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January 10, 1998

CONTENTS:

- home of the legendary Minotaur in danger of collapsing.

The following are three reports about the same item:

- Museum art seized in Nazi looting row

- U.S. defends Austria art seizure, probe launched

- Austria outraged as U.S. seizes Schiele pictures

Re: Prison labor

Austria-USA-MOMA-Schiele

"The USA has forced the art world into a banana republic"

Below you will find a Boston Globe article (Walter V. Robinson) and several reports and comments from Austrian newspapers. I have only translated a few lines. Maybe one of our Austrian subscribers is willing to take care of full translations. The general idea of the Austrian articles is that the action taken by the USA government is not justified and damages the willingness to lend art abroad. One remark is very striking:

"If German museums that lost numerous paintings during WW.II were to sue the present day owners American and Swiss museums would be forced to close complete departments"

home of the legendary Minotaur in danger of collapsing.

Athens, 08/01/1998 (ANA)

Reports in the British newspaper The Guardian of damage to the palace of Knossos drew a response yesterday from Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos that measures planned to improve security on the site would soon be completed. "We are aware of the British Archaeological Society's sensitivity (to the issue) but we ourselves, as well as our experts, are just as, if not more sensitive," he said. According to the Guardian, the home of the legendary Minotaur was in danger of collapsing. Mr. Venizelos said the main problem was the large number of visitors to the site. Work to create special walkways for visitors was almost completed, he added. "While Knossos is an international cultural heritage monument, it is on Greek territory. Responsibility for the site rests with Greece," Mr. Venizelos stressed.


Museum art seized in Nazi looting row

By Charles Laurence in New York
(Electronic Telegraph London)

MANHATTAN'S chief public prosecutor has rocked the art world by seizing two world-class paintings owned by the Austrian government but claimed by the heirs of Jewish Holocaust victims. Museums suggested that the move was unprecedented and could destroy the system of trust underlying the exchange of art works for major international exhibitions. Both paintings are by Egon Schiele, the Austrian expressionist, and were in New York on loan from the government-owned Leopold Museum in Vienna. Dead City is a stylised night-time cityscape, while Portrait of Wally is a portrait of the artist's mistress in a melancholic mood. They had hung as part of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. It was while tens of thousands filed through the galleries that two New York Jewish families made their claim on the paintings. Both pictures are said to have been seized from Austrian Jewish owners shortly before the Second World War, and have now joined the increasing number of art works in disputed ownership following the wartime years of looting and persecution. The exhibition over, the paintings were being packed for shipping back to Austria. Robert Morgenthau, the Manhattan District Attorney, secured a subpoena to have them seized as potential evidence. He said: "We have opened an investigation and are taking steps to keep the paintings in Manhattan." Privately, museum officials admitted to being horrified by the seizure, fearing that it would sent a signal around the world that New York was no longer a safe destination for loans. A spokesman said: "We will be meeting the DA's staff to discuss the matter. The museum has no reason to believe it is the target of any investigation, and we remain hopeful that this very complex situation can be resolved in a constructive matter for all parties." Klaus Schroder, managing director of the Leopold Museum, said: "There is no comparable instance in history. This could rise up to a very big scandal." Both paintings had been acquired by Dr Rudolph Leopold, a 72-year-old Viennese collector. He donated 5,400 art works, including 250 by Schiele, to the Leopold Foundation, financed and run by the Austrian government, in 1994. He bought Wally in 1954 in a deal involving a trade with the Austrian National Gallery; it is known that the painting had been confiscated from Lea Bondi Jaray, a Jewish art dealer who fled to London in 1938. He had bought Dead City from a dealer in 1964; it had once been owned by a Jewish comedian who died in the Dachau death camp. Rita Reif, a member of the family which claims Dead City, said the seizure move was "fabulous". She said: "This will start a process that will be important not just to us but to others who were victims or heirs of victims of property losses during the Holocaust." Henry Bondi, a member of the family claiming Wally, said: "You know what Lenin said: justice, good; control is better."


