash purchased in 1974, in addition to the four works by
was a fifth work by an unnamed painter who worked for Bening, and two works
German artists Nickolaus Glockendon and Hans Sebold Beham. Despite their
size, the works are finely detailed: Bening's ``Coronation of the Virgin''
a large halo, within which are the heads of hundreds of tiny angels that are
barely visible to the naked eye.
It was that distinctiveness and the prominence of Bening and the two
artists that made the authentication so simple in 1989, according to
and Barbara Butts, an MFA art historian to whom Shestack turned for help in
Shestack, who is identified in the court filing only as a ``renowned
in art,'' played both a seminal and, in the end, puzzling role in the
When a reporter first called Shestack last week at the National Gallery of
Art, where he has been deputy director since leaving the MFA three years ago,
he confirmed that he was the rug buyer who alerted Chatalbash about the value
of the works.
``They were clearly high quality works of the early 16th century,'' said
Shestack, himself an expert in 16th-century art. ``I told him they were
the best facsimiles I had ever seen or they were among the most wonderful
miniature paintings of this era that I had ever seen in private hands.''
Shestack, however, initially denied that he or the MFA had any further
involvement with Chatalbash, or that he knew Linenthal. But after the Globe
learned about Linenthal's letters, Shestack acknowledged that he and museum
staff members were involved. ``Look,'' he said, ``I did what was right at the
time. I urged Chatalbash to get in touch with the German authorities.''
Shestack said he advised Chatalbash that, in his view, the law was clear:
Even if Chatalbash bought the artworks in good faith, he had an obligation to
return them if they were stolen. But, he recalled, Chatalbash ``was clearly
not eager to look for the original source and give the works back.''
Butts, the MFA expert who worked with Linenthal in 1989, suggested a
for Shestack's reticence: fear that the MFA would become legally enmeshed
after the good-faith effort to help Chatalbash arrange the return of the
``We just wanted to help'' Chatalbash ``find a way to return them. When it
seemed he didn't want to do that, Alan told me not to get involved. When it
became complicated, Alan decided that he did not want me or the museum
involved,'' said Butts, who is now curator of prints, drawings, and
photographs at the St. Louis Art Museum.
Dawn Griffin, the MFA's spokeswoman, said yesterday that she was unaware
the circumstances of Shestack's involvement. But she said the museum's policy
is to notify the rightful owner or authorities if museum officials know or
suspect that any work of art is stolen.
Like others, Butts laments the fact that the works have been kept in safe
deposit boxes for almost eight years now. ``As an art historian, I think they
really should be back in the public domain. No one can really enjoy them if
they remain in a bank vault,'' she said.
Shestack, perhaps sensing the looming controversy, sent a ``Dear Tom''
letter to Chatalbash in late 1990 -- 20 months after the paintings were
authenticated and Chatalbash was urged to return them.
``I bet you rue the day I wandered in and told you that you had some very
significant works of art! Sorry for the complications I inadvertently
caused!'' Shestack wrote.
Recent coverage about missing artworks from World War II, and a link to a
French national museum Web site containing hundreds of works of art that were
in Nazi hands during the war, is available on
Globe Online at http://www.boston.com.
The keyword is paintings.
REZEND;03/31 CAWLEY;04/01,06:00 PAINTI01
CAPTION: 1. Thomas P. Chatalbash and a closeup of ``Presentation of the
Christchild in the Temple'' by Bening. / GLOBE STAFF PHOTO (LEFT) /JANET
2. ``The Miracle of St. Anthony of Padua and the Believing Donkey'' was among
seven original miniatures bought for $200 by Thomas P. Chatalbash in
KEYWORDS: ART HISTORY THEFT
FROM LONDON, WITH PERSISTENCE:
For more than six years, london rare manuscript dealer Richard A.
Linenthal consistently reminded Thomas P. Chatalbash and his attorney, Robert
W. Holmes Jr. that he and other experts had concluded in 1989 that the seven
miniature paintings in Chatalbash's possession belonged to the German library
at the University of Kassel and should be returned.
Following are some exchanges from that correspondence, starting with
Linenthal's fourth letter recommending the works be returned:
November 27, 1990, Linenthal to Chatalbash: ``You will note our views:
We hope the miniatures are ultimately restored to Kassel.''
December 13, 1990, Holmes to Linenthal: ``Mr. Chatalbash is resolved to
deal appropriately and honorably in this matter and has asked us to
thoroughly investigate the provenance of these paintings and their legal
status... If, at the conclusion of of our review, we come to the opinion that
these paintings should be returned to Kassel, as you have suggested, then we
would certainly advise our client to avail himself of your good offices... in
order to approach the German government... You should continue to hold this
matter in the strictest confidence at this time.''
August 5, 1991, Linenthal to Holmes: ``May I take this opportunity,
once again, to repeat our recommendation that the miniatures be returned to
October 18, 1991, Holmes to Linenthal: ``I will be in touch with you
again after we have completed our review.''
August 7, 1992, Linenthal to Holmes: ``Is there any news?'' (No
response from Holmes for two years.)
September 12, 1994, Linenthal to Holmes: ``We have heard nothing from
you and are anxious to know the status of these miniatures. Have they been
returned to Kassel? We have not been in touch with the Kassel Library and you
will understand the difficulty of this position regarding things we believe
September 21, 1994, Holmes to Linenthal: ``We have nearly completed a
lengthy and complicated investigation... and will be ready to advise our
client very soon... I note, and appreciate, your assurance that you have
September 23, 1994, Linenthal to Holmes: ``I am pleased to learn your
investigation is nearing an end.'' (No response from Holmes.)
