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Nazi Art Case

Nazi Art Case

Contrary to the assertion contained in your article (“Nazi Art Case Tests Start Date of Shoah,” Nov. 27), the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Federal Republic of Germany in the Guelph Treasure case in October is not a contention of when the Nazi persecution of Jews began. Nor does the motion argue that the sale could not have been forced merely because it predated the mass murder of Jews. 

German guidelines implementing international principles (The Washington Principles) clearly state that art sales by Jews occurring any time during the Nazi era, beginning in 1933, are presumed to be forced sales. The filing in the Guelph Treasure case merely explains that, based on the facts of this specific case, the sale of the Guelph Treasure to the Prussian State in 1935 was not a forced sale due to Nazi persecution.

We regret if those who offered comment to this publication and others interpreted the language in our filing differently. We also regret that this point in our legal filing was mischaracterized in your story and reported on with such little context.

Here is the context to this specific sale: the treasure was in Amsterdam (not Germany) when the sale was negotiated; one of the Jewish art dealers who mainly negotiated the sale in mid-1935 lived outside Germany and all those involved traveled freely in and out of Germany; major museums in both the United States and Europe chose not to buy the Guelph Treasure — despite the sellers having arranged a major tour of the treasure in Europe and the United States – because the asking price during the Great Depression was too high; and the total ultimately netted for the treasure was only slightly lower than the amount paid just before the stock market crash of 1929. Unsurprisingly, the only third parties to review all of the facts about this specific case — a commission headed by the former chief justice of Germany’s highest court — found in 2014 that the sale was not forced.

Germany and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation recognize and accept their responsibility to address the wrongs committed by the Nazi regime, and they take each and every allegation seriously. That is why the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation has worked assiduously over the years to ascertain the provenance of thousands of items in its collections, and has restituted more than 1,350 objects to date. Your readers clearly deserve more complete and substantive context than this article presented — and without the sensationalist assertions and conclusions that belie both the filing and the facts of this case. Thank you for the opportunity to correct the record. 

Law firm of Wiggin and Dana

The writer is one of the authors of the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Federal Republic of Germany on Oct. 29, 2015.

Editor’s Note: In its court filing on the case, Germany said the sale “in 1935 predated the Holocaust by several years.” Our story, which we stand by, was an exploration of the claim that there was no Holocaust in 1935. 

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