U.S. defends Austria art seizure, probe launched

11:05 p.m. Jan 08, 1998 Eastern

WASHINGTON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday defended a decision to seize two Viennese Expressionist paintings claimed by victims of the Nazi regime and said the current owners were willing to discuss the dispute amicably. U.S. authorities confiscated the paintings by early 20th century painter Egon Schiele in New York on Wednesday as they were about to leave the country. They had been in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. The Manhattan District Attorney launched an investigation on Thursday into whether the paintings were stolen and to determine the rightful owners. ``We have opened an investigation to determine whether the paintings were stolen and have taken steps to keep the paintings in New York,'' Morgenthau said. His office has issued subpoenas and a grand jury will investigate the matter, which could take up to a year. ``Bildnis Wally'' and ``Tote Stadt'' belong to the Leopold Foundation, named after Viennese art collector Rudolf Leopold who sold the paintings to the Austrian state in 1994. The U.S. State Department said in a statement: ``The United States strongly supports the idea that we have to continue to address the remaining questions about World War Two era assets, including looted art, that are still unaccounted for, and that looted art works should be returned to their respective owners. ``We have been in the forefront of recent efforts to conduct research, investigate claims and develop creative means for making restitution where justified,'' it added. Officials were able to seize the paintings after the museum failed to register them with the United States Information Agency. Museum spokeswoman Elizabeth Addison said it was not ``normal or standard practice'' to register with the USIA for federal protection because ``loaned works of art were protected by other federal and state statues. ``Unless we thought the art work was stolen, and there was no suspicion that it was, it was not necessary to take the additional step of registering with the USIA,'' she added. The paintings remain at the museum. ``We have arranged a meeting with the District Attorney's staff for a full discussion of the issue on Monday,'' Addison said. One of the two claimants and the Holocaust Art Restitution Project of Washington's National Jewish Museum contacted the State Department about the paintings this week, department spokesman James Rubin told his daily briefing. ``We are encouraged that the Austrians in the (Leopold) foundation have indicated their willingness to work with the claimants to resolve the issue of ownership amicably ... That's what we're encouraging and hopefully that's what will happen,'' he added. But Austrian Culture Minister Elisabeth Gehrer said: ``This deals a heavy blow to the international exchange of art ... and shakes the foundation of trust that one should also be given back pictures one has lent out.'' Leopold said there was no legal basis for the confiscation of the pictures. ``I have never bought nor exchanged pictures where it could be proved that they were taken from Jewish owners,'' he told Vienna daily newspaper Kurier. The paintings were to be exhibited in Barcelona next month. They have been on loan to the Museum of Modern Art since Oct. 12. It was unclear why the heirs of victims of property losses during the Holocaust did not file federal or civil lawsuits to reclaim the paintings, which is the usual procedure to reclaim stolen Nazi art.

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


Austria outraged as U.S. seizes Schiele pictures

10:37 a.m. Jan 08, 1998 Eastern

VIENNA, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Austria on Thursday protested over the confiscation in New York of two paintings by early 20th century Viennese expressionist painter Egon Schiele. The paintings, on display at the Museum of Modern Art, were seized by U.S. authorities on Wednesday after they were claimed by victims of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. ``This deals a heavy blow to the international exchange of art...and shakes the foundation of trust that one should also be given back pictures one has lent out,'' culture minister Elisabeth Gehrer told Austrian state radio. ``Bildnis Wally'' and ``Tote Stadt'' belong to the Leopold Foundation named after the Viennese art collector Rudolf Leopold who sold his Schiele works to the Austrian state in 1994. Leopold said there was no legal basis for the confiscation of the pictures. ``I have never bought nor exchanged pictures where it could be proved that they were taken from Jewish owners,'' he told the daily newspaper Kurier. The U.S. Embassy in Vienna said it was actively engaged in dialogue with the involved parties. ``We are concerned about this serious issue and we are talking with Department of State officials in Washington, the government of Austria and the Leopold Foundation,'' it said in a statement. The two paintings were due to be exhibited in Barcelona next month.
Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.