January 8, 1996, Linenthal to Holmes: ``As you know, we assume that
these miniatures were stolen from Kassel during the Second World War, and we
have received various assurances from you that your client was `resolved to
deal appropriately and honorably in this matter.' ... We are embarrassed to
be in the position of knowing that these miniatures survive and not knowing
if they have been returned to where, in our view, they clearly belong... You
will understand that now, after such long delays, we feel obliged to notify
an appropriate authority of the existence of these miniatures.''
Three weeks later, on January 30, 1996, Chatalbash's attorneys filed a
motion in US District Court disclosing the location of the miniatures, and
notified the German government that Chatalbash has a legal right to keep
DATE: SATURDAY, April 19, 1997 TAG: 9704210120
SECTION: Metro EDITION: Third
PAGE: A1 LENGTH: 106 lines
SOURCE: By Walter V. Robinson, GLOBE STAFF
SCHOOL SUES FOR RETURN OF GERMAN ART
SHERBORN MAN TO CONTEST SUIT
A German state university yesterday filed suit in US District Court in
Boston, demanding that a Sherborn man return seven miniature 16th-century
paintings that were allegedly stolen from Germany by American GIs at the end
of World War II.
The lawsuit against Thomas P. Chatalbash further enmeshes him in a legal
and ethical predicament that, he has said, had its benign roots in the
mid-1970s when he bought the miniatures for about $200, thinking they were
But the Globe reported this month that Alan Shestack, the former director
of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and other art experts told Chatalbash in
1989 that the paintings were valuable originals from the library at the
University of Kassel, and that it was likely they had been stolen. They
advised Chatalbash to return the works, but he decided to keep them.
Henry Herrmann, one of Chatalbash's attorneys, said yesterday that
Chatalbash believes the paintings are rightfully his, and intends to contest
The seven works, about 5-by-7 inches each and originally painted as leaves
for a German nobleman's prayerbook, are estimated to be worth at least
The issue has also been an embarrassment for Shestack, who left the MFA in
1994 to become deputy director of the National Gallery of Art. The present
director, Malcolm Rogers, has noted that current museum policy requires MFA
officials to report suspected stolen artworks to authorities.
The court suit comes amid renewed public interest in the fate of thousands
of artworks that were plundered during World War II -- most by the Nazis,
by advancing Soviet armies, but a substantial number by American GIs seeking
trophies or profit.
Indeed, just this week Russian President Boris Yeltsin sought to ease
strains with Germany over the same issue. Yeltsin, during a meeting with
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, returned some important German archival
from the 1920s that were seized in 1945. But at home, Yeltsin faces
consensus that Germany is not entitled to reclaim its artworks, many of which
are now showcased in museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Thomas R. Kline, the Washington attorney whose firm, Andrews & Kurth,
specializes in seeking the return of plundered art and who filed the suit,
said yesterday the Chatalbash case and others like it suggest an end to a
half-century of amnesia about the war's extensive looting, with more and more
claims likely for paintings and other artworks that disappeared.
``I'm sorry to say we had to file this lawsuit because the wartime loss of
these valuable objects is well-documented,'' said Kline, who also represents
families whose artworks were systematically plundered by the Nazis.
The German government was first notified that Chatalbash had the paintings
just 15 months ago, more than five years after Chatalbash hired lawyers to
research the legal status of the seven miniatures. Four of the seven were
painted by Simon Bening, the preeminent miniaturist of the 16th century.
The 1996 notification came just three weeks after Richard A. Linenthal,
of the experts who authenticated the works in 1989, warned that Chatalbash's
inaction left him no choice but to notify authorities. Herrmann, who declined
to comment further yesterday, has denied that Linenthal's warning forced the
Central to Chatalbash's claim is his contention that he purchased the
in good faith from an art dealer about 1974, with no hint of their origin.
years, he said, he even kept some of the miniatures in a drawer.
If the case goes to trial -- most such claims in recent years have been
settled before trial -- the outcome may well turn on how extensively Kassel
can document the loss and how it occurred. Since other valuable works also
vanished from Kassel's collection, Kline will seek to question the art dealer
who sold the works to Chatalbash. So far, Chatalbash's attorneys have
to identify the dealer.
As Chatalbash recently recalled in an interview, the paintings were an
insignificant possession until early 1989, when Shestack walked into
Chatalbash's antique oriental rug store in Brookline. But when he saw the
miniatures on an office wall, Shestack told Chatalbash he believed they were
originals and enlisted MFA staff members to confirm that. Linenthal, a London
dealer in rare manuscripts, was also called in.
While Linenthal persistently asserted over several years that the works
should be returned, Shestack abandoned the issue in 1990, after it became
apparent that Chatalbash would ignore the advice of the experts. When the
Globe first asked Shestack about the issue last month, he denied that the MFA
was involved at all.
Art historians have long assumed that the so-called Kassel miniatures fell
victim to looters at war's end. And Kline and Willi Korte, who is perhaps the
best-known stolen art investigator in the United States, have said the seven
paintings disappeared from a mine shaft where they had been stored for
safekeeping against Allied bombing. The theft, they have said, occurred
shortly after US troops were assigned to guard the site and evacuate the
Linenthal, in a telephone interview from London yesterday, said he was
gratified that a lawsuit has been filed, and expressed hope that Chatalbash
might still relinquish the works.
When he was first called in to examine the paintings in 1989, Linenthal
said, there was little public awareness of the wartime plundering. But since
the end of the Cold War, and with renewed interest in the Holocaust, he said,
all that has changed.
In the United States, there have been several cases in which works of
some looted by US soldiers and others laundered through art dealers, have
``Now, the general public is much more aware of this issue, and seems to
have formed a very strong view -- that these works should be returned to
rightful owners,'' Linenthal said.
