The website of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston defines the Nazi era as 1933 until 1945. The Jewish Virtual Library similarly dates the Nazi era as from the time the Nazis came to power in 1933 through the end of World War II.

But in court papers filed last week in Washington, D.C., the German government contends that three German Jewish art collectors could not have been forced by the Nazis to sell their collection in 1935 because “the alleged taking of the Welfenschatz [collection] in 1935 predated the Holocaust by several years.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, called the assertion “simply disgusting and dangerous.”

“I understand the tactic of what they are trying to do — saying that the sale was normal,” he told The Jewish Week. “But for a Jew in Germany in 1935 life was anything but normal. … The fact that it was sold in 1935 — you would have to prove to me there was no linkage.

“In 1935 the Nuremberg race laws [were promulgated] and before that there were organized boycotts of Jewish establishments and violence against Jewish people on the street. Jews were forced from their jobs and they lost their rights. … Although what they are saying is technically correct — that the Shoah [Holocaust] did not happen until World War II — the idea that that constitutes a legitimization of what was done to German Jewish citizens from 1933 on is grotesque and beneath contempt.”

Rabbi Cooper added: “At a time when there is so much Holocaust revision, one of the most reliable allies we have had about the historic truth was Germany. It is beyond the pale that such an argument would actually be put down on paper in the name of Germany. … It should be stricken from the record.”