From: IntlArtCop IntlArtCop@aol.com
Date: Fri, 9 Jan 1998 02:29:18 EST
To: securma@xs4all.nl
Subject:

Re: Prison labor

In a message dated 1/8/98 2:18:52 AM, David Driscoll wrote:
> For a possible session at next year's Midwest Museums Conference
> annual meeting, I would like to hear from anyone with experience
> using any kind of prison labor (community service, work release,
> adults, juveniles, etc.) in museum operations. >>

I had one client who used prison labor. One of the prisoner/custodians broke into a case and stole a gun that was on display.
Another uses prisoners for work on the grounds and has had no problems. I had a fit about it. They actually have armed prison guards with shotguns watching over about ten prisoners about 50 yards from visitors to this historic site. This saves the museum money so it is acceptable even though it is scary as can be, and doesn't project the image the museum should want. On the other hand, security devices and security signage are considered unfriendly and are not permitted. It's all a matter of priorities, I guess.
In one recent project I asked the museum director for a set of burglar alarm system blueprints. I was told they would have to order them from Prison Industries. After picking myself up off the floor, I learned that Prison Industries has the contract for this city's blueprinting. They had converted the blueprints for all city buildings (including the museum alarm system and police department buildings) to CAD. Copies of the prints could be obtained by calling the contractor, and prisoners would make the prints. A city rep said, "How would these guys get the blueprints out of the building to abuse them?" Every hear of diskettes or modems.

Now there's a scary thought.

All due respects to museums who have chosen to use prisoners in their buildings. I commend your social concern but think that you are taking an undue risk. I don't care if the prisoner is in for something as minor as bad checks or DWI, they pose a risk to you and your collection. People don't get sent to jail for writing just one bad check or one offense of DWI. To become prison labor you usually have to have a long record of being a generally undesirable person.
Museum operators have a fiduciary responsibility to the institution and the collection and if you become a victim due to a decision to use prison labor in your museum, you will be hard pressed to convince the rest of us that you didn't ask for it and fail your trust.
Good God. I can believe I'm saying these things. I'm a liberal! I must have strong feelings about this. I guess I've spent too many years in or on the edge of law enforcement to think that the advantages out weigh the risks of using prisoners in a museum.
I'd like to hear the opinion of others on this.

Steve Keller
Steve Keller and Associates, Inc.
Museum Security Consultants
22 Foxfords Chase Ormond Beach, Florida 32174 USA
IntlArtCop@aol.com

Steve Keller


Austria-USA-MOMA-Schiele

"The USA has forced the art world into a banana republic"

Below you will find a Boston Globe article (Walter V. Robinson) and several reports and comments from Austrian newspapers. I have only translated a few lines. Maybe one of our Austrian subscribers is willing to take care of full translations. The general idea of the Austrian articles is that the action taken by the USA government is not justified and damages the willingness to lend art abroad. One remark is very striking:

"If German museums that lost numerous paintings during WW.II were to sue the present day owners American and Swiss museums would be forced to close complete departments"

The heading of one article is: the heist of the Schiele paintings.
I thaught it to be justified to present the Austrian point of view to our subscribers as well as the reports taken from American and English newspapers.
I do hope many of you will be able to read the articles in German.
Ton Cremers