CAPTION: ``The Apostle Peter'' (above) and ``The Annunciation to the
Shepherds'' are two of seven miniature 16th-century paintings allegedly
=== BOSTON GLOBE
DATE: FRIDAY, April 25, 1997 TAG: 9704260010
SECTION: National/Foreign EDITION: Third
PAGE: A1 LENGTH: 219 lines
SOURCE: By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff
AN IGNOMINIOUS LEGACY
EVIDENCE GROWS OF PLUNDERED ART IN US
At least in price, there is a vast difference between the portrait by the
15th century Italian master Botticelli that Sotheby's sold at a New York
auction for $650,000 on Jan. 30, and the painting from the ``school of''
Rembrandt that Christie's, its competitor, sold for $29,900 in 1993.
But the paintings share an ignominious legacy: Both were plundered by the
Nazis from European Jews during World War II, according to public records of
wartime looting. For Sotheby's, the Botticelli sale is all the more awkward:
Its wartime owner, Friedrich Gutmann of Holland, was beaten to death by the
Nazis. His wife, Louise, was killed at Auschwitz.
New York's spring auction season opens next week, and the tainted sales
likely to increase long-standing concerns about the ease with which stolen
moves through the unregulated international art market. The two transactions
-- details of which had not previously been made public -- may also reignite
another debate: Whether auction houses, sophisticated collectors and museums
are too preoccupied with an artwork's authenticity to seriously inquire about
Even more troubling to some art specialists interviewed by the Globe, the
two sales add to growing evidence that the vibrant US market contains a
greater number of plundered artworks from World War II than anyone had
To avoid public embarrassment about the Gutmann sale, Sotheby's helped
arrange a confidential, six-figure settlement last month for Gutmann's family
-- paid by the sellers, Italian owners who used dealer intermediaries in both
Italy and New York.
A company spokesman, who confirmed the settlement when the Globe asked
it this week, said Sotheby's had been unaware that the Botticelli was stolen.
Yet Gutmann's heirs have pressed Sotheby's since 1995 for the whereabouts of
another painting stolen from the family during World War II, a Renoir that
Sotheby's sold in 1969. During that process, Sotheby's received
a year ago listing the Botticelli among the stolen works.
Despite its misstep with the Botticelli, Sotheby's managed to keep its
commission, estimated at more than $100,000, according to sources who were
involved in resolution of the issue but were aware of the details. Neither
Sotheby's, nor the Gutmann heirs and their attorney, Thomas R. Kline, would
discuss details of the settlement.
Christie's commission on the Rembrandt, in contrast, was paltry. But the
painting it sold has taken an extraordinary journey since 1993, according to
records in a bankruptcy case involving the buyer.
Unlike Christie's, the buyer, former San Francisco art dealer Sydney
Ashkenazie, uncovered records that show the painting was one of 333 paintings
the Nazis stole from the French collection of Adolphe Schloss during the war.
He also found evidence he interprets as proof the portrait was painted by
Rembrandt himself, and not by a student, as experts now believe.
But when Ashkenazie -- with permission from the US bankruptcy judge --
tried to broker a deal with the Schloss family to sell the painting and split
the proceeds, US Customs agents in New York City posed as Schloss family
representatives and seized the painting. In turn, the federal bankruptcy
trustee has sued the Justice Department. The painting itself remains in legal
limbo, out of reach of both Ashkenazie and the Schloss family.
``The Schloss collection is part of the French national heritage,'' Jean
Martini, one of Schloss' heirs, said in a telephone interview this week from
France. ``And it is totally immoral for anyone, whether it be Hermann
Goering's art dealer or Sotheby's or Christie's, to make money off of people
who died under such atrocious conditions.''
Records are attainable
For the buoyant New York market, whose domination of the world market is
expanding, the tale of the two paintings is a cautionary one: Art experts
both auction houses could easily have determined that the paintings were
stolen. The Globe's examination of public records found that the Gutmann and
Schloss family losses have been well-documented.
``It would have taken about five minutes for me to determine that both
paintings were listed as stolen during the war,'' said Lloyd P. Goldenberg,
managing director of Trans-Art International, a Washington company with its
own database of stolen works that does title research for art purchasers.
Long-declassified records in the US National Archives describe the losses
sustained by the Schloss and Gutmann families and other victims of Nazi
plundering. The records include lists of stolen works the families submitted
to Allied officials after the war; detailed lists -- including exact
measurements of paintings -- kept by the Nazi units assigned to confiscate
collections; and even the shipping records of the German firm hired to ship
the art back to Germany.
Moreover, Kline, the attorney for Gutmann's heirs -- his grandsons
and Simon Goodman of California and his daughter Lili Gutmann of Italy --
sent Sotheby's documentation about the family's missing paintings, including
the Botticelli, nearly a year before Sotheby's accepted the work on
consignment and sold it, according to court records.
Indeed, Sotheby's consulted Everett Fahy, the Metropolitan Museum of
principal authority on European paintings to attest that the painting from
1484, ``Portrait of a Young Man in Red Cap,'' had in fact been painted by
Sandro Botticelli. But even though the auction house listed Gutmann as a
owner in its catalogue for the Jan. 30 Old Masters auction, Sotheby's
apparently did not consult its own files on the Gutmann losses.
Against that backdrop, critics say that most buyers of valuable artworks,
including major museums, can seldom say with certainty that the history of
their purchase is unclouded. In a recent warning to members, Elisabeth des
Portes, the secretary general of the International Council of Museums, wrote
the ``art market is the only sector of economic life in which one runs a 90
percent risk of receiving stolen goods.''
What's more, the increasing computerization of art theft records, the rise
in new claims for plundered artworks from cultural institutions in the former
Soviet bloc, and renewed interest in the thousands of artworks plundered by
the Nazis and still missing have combined to boost the number of publicly
embarrassing incidents in which works that are known to be stolen are
purchased at auction or through dealers.
In interviews in the last two weeks, heirs to Gutmann, Schloss and
Alphonse Kann, another major French collector whose artworks were plundered
the Nazis, said they believe that many of their missing paintings are in the
United States, most in private collections but some in major museums.
Francis Warin, a grand-nephew of Kann, recently learned that he and his
relatives will soon get back paintings by Picasso and Leger that were stolen
by the Nazis but were inexplicably kept in French museums after their return
to France at war's end.
Warin also said the family has discovered that at least four other
from Kann's collection are in the United States. He declined to identify the
works or their whereabouts, citing sensitive efforts to reclaim them.
Nicholas Goodman said last week that perhaps half of the 16 paintings his
family has yet to recover are in the United States. In addition to the
the family has located one of those paintings, Degas' ``Landscape with
Smokestacks.'' It was bought for $850,000 in 1987 by Chicago drug company
heir Daniel G. Searle.
Searle, however, has refused to return the painting. Last summer, Kline
sued to get the painting back. De Martini, the Schloss heir, said he has
information that between eight and 10 of his family's paintings are in the
United States, including two in museums in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
The efforts by the Schloss, Gutmann and Kann families to recover the
artworks are unique. Unlike many European Jews whose artworks were stolen,
three families once had extensive collections that were well-documented, even
by scholars. The collections were so well known that Hitler and Goering
targeted them before the 1940 invasion of Western Europe.
Yet, in a free-wheeling art market where many works are sold privately
through dealers with no record of the transaction, even those families have
been frustrated in tracing artworks. For example, 52 years after the war's
end, de Martini, who is 78, has yet to recover 183 of the 333 paintings.
The postwar trail
Even now that the two stolen works have been located, the story of how
found their way from Nazi hands to inattentive American auction houses is one
steeped in mystery and intrigue.
The Botticelli, for example, is listed in the Sotheby's catalogue as being
sold by Gutmann to Dr. R. Wetzlar of Holland. Yet Wetzlar's relatives said in
interviews this week that Wetzlar bought the painting about 1955 -- a decade
after Lili Gutmann and her late brother Bernard reported it stolen.
Wetzlar, in fact, bought the painting not from Gutmann but from a family
that had wartime ties to an art dealer who did substantial business with
Nazis, including Goering, who trafficked in looted art. Wetzlar's
stepdaughter, who asked that her name not be used, said her stepfather knew
the painting had once been owned by Gutmann, was suspicious and demanded
that the seller owned it.
So, she said, the seller produced a woman who introduced herself as Lili
Gutmann, and Wetzlar bought the Botticelli. But the stepdaughter conceded
the seller may have produced an imposter. Wetzlar's stepson's wife, Beatrice
Blans, said she now believes Wetzlar was duped.
After Wetzlar's death, the painting was sold to an Italian woman. Given
history, and how it arrived at Sotheby's from Italy through dual
intermediaries, the Customs Service has launched a criminal investigation,
according to sources.
The other painting, variously titled ``Portrait of an Old Jew'' and
``Portrait of an Old Man with a Beard,'' was believed by scholars until the
late 1960s to be by Rembrandt himself.
Christie's was asked to sell the painting by the estate of the late Ian
Woodner, a well-known collector of Old Master drawings, who died in 1990.
Woodner, according to records kept by Woodner Family Collection, bought the
painting in 1968 with New York art dealer Stanley Moss acting as the broker.
Moss said he merely put Woodner in touch with the painting's owner, and
unaware that it was from a looted collection, though the agreement Moss
at the time to act as broker lists Schloss as a former owner. A separate
affidavit obtained by the Globe shows that Woodner paid $105,000 for the
painting from Michael Shuman of Montreal. Shuman, in the affidavit, said he
bought it in 1946 from Hans Mannestaedter of Munich.
The Nazis kept most of the looted Schloss collection in Munich. As the war
neared an end, many of the works were stolen by German civilians, some
bartered away for food and others held for future sale on the black market.
If the painting, like other stolen artworks, crossed the Atlantic after
war, it was at a time of little focus on wartime looting and a nearly
insatiable American appetite for European paintings.
``After the war, nearly everyone was more concerned with the fate of
displaced persons than displaced artworks,'' said Constance Lowenthal, the
executive director of the International Foundation for Art Research in New
The Rembrandt school
By the time Woodner's painting was given to Christie's for sale, it had
``deauthenticated,'' one of about 40 percent of 700 Rembrandt works that
scholars have decided in recent years were not painted by the master, but by
his students or others who adopted his style in the 17th century.
``Many of these works were actually done by Rembrandt students who were
taught by a teacher so gifted that their works look like his,'' said Walter
Liedtke, the Met's curator of European Paintings and an expert in Dutch and
Christie's apparently decided that one of Rembrandt's less-gifted students
had painted the work, sending it for sale to Christie's East, the firm's
price branch, and putting its value at $1,500 to $2,000. Ashkenazie won the
bidding war for it, paying $29,900. And, he admits, he faces possible
charges for his role in trying to arrange a deal with undercover agents.
A spokeswoman for Christie's said she had not yet located records of the
sale and could not comment.
In the first half of May, an estimated $500 million in art is expected to
be sold in New York City. Christie's will be selling paintings from one
collection that are expected to fetch up to $100 million. Many experts in
looted artworks hope the Botticelli and Rembrandt sales will serve as a
``This is the only business enterprise in the world where people spend
of thousands to millions of dollars without doing any proper investigation.