New York DA bars return of Austrian art

Two paintings are allegedly Nazi loot

By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff, 01/09/98

The Austrian government cried foul yesterday, but the Manhattan district attorney has opened a dramatic new front in the effort to recover art looted from Jews by the Nazis by halting the return to Austria of two paintings that the Museum of Modern Art had borrowed for an exhibition. The museum, turning aside pleas from relatives of the art owners who were allegedly victimized by the Nazis, was about to return the collection of works by the Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele when Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau issued a grand jury subpoena late Wednesday for two of the Schiele paintings. Morgenthau's action, which is without precedent in its treatment of a foreign collection that enters the United States for exhibition, threw the museum world into turmoil yesterday, with some art specialists expressing fears it could doom many regular international art exchanges. Klaus A. Schroeder, the director of the Austrian government-controlled Leopold Foundation, which owns the Schiele collection, last night decried the grand jury action, calling it ''insulting'' and ''illegal'' and accusing the Jewish claimants of having a ''warlike mentality'' and resorting to ''coercive and underhanded methods.'' But MOMA had neglected to obtain the formal federal protection for the Austrian collection that would have prevented any level of government from foiling return of the paintings. And sources said yesterday that even if Morgenthau's subpoena were to be thrown out by a New York state judge, the US Customs Service is prepared to seize the paintings on the strength of strong circumstantial evidence that Nazis took them from two Austrian Jewish families nearly 60 years ago. ''That this should reach the point of getting the DA's office so dramatically involved is kind of sad,'' Henry S. Bondi, a nephew of one of the Nazis' alleged victims, said in an interview yesterday. ''Why didn't MOMA check the past ownership of these items before they brought them here? Why didn't the Austrians clear up this matter 30 or 40 years ago, when they rebuffed my aunt on this issue?'' Morgenthau's action followed articles in The New York Times by reporter Judith H. Dobrzynski, which initially raised questions about the methods employed by the Austrian collector Rudolph Leopold to assemble a collection of 250 works by Schiele. On Jan. 1, a second report provided more evidence that the Nazis had seized two of the works, and noted that the families had urged MOMA to hold the artworks until the dispute could be resolved. But MOMA, citing its contractual obligation and legal protections afforded such traveling exhibitions, said it had no choice but to return the collection to the Leopold Foundation, to which Leopold had sold much of his collection. With the return of the collection set to begin yesterday, Morgenthau moved to block the shipment of the two contested artworks after learning that MOMA had never sought federal protection for the exhibition. MOMA officials, according to the subpoena, are scheduled to appear at the district attorney's office next Monday. The two paintings remain in MOMA's custody. At the least, Morgenthau's entry into the dispute has sidetracked an effort by the World Jewish Congress, through its newly formed Commission for Art Recovery, to mediate a solution through an international panel that would have adjudicated the claims by the relatives of Lea Bondi Jaray and Fritz Gruenbaum. Constance Lowenthal, a longtime specialist in stolen artworks who is the director of the WJC commission, said yesterday that the two families had seemed uninterested in such a panel. And Schroeder's personal attack yesterday on the claimants is not likely to smooth the way for a mediated solution. ''When people seek restitution for art 50 to 60 years later,'' Lowenthal said, ''they have to expect that their claim will be against good faith purchasers. So you have two different kinds of victims, and it becomes very difficult to find an equitable solution.'' Leopold, a wealthy ophthalmologist who is now in his 70s, assembled his collection after the war. The two paintings at issue are ''Portrait of Wally,'' a painting of Schiele's mistress that art dealer Bondi Jaray lost when she fled Vienna in 1938; and a landscape, ''Dead City,'' that was allegedly taken from Gruenbaum, a comedian who died at Dachau, the concentration camp, in 1940. The dispute also underscores a separate division within the growing constellation of art investigators, scholars, and lawyers who have recently intensified an international effort to recover many of the thousands of artworks plundered by the Nazis, most of them from Jews, and never recovered. Art specialists believe that perhaps hundreds of those artworks found their way into American collections and museums during and after World War II. The National Jewish Museum in Washington, with its own Holocaust Art Restitution Project, also known as HARP, has been advising the claimants in this case with help from Willi Korte, arguably the most renowned art investigator in the United States. Marc Masurovsky, the director of HARP, yesterday applauded Morgenthau's intercession, saying that MOMA should have held onto the artworks and been more sympathetic to the claims. Lowenthal, on the other hand, said MOMA had an obligation to return the paintings to Austria. As a matter of course, many countries, including the United States, offer legal protections against seizure to encourage the international exchange of artworks for exhibitions. But a MOMA spokeswoman said the museum seldom seeks the federal protection, relying instead on a similar New York state law that some legal specialists say may not protect the art from either Morgenthau's inquiry or a potential Customs seizure. Almost certainly, art specialists said, Morgenthau's intervention will prompt American museums and foreign lenders to demand federal protection before the museums agree to exhibit works from abroad. Caught in the middle in this dispute is Ronald S. Lauder, a former US ambassador to Austria and major art collector. Lauder is both the chairman of MOMA and chairman of the restitution commission that Lowenthal is directing. Ori Z. Soltes, the director of the National Jewish Museum, said that as a museum director he too was troubled by the step Morgenthau has taken. Potentially, he said, it could have serious consequences if it deters art institutions that trust one another from lending their collections for exhibitions elsewhere. ''But when MOMA was so marvelously irresponsible'' with its decision to repatriate the artworks without doing more to honor the claims, Soltes said, Morgenthau stepped in and did the right thing, ''effectively taking MOMA off the hook.'' ''If museums are bastions of culture and civilization and not operating in some moral backwater, they cannot say they have no responsibility to deal with these claims,'' Soltes said. ''More than a half century after the end of the war, Morgenthau's action is an official acknowledgement that we have unfinished business. You cannot put a statute of limitations on such important moral issues.''
This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 01/09/98.
c Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.