Before you buy a house, you do a title search. Before you buy a business, you
audit the books,'' said Joshua J. Kaufman, the executive director of The
Society to Prevent Trade in Stolen Art, a nonprofit organization in
``I am constantly amazed at how intelligent individuals, who have real
money and are sophisticated in everything else they do, put on blinders when
they purchase a work of art,'' Kaufman added. ``They go to a stranger, they
put up huge amounts of money, and they walk out with a piece without knowing
whether it's authentic or if it might have been stolen.''
Previous coverage of looted World War II art can be found at Globe Online at
www.boston.com/globe. The keyword is paintings.
EDPAGE;04/24 CAWLEY;04/25,04:59 AUCTIO0AM
CAPTION: 1. Until the late 1960s, this looted portrait was thought to be by
2. The wartime owner of this Botticelli portrait was beaten to death by the
KEYWORDS: US ART THEFT MAJOR STORY
====== BOSTON GLOBE
DATE: MONDAY, May 5, 1997 TAG: 9705060509
SECTION: National/Foreign EDITION: Third
PAGE: A3 LENGTH: 108 lines
SOURCE: By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff
PORTRAIT NAZIS STOLE IS HOTLY DISPUTED
AUCTION BUYER, CUSTOMS HOPE IT'S A REMBRANDT;
SPECIALIST ISN'T SO SURE
Once a prosperous San Francisco dealer in jade antiquities, Sydney
Ashkenazie was facing bankruptcy in 1993 and had just $8 in his pocket, he
said, when he walked into Christie's, a New York auction house, and saw an
opportunity to erase his debts and make millions.
Staring back at him was an oil portrait of a forlorn old man with a beard,
valued at just $1,500 to $2,000, and attributed to an anonymous pupil of
Rembrandt. But even then, before his winning bid of $29,900 and his
discovery that the painting was stolen, Ashkenazie was convinced he had
stumbled upon a genuine Rembrandt worth millions of dollars.
Others have similar hopes: According to court records in Ashkenazie's
bankruptcy case, his girlfriend left him at one point and took the painting,
hoping to sell it.
Another adviser, he said, urged him to smuggle the work into Switzerland
and sell it on the ``gray market.'' His creditors are hoping that the
painting, once credited to Rembrandt, will bring millions.
The portrait's allure even drew criminal defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey to
play a cameo role. In recent interviews, Ashkenazie and Bailey called each
other liars over Ashkenazie's assertion that Bailey asked to be given custody
of the artwork at one point.
Yet the odds are that Ashkenazie will never cash in on his belief that he
bought a Rembrandt for a fraction of its value. Research by his former
girlfriend, Elizabeth White, discovered that the painting was looted by the
Nazis from a French Jewish collector, Adolphe Schloss. (Her attorney said she
took it only to safeguard it, and had no plans to sell it.)
Ashkenazie, with approval by a federal bankruptcy judge, sought a meeting
with the family of the World War II owner, but walked into a sting operation
mounted by undercover US Customs agents. They seized the painting, leaving
Ashkenazie with just a color snapshot of his potential financial salvation --
and the possibility he could face criminal charges.
The Globe reported a week ago that the painting was one of two that were
looted from Jews during World War II and sold by New York auction houses. The
other, a Boticelli portrait that Sotheby's sold in January for $650,000, was
owned by a Dutch Jew who, along with his wife, died in the Holocaust. Last
month, the seller of the painting made a six-figure settlement with the
In Ashkenazie's San Francisco bankruptcy case, ``This painting has become
the holy grail,'' lamented Richard L. Gabriel, an attorney for one creditor.
Attorneys for the bankruptcy trustee, a US government appointee required to
account for Ashkenazie's assets, have sued the Justice Department, which has
refused to disclose evidence to buttress the Schloss claim.
``We're now spending good money to sue to find out about a painting we may
have to give up,'' said Michael A. Isaacs, the trustee's attorney.
In March 1996, the bankruptcy judge, Thomas E. Carlson, endorsed an effort
to ``go forward aggressively'' in an approach to the Schloss family, telling
Atlanta lawyer Mark Kadish, who represented Ashkenazie at the time, to ``come
back with either a waiver of interest from Schloss or an agreement with
Schloss regarding an enforceable agreement for the division of the
At a warehouse on Second Avenue in New York City last May, according to
Ashkenazie and court records, the former jade dealer met with a woman who
she was a Schloss family friend. In fact, she was Bonnie Goldblatt, a Customs
Service agent who directs the Stolen Art detail.
In two meetings, Ashkenazie said, he was offered $200,000 for the
But he said he turned aside the offer, warning Goldblatt that he could tie
painting up in court for years, and proposing they sell the painting and
the proceeds. Instead, Customs agents seized the painting. Goldblatt, citing
the criminal investigation, has refused comment.
It was also Kadish, according to Ashkenazie, who brought Bailey into the
case. Ashkenazie said he gave Bailey a jade pin valued at $12,000 as a
retainer. And at an Atlanta meeting, he said, Bailey demanded custody of the
painting so he could handle negotiations.
In an initial interview, Bailey denied receiving anything from Ashkenazie,
then acknowledged he received the pin ``as security for my fee.'' (He said he
plans to return it to the bankruptcy trustee.)
Asked about the Atlanta meeting, Bailey exploded in anger. ``I never met
with the man,'' he insisted. But when pressed, he said he ``didn't recall''
the meeting. Asked in a second interview if he ever did any work for
Ashkenazie, Bailey cited the Atlanta meeting as evidence he had.
Bailey also vigorously denied Ashkenazie's assertion that he asked him to
turn over the painting, calling Askkenazie a liar. Countered Ashkenazie:
Bailey is either lying or is suffering from memory loss.'' A year ago, Bailey
spent 44 days in jail in Florida after being found in contempt of court for
missing a deadline to return to the government more than $20 million in stock
that a client accused of drug smuggling had once signed over to him.
Ashkenazie is convinced he will outwit the art market. Christie's pricing
of the work, he says, ``will turn out to be the biggest mistake in auction
But after three decades in which about 40 percent of the paintings once
attributed to Rembrandt have been ``deauthenticated,'' most art specialists
agree that it is unlikely that Ashkenazie bought a real Rembrandt.
Otto Naumann, a New York dealer who is a Rembrandt specialist, said he
viewed the work before auction and urged his clients not to bid.
Coincidentally, Customs agents turned to Naumann for an appraisal after
seizing the portrait. Goldblatt, Naumann said, visited him, ``desperately
wanting me to say it was a real Rembrandt so they could further their careers
at the expense of the poor fool who tried to sell them the painting. You
should have seen the crestfallen look on her face when I told her it was not
even worth what Ashkenazie paid for it,'' Naumann recalled.
Such appraisals, however, do not bother Ashkenazie, who sets the painting's
value at $20 million. ``In a way, I wish they would indict me,'' he said,
laughing. ``The public attention might increase the value to $30 million.''
WROBIN;05/02 CAWLEY;05/05,05:22 REMBRA05
CAPTION: 1. Art dealer Sydney Ashkenazie in his office with a recent
acquisition, a Japanese sculpture. / GLOBE PHOTO/MICHAEL SCHWARZ
2. This oil portrait, possibly by Rembrandt, was stolen by the Nazis from a
French Jewish art collector. It sold at auction at Christie's in 1993 for
KEYWORDS: ART THEFT WORLD WAR II
DATE: FRIDAY, May 9, 1997 TAG: 9705100003
SECTION: National/Foreign EDITION: Third
PAGE: A1 LENGTH: 137 lines
SOURCE: By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff
US TRACKED WWII INFLUX OF LOOTED
GOVERNMENT DID LITTLE TO PREVENT SALE OF WORKS HERE, FILES SUGGEST
The same World War II effort that tracked Switzerland's role as banker to
the Nazis also amassed substantial evidence about Nazi plundering of artworks
-- and about wartime attempts by art dealers to smuggle some of that art
the United States for sale.
On both sides of the Atlantic -- US intelligence agents in Europe and
Treasury and FBI agents in New York -- the US government monitored smuggling
schemes that involved German art dealers with plundered paintings working in
concert with New York art dealers representing eager American buyers.
According to one declassified document in the US National Archives, the
Office of Strategic Services expressed alarm during the chaos that attended
the war's end in 1945 and 1946 that stolen art was being moved from Europe to
the United States without any monitoring.
``These documents clearly show that the chapter yet to be written about
Nazi plundering is the one about dealers and collectors who clearly took
advantage of the situation at the expense of Jewish victims of the
Holocaust,'' Willi Korte, who is considered the foremost US investigator into
looted art, said last night.
There is also evidence in the archival files that the Swiss government,
through its laws and official inaction, facilitated the sale of artworks
looted by the Nazis, and frustrated postwar Allied efforts to recover stolen
paintings that had been bought by Swiss collectors.
During the war, government agents in New York even uncovered a plan by
Wendland, a principal German fence for paintings looted from Jews, to funnel
artwork from the Louvre in Paris through Switzerland, and onto New York for
sale -- all with the help of Hitler's government.
The plan was never carried out. But many of the documents point to
successful efforts to evade an Allied naval blockade by smuggling paintings
into New York through neutral countries like Portugal, Spain and Argentina.
Some dealers even set up branches in Buenos Aires, Havana and Mexico City.
According to reports by Treasury agents in New York, one painting that
appeared to have been looted, a Van Gogh smuggled out of France to a Nazi
collaborationist art dealer in New York, was bought by the actor Errol Flynn
The wartime and postwar smuggling -- and hints in the documents that the
government was largely indifferent to it -- is considered a major piece of
evidence by some art investigators that much of the looted art remains in
country -- in museums as well as private collections.
A day after the Clinton administration released a report that the Swiss
effectively bankrolled the Third Reich by laundering gold plundered by the
Nazis, some of the art investigators expressed disappointment that no similar
US government effort has been made to chronicle the cultural plundering.
``Even art historians find this boring, in spite of the fact that
Nazi plundering was designed as part of a systematic effort to destroy an
entire culture,'' said Marc R. Masurovsky, a French-born historian who was
among the first researchers who uncovered the US archival records in 1979.
Added Korte: ``Since the early 1960s, not one government penny has been
spent on the recovery of Jewish wartime art losses.''
Like the documents outlining Swiss bankers' complicity, many regarding the
art looting have been available to scholars for years, but have received
little public notice. Some of the documents were first written about in 1994
in the first comprehesive book about the Nazi plundering, ``The Rape of
Europa,'' by Lynn H. Nicholas.
The documents, which were examined by the Globe, are scattered throughout
hundreds of different boxes of wartime records. They include once-secret
intelligence reports from US agents in Europe, wartime assessments by
art historians working for the OSS, intercepted communications involving
governments and shipping companies, FBI and Treasury domestic reports; and
postwar interrogations of many of the collaborationist dealers, including
According to the documents, even as US government agencies took note of
plunder and the smuggling efforts, they did so in language that reflected
little concern about the looting or its victims.
``The term `looting' is hardly applicable to German practice of acquiring
art objects in France. It was quasi-legal acquisition,'' Treasury Department
official James F. Scanlon wrote in a January 18, 1944 memorandum that
the sale of Van Gogh's ``The Man Is At Sea'' to Flynn.