COMMENTS BY AUSTRIAN (and German) NEWSPAPERS:

"If German museums that lost numerous paintings during WW.II were to sue the present day owners American and Swiss museums would be forced to close complete departments"

Weitere Reaktionen auf die Beschlagnahme von Schieles in New York Die "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" spricht von einem "Eklat in New York". Für Österreich kündige sich ein "langwieriges Verfahren samt diplomatischer Verwicklungen" an, da die "Stiftung Leopold" zum Großteil von der öffentlichen Hand finanziert wurde. Rudolf Leopold, der die weltweit größte Schiele-Kollektion aufgebaut hat, stehe deshalb "längst nicht mehr im Zentrum der Vorwürfe". Für den Ausstellungsbetrieb zeichnen sich düstere Zeiten ab: Wenn Leihgabenverträge nicht einzuhalten seien, bedeute dies das Ende international beschickter Ausstellungen. Verunsicherte Leihgeber würden ihre Bestände wohl nicht mehr außer Landes lassen. "Tote Stadt III" und "Bildnis Wally" dürften jedenfalls bei der nächsten Station im Picasso-Museum von Barcelona kaum zu sehen sein, mutmaßt die FAZ. Der US-"Daily Telegraph" zitiert Robert Morgenthau, Bezirksstaatsanwalt von Manhattan, der seine Vorgangsweise rechtfertigt. Die Untersuchung sei nun eingeleitet und erste Schritte, die Bilder in Manhattan zu behalten, seien damit gesetzt. Wegen der Beschlagnahmung der Bilder "im Streit um Nazi-Plünderung", wie es im Titel heißt, haben laut Daily Telegraph Museen Bedenken angemeldet. Sie fürchten, daß das Vertrauen für den internationalen Austausch von Kunstwerken nun gestört sein könnte. Keine Zweifel an der Vorgangsweise stellen sich naturgemäß bei Rita Reif ein. Sie ist überzeugt, daß diese Untersuchung einen Prozeß einleiten wird, der größere Ausmaße annimmt. Es ginge dabei nicht nur um ihren Fall, sondern auch um das Schicksal von Holocaust-Opfern und deren Besitzverluste. Henry Bondi wird zitiert: "Sie wissen, was Lenin sagte: Gerechtigkeit ist gut; Kontrolle ist besser."

Die "Süddeutsche Zeitung" meint in ihrem Kommentar "Schielen auf Schiele", daß die Beschlagnahme die Kunstwelt alarmieren müsse. Das Vertrauen in die europäischen-amerikanischen Kulturabmachungen sei "erst einmal dahin". Wenn allerdings erst die deutschen Landes- und Stadtmuseen, die im Dritten Reich Hunderte von Meisterwerken der frühen Moderne verloren haben, gegen die neuen Besitzer klagen, müßten amerikanische und schweizerische Museen ganze Abteilungen in ihren Sammlungen schließen. Daß die Bilder "im angesehensten Kunsttempel der 'freien Welt' als Pfand einbehalten wurden, habe auf jeden Fall "schon fast etwas Atavistisches".

Copyright "Die Presse", Wien


Der Raub der Schieles

(the heist of the Schiele paintings)

VON ANDREAS UNTERBERGER

"The Fritz Grunbaum heirs never started any legal action to recover the paintings. Therefore the 'wildwest action' in New York is very hard to understand"

Museums will become very restrictive in lending art abroad

"The USA has forced the art world into a banana republic"