At the time, Masurovsky said, the American government and people were
largely indifferent to the harrowing plight of European Jews. But he also
noted that, from his own study of the documents, it is clear that as late as
1944, US officials still had no clear grasp of what had occurred in occupied
Even so, the shreds of information in many of the documents, taken
together, suggest that many art dealers in New York and Europe knew full well
of the treasure trove of paintings looted by the Nazis, and profited
handsomely from it.
Among the disclosures in the documents were the following:
- One of Paris' leading art dealers, Georges Wildenstein, a French Jew who
fled Europe and opened a large gallery in New York just after the war
had a wartime business arrangement with Karl Haberstock, described as
Wildenstein's ``sub rosa'' partner. Haberstock was a Nazi Party member and
German art dealer who was heavily involved in Nazi plundering, and later
resale, of artworks looted from Jews.
- Wendland, who at one point shipped a boxcar full of looted French
paintings back to Germany, fenced scores of valuable Impressionist and
post-Impressionist paintings through the Fischer Galleries in Zurich. But the
Treasury documents also detail his business relationship with New York dealer
Paul Graupe, among others, and their joint efforts to introduce smuggled
paintings into the New York market.
- It was Wendland, in 1941, who urged Graupe -- another French emigre to
New York -- to join him in a scheme in which they would use neutral
Switzerland, and Swiss ships sailing from Genoa to New York, to move
from the Louvre to New York for sale. The plan, according to Wendland, had
backing of Hitler's government. Graupe eventually declined, and the documents
contain no hint that Wendland went elsewhere with his plan.
A US government report in August 1945 noted that the Nazis had looted an
estimated one-fifth of the world's art treasures, and had sought to sell much
of it through neutral countries, with the United States as the destination
some of the art. ``Most of the looted works of art were made the object of a
series of successive transactions designed to disguise their origin,'' the
report said. It listed art dealers in Madrid, Lisbon and Paris who were
involved in moving the plundered works.
That plundered artworks would flow to the United States during and after
the war is no surprise to some specialists. ``In the period between the two
world wars, the United States became a major market for European art,
especially for Impressionist and modern paintings that the Nazis considered
degenerate,'' Masurovsky said yesterday. ``So the pathways were already in
place when World War II began. The United States may have been isolationist.
But the art market was not.''
The documents suggest Americans may have bought substantial numbers of
paintings of questionable provenance during and after the war. Art scholars
are not surprised at the growing number of cases in which American collectors
and auction houses have been found to have art stolen by the Nazis, and
sometimes by US soldiers. That is because many of those collectors have died
in the last decade. The works have been put up for sale, and been spotted by
investigators like Korte.
Wendland's name, in particular, has returned recently to haunt one major
collector -- Daniel C. Searle, the formner chairman of the Searle Drug Co. In
1987, Searle bought a monotype by Edgar Degas for $850,000 from a New York
collector, Emile Wolf, who acquired it in 1951.
Wolf purchased the work from a dealer who got it from Wendland. Searle has
been sued by the descendants of a Dutch Jew who owned the painting. They say
it was looted by the Nazis, who later killed the owner and his wife.
The children of Friedrich and Louise Gutmann reported the painting, called
``Landscape with Smokestacks,'' stolen at war's end. Gutmann's grandson, Nick
Goodmann, of Los Angeles, after mentioning the artwork's title in an
interview, said, ``Ironic, isn't it, that title?''
His grandmother died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.
WROBIN;05/08 NIGRO ;05/09,05:23 ART09
KEYWORDS: GERMANY ARE THEFT WARFARE HISTORY PROBE
bgpa ART BUYER FIGHTS HOLOCAUST HEIRS
DATE: SUNDAY, May 18, 1997 TAG: 9705200015
SECTION: National/Foreign EDITION: Third
PAGE: A1 LENGTH: 229 lines
SOURCE: By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff
MEMO: THE ART WORLD'S SPOILS OF WAR
One in a series of occasional articles
ART BUYER FIGHTS HOLOCAUST HEIRS
CHICAGO -- For 10 months, Daniel C. Searle has been stuck in a legal
quagmire, charged in a lawsuit with buying a stolen artwork, a landscape by
Edgar Degas that the Nazis looted during World War II from a Dutch Jew and
wife who perished in the Holocaust.
Searle, the former chairman of G. D. Searle & Co., a drug firm, has
defended his right to keep the Degas, insisting last year through his
attorneys that he had checked to ensure that he was acquiring clear title
before he bought the pastel monotype in 1987 for $850,000.
But Searle made no such inquiries. Instead, according to pretrial
testimony, he left that task to the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago. The
museum, in turn, eager to arrange a purchase it hoped would be donated to its
collection, disregarded evidence that the Degas had a checkered past.
In the unregulated international art market, the case highlights the ease
with which art stolen by the Nazis is sold and resold without serious
inquiries. Searle's purchase was encouraged by two curators at one of the
country's most respected museums, even after they inspected records showing
that the Degas had passed years earlier through the hands of a dealer
notorious for ``fencing'' Nazi plunder.
The curators also acknowledged in pretrial testimony that they had been
undeterred by an art historian's conclusion that inconsistencies marred the
ownership records of the Degas monotype ``Landscape with Smokestacks.'' The
historian had found that the records in London connected another dealer and
Nazi collaborator with the work, although his name was omitted from a later
list of owners.