Fritz Grünbaum war einer der liebenswertesten Vertreter der österreichischen Kabarett-Kunst. Seine Ermordung durch die Nationalsozialisten ist daher vielen Wienern unter den anderen NS-Verbrechen besonders schmerzhaft in Erinnerung. Umso selbstverständlicher wäre es gewesen, daß jeder konkrete Eigentums- und Schadenersatzanspruch seiner Erben von Österreichs Behörden korrekt abgehandelt worden wäre. Seine Erben haben jedoch nie einen solchen Anspruch geltend gemacht. Umso unverständlicher ist die Wildwestaktion, mit der jetzt in New York ein Bild, das wahrscheinlich Grünbaum gehört hat, zusammen mit einem zweiten Werk, das von einer anderen bekannten Familie beansprucht wird, einfach beschlagnahmt worden ist. Damit ist nicht nur für die weiteren Etappen der großen Schiele-Schau ein Schaden eingetreten. Damit ist auch ein überaus faires Offert des Leopold-Museums in den Wind geschlagen worden, in dem eine unabhängige Streitschlichtung vorgeschlagen worden war. Damit haben die USA wieder einmal gezeigt, mit welcher Brutalität sie glauben, der Welt ihre eigenen Rechtsauffassungen aufzwingen zu können - obwohl diese europäisches Niveau in keiner Weise erreichen, obwohl Amerika nicht einmal qualifiziert wäre, der Europäischen Menschenrechtskonvention beizutreten. Wie auch immer der Streit ausgeht, ein Opfer hat er jetzt schon gefordert: Der internationale Ausstellungstourismus, der der Welt in den letzten Jahren viele tolle Expositionen beschert hat, ist tot. Welcher österreichische Minister, der sein Amt liebt, wird noch wagen, eine Versendung österreichischer Kulturgüter ins Ausland zu genehmigen? Welches Museum der Welt wird noch bereit sein, seine Güter der Jurisdiktion eines anderen Landes auszusetzen? Wer wird vor allem Richtung Amerika noch das Risiko eingehen, den dortigen Partnern auf Treu und Glauben zu vertrauen? Man wird damit leben können: Kunstliebhaber werden halt bestimmte Dinge nur noch in Wien zu sehen bekommen. Und die USA werden damit leben müssen, daß sie für die Kulturwelt ein Stück in Richtung Bananenrepublik abgesunken sind.


Schiele: Was alles gegen die Konfiszierung spricht

Experten verweisen auf einen US-Präzedenzfall, in dem ein eindeutig von den Nazis geraubtes Kunstwerk nicht den früheren Eigentümern zurückgegeben wurde.

VON BENEDIKT KOMMENDA

Wie bei Rechtsstreitigkeiten mit Auslandsbezug üblich, ist auch bei der Auseinandersetzung um die beiden in New York beschlagnahmten Schiele-Bilder die Lage einigermaßen verworren. Mit dem amerikanischen und dem kontinentaleuropäischen Rechtskreis prallen zwei Normensysteme aufeinander, die unterschiedlicher kaum sein könnten. Dennoch dürften juristische Überlegungen bei aller Vorsicht doch eher gegen die Legitimität der vorläufigen Konfiszierung sprechen. Im anglo-amerikanischen Recht gibt es just jenen gutgläubigen Eigentumserwerb nicht, auf den sich Rudolf Leopold nach österreichischen Recht jedenfalls berufen kann: Das Allgemeine Bürgerliche Gesetzbuch schützt den "redlichen Besitzer" von Gegenständen, der diese "von einem zu diesem Verkehr befugten Gewerbsmanne" erworben hat. Wer also bei einem Händler im guten Glauben auf dessen Berechtigung ein Gemälde kauft, wird selbst dann Eigentümer, wenn sich nachträglich herausstellt, das Bild war gestohlen worden. Dieser Grundsatz, der für sichere Verhältnisse im Geschäftsverkehr sorgen soll, ist in dieser Form dem amerikanischen Recht fremd - und nach Expertenauskunft auch dem des Bundesstaates New York. Freilich müßten die dortigen Behörden nach dem Internationalen Privatrecht - es legt fest, welche Rechtsordnung bei grenzüberschreitenden Streitigkeiten anzuwenden ist - grundsätzlich österreichisches Recht zur Beurteilung der Eigentumsverhältnisse an dem Bild heranziehen.

Gutgläubiger Erwerb?

Allerdings sehen sich alle Gerichte dieser Welt als befugt an, unter Berufung auf die "ordre public" Bestimmungen anderer Länder dann nicht anzuwenden, wenn sie ihren Vorstellungen von allgemeinen Rechtsgrundsätzen nicht entsprechen. Bei der höchst sensiblen Materie des jüdischen Eigentums, das unter der NS-Herrschaft geraubt worden ist, könnten amerikanische Gerichte geneigt sein, sich um das österreichische ABGB keinen Deut zu scheren. Es gibt aber einen Präzedenzfall, der für den Standpunkt der Sammlung Leopold spricht. Wie sich der Wiener Völkerrechtler Ignaz Seidl-Hohenveldern im Gespräch mit der "Presse" erinnert, seien in New York (Fall DeWeerth gegen Baldinger) vor wenigen Jahren Kläger mit der Forderung nach Rückgabe von eindeutig geraubtem jüdischen Eigentum abgeblitzt. Es ging damals um ein von den Nazis konfisziertes Bild, das während des Krieges zur Devisenbeschaffung in die Schweiz verkauft worden war. Dort war es bei Fischer in Luzern weiterverkauft worden. Das US-Gericht erteilte den Klägern damals eine Abfuhr: Indem sich diese erst nach Jahrzehnten um die Rückgabe bemüht hätten, so das Gericht, hätten sie den Grundsatz der "due diligence" (der "ordentlichen Sorgfalt") mißachtet. Dieses Argument müssen sich wohl auch die Erben der umstrittenen Schiele-Bilder entgegenhalten lassen, die all die Jahre hindurch nichts zur Rückforderung unternommen haben.

"Ordentliche Sorgfalt"

Einen bemerkenswerten Präzendenzfall gab es auch in Deutschland: Dort hatte im Jahr 1992 das Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Köln ein Bild des niederländischen Meisters Pieter van Laer ausgestellt, das seit 1945 in tschechoslowakischem Besitz stand und freimütig als "aus der Sammlung des Fürsten von Liechtenstein" stammend beschrieben wurde. Als Fürst Adam II. versuchte, seine Hand auf das Gemälde zu legen, scheiterte er vor dem Kölner Oberlandesgericht: Dieses sah sich - wegen des Überleitungsvertrags Deutschlands mit den Alliierten - nicht als befugt an, die Benesch-Dekrete und die darauf folgenden staatlichen Enteignungs-Maßnahmen zu überprüfen, denen auch die Liechtensteins zum Opfer fielen. Ein deutsches Gericht war es auch, das eine Unesco-Konvention zum Schutz von Kulturgütern anwandte, wiewohl Deutschland - so wie Österreich - die Konvention nicht ratifiziert hatte. Diese soll sicherstellen, daß Kunstwerke, die für Ausstellungen in ein anderes Land gebracht werden, unabhängig von Streitigkeiten über das Eigentum jedenfalls wieder zurückgestellt werden. Im Streit um nigerianische Bronze-Masken entschied der deutsche Bundesgerichtshof, daß die Konvention allgemeine Rechtsgrundsätze widerspiegle und daher jedenfalls anzuwenden sei. Auf diese Konvention beruft sich jetzt auch Unterrichtsministerin Gehrer. Der Rückgabe von Ausstellungsobjekten ist auch ein New Yorker Gesetz gewidmet, das nach - freilich nur vorläufiger - Interpretation des Ballhausplatzes die Beschlagnahme der Schiele-Bilder zu verbieten scheint.

Schiele-Beschlagnahme: Weitere Reaktionen

Heinz Fischer, Nationalratspräsident (SPÖ) zeigte sich "besorgt und überrascht". Österreich hätte sich in der Behandlung von Rückstellungsanträgen in den letzten Jahren "sehr korrekt" verhalten. Die US-Botschaft in Österreich "setzt auf das langbewährte Verhältnis des Vertrauens und der Zusammenarbeit zwischen Österreich und den Vereinigten Staaten". Österreichischer Gewerbeverein: "Das mindeste wäre wohl, daß der Außenminister die neue amerikanische Botschafterin vom Diplomatenausflug dieses Wochenende auf den Semmering wieder auslädt. Sie vertritt jene amerikanische Administration, deren Gehabe nicht unbedingt einem Rechtsstaat westlicher Prägung entspricht". Wilfried Seipel, Generaldirektor des Kunsthistorischen Museums, riet, in persönlichen Gesprächen mit den Nachfahren die korrekte Erwerbsgeschichte darzulegen - "man redet bisher nur über Anwälte". Österreich hätte die Chance gehabt, die beanstandeten Bilder vorzeitig zurückzuholen, hat aber gutgetan, darauf zu verzichten. Terezija Stoisits (Grüne): "Österreich hat es 52 Jahre verabsäumt, das Unrecht der Jahre 1938 bis 1945 so weit wie möglich rückgängig zu machen. Es muß geprüft werden, ob Kunstsammlungen und Bibliotheken noch heute mit geraubten Exemplaren gefüllt sind. Josef Kalina, Pressesprecher von Viktor Klima, betonte die Notwendigkeit, weitere Informationen abzuwarten, ehe der Bundeskanzler Stellung nehme.

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