For some art experts, the museum's perfunctory review raises disquieting
questions about the acquisition practices of major museums, which compete to
acquire gifts from patrons or buy sought-after artworks and rarely do more
than ask for a routine stipulation that the donor or seller is the rightful
Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, reminded
museum officials at a convention last year that their professional code of
ethics forbids them from ``knowingly'' acquiring stolen artworks. ``
`Knowingly' is the key word. . . . We are virtuous to the extent that we do
not know,'' said Vikan, a supporter of greater scrutiny of the history of
The Searle lawsuit, in which the heirs of Friedrich and Louise Gutmann,
wartime owners of the Degas, are seeking to recover the work, is one of a
growing number of claims arising out of World War II plundering. It coincides
with increasing sentiment among lawyers and museum officials that artworks on
the market should undergo rigorous inquiries about past ownership. In some
states, New York and California among them, judges have been nudging the law
in the same direction.
But in interviews about the Chicago case, museum officials and legal
specialists said museums are ill-equipped to undertake such investigations,
and vulnerable to claims that some benefactors may have unwittingly donated
stolen works. Some museums have trouble just cataloguing what they have, much
less tracking down who might have owned items before World War II.
In the Art Institute case, the two curators, Douglas C. Druick and Suzanne
Folds McCullagh, said they were unaware of World War II looting, even though
the Nazis are believed to have seized one-fifth of the world's art treasures.
Other museum officials and art historians said they were astonished that
curators who deal with European art would claim such ignorance.
``There have even been Hollywood movies about the Nazi looting, not to
mention the substantial literature on the subject,'' said Thomas Hoving, the
former director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. ``They could have
gone to Blockbuster and rented one of the movies.''
Hitler for a client
If curators at the Met had examined the Degas monotype, Hoving said, they
would have recognized the name of Hans Wendland, who is listed among the
former owners. According to extensive evidence in declassified US documents,
Wendland made huge profits during the war by selling looted Impressionist
and modern art to collectors willing to ignore its origins. Wendland, who
procured paintings for the personal collections of Adolf Hitler and Hermann
Goering, was once allowed to move a boxcar filled with looted paintings from
France to Germany.
But in Chicago, the curators said in pretrial testimony, the Art Institute
has never held a seminar on wartime plundering for its staff. Nor does it
offer training for curators on how to acquire art or perform title research.
``The Art Institute stands fully behind its present procedures and its
present curators,'' Thaddeus J. Stauber, the museum's attorney, said last
week. He said the museum and the curators would not comment further because
the museum ``is not a party to the lawsuit.''
The museum, he said, has more than 300,000 items in its collection. ``We
strive to assure the integrity of the whole collection,'' Stauber said. He
added that occasionally ``extraordinary circumstances do occur.''
The Degas case is one of three recent legal actions brought by Nick and
Simon Goodman and Lili Gutmann, the grandsons and daughter of Friedrich and
Louise Gutmann, seeking the return of the family's looted art collection. In
1943, Friedrich Gutmann was beaten to death at Theresienstadt, a
camp in the former Czechoslovakia. Louise Gutmann died in the gas chambers at
In March, the Gutmann heirs received a six-figure settlement after they
were alerted that Sotheby's, the New York auction house, had sold a portrait
by Sandro Botticelli for $650,000 that had been stolen from the family during
the war. And in February, they filed suit in New York, seeking the identity
a private collector who bought another Gutmann wartime loss, Renoir's
``Appletree in Bloom,'' at a 1969 Sotheby's auction. Last Wednesday, a New
York judge ordered Sotheby's to turn over records that will identify the
The Gutmann losses are among tens of thousands of artworks, many looted
from Jews, still missing 52 years after the war ended. Many may have been
destroyed. Many others were taken away by Soviet troops, or funneled through
black market to private collectors. Others were smuggled into the United
States during the war, including some sent by Wendland, according to
declassified US government documents.
Several phenomena are driving up the number of claims. The growing
computerization of records has made it easier to spot stolen works when they
enter the marketplace. The end of the Cold War has prompted former Soviet
countries to reclaim their own looted cultural treasures. And the deaths of
private collectors who bought stolen art after the war have led to their
collections' being put up for sale.
``There are certainly lost European artworks in American museums, yet the
Europeans don't yet fully realize what's over here in the United States. But
the use of the computers and the Internet make it more likely that they will
begin to know more,'' said Jonathan Petropoulos, an art historian at Loyola
College in Baltimore and the author of ``Art as Politics in the Third
The National Gallery of Art, for example, has made its collection
on the Internet, listing the ownership of almost any artwork
Vikan, the Walters Gallery director, said in a telephone interview last
week that museums are becoming increasingly sensitive to the issue of World
War II losses. But, he said, museum scholarship has long been focused
elsewhere. ``Knowing is what we're all about. That's how we distinguish
ourselves,'' Vikan explained. When it comes to scholarly tasks like
authenticating artworks, he said, ``we're bulldogs, we're snoopers, we're
But, Vikan added, ``when it comes to buying, that very code potentially
puts a premium on not knowing. If you don't know, the issue doesn't come up,
so you acquire. The more you know, the more you're likely to find something
that makes it impossible to buy. That creates an odd tension: You want to get
it, but the more you know, the more likely it is you will find something that
will prevent you from getting it.''
The Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, and the Boston
Museum of Fine Arts, like other museums, require prospective donors and
sellers to stipulate in writing that they have clear title to the work. The
National Gallery, competing with other museums for the donations of major
collectors, builds in some wiggle room for donors. They need only assert that
the artwork is rightfully theirs ``to the best of my belief.''
Marie C. Milaro, a former associate general counsel at the Smithsonian
Institution who directs a museum studies graduate program at The George
Washington University, said that art history programs seldom offer courses in
ethics or in art investigation techniques, and that virtually no museum can
afford to check every major artwork it acquires.
In the Searle case, not even a telltale signal from a principal Degas
historian diminished curators' enthusiasm for the monotype. ``Ravishing'' is
how McCullagh, one curator, described it in her deposition, ``one of the most
glorious examples of De