S. van Leeuwen
Recommendation regarding S. van Leeuwen
In a letter dated 29 October 2008, the Minister for Education, Culture and Science (hereafter referred to as: the Minister) requested the Restitutions Committee (hereafter referred to as: the Committee) to issue a recommendation regarding a request for restitution of 27 November 2007 made by A.v.L of T.H. (hereafter referred to as: the applicant). The request, also submitted on behalf of A.A.H.-v.L., concerns a beech chest that became part of the Netherlands Art Property Collection (hereafter referred to as: ‘NK collection’) under inventory number NK 3201 after it was returned to the Netherlands after the Second World War. The chest is administered by the Ministry of Defence.
Following the Minister’s request for advice, the Committee sent the applicant a questionnaire on 10 February 2009 seeking some basic information. After several reminders, the applicant returned the questionnaire to the Committee on 10 March 2011.
The Committee then instigated a fact-finding investigation. The results of the investigation were included in a draft report dated 21 November 2011. In a letter dated 30 November 2011, the Committee sent this draft investigatory report to the applicant for comment, also asking several further questions. The applicant replied in a letter dated 23 December 2011, enclosing relevant documents.
In a letter dated 30 November 2011, the Committee also sent this draft investigatory report to the Minister with a request for additional information. On 19 December 2011, the Minister advised that she had no additional information to provide the Committee. The investigatory report was then adopted on 2 April 2012.
The Committee refers to this report for the facts of the case.
On the basis of the research data of the Origins Unknown Agency (BHG), the applicant argues that the chest (NK 3201) came from the trading stock of the company of his father, Jewish antiques dealer Salomon van Leeuwen of The Hague. According to the applicant, possession of the chest was lost involuntarily during the occupation.
The applicant states that he is the heir of Salomon van Leeuwen and that in this case he is acting on his own behalf and that of his sister A.A.H.-v.L.. The applicant also stated that he inherited the antiques business S. van Leeuwen from his father’s estate, as proof of which the applicant submitted a deed of partition of property of his father’s estate, which was executed on 4 June 1973 in the presence of K. Dijkstra, a civil-law notary in The Hague at the time.
Salomon van Leeuwen (hereafter also referred to as: Van Leeuwen) was born in The Hague on 14 September 1885 as son of Sander van Leeuwen and Judith Koekoek. Van Leeuwen married Sophia Maria Josepha Theresia Duncker (1888-1935), who was not Jewish, on 23 June 1926. When she married, Sophia already had a daughter, Sophia Maria Wilhelmina (1910-1987), who was acknowledged by Van Leeuwen and so acquired the status of legitimate child. After the death of his first wife, Van Leeuwen married Antoinette Barendina Sophia Duncker (1905-1990), who was likewise non-Jewish, on 5 July 1939. Two children were born of this marriage, A. on 3 April 1943 and A.A. on 21 July 1948.
Salomon van Leeuwen had been conducting the antiques business S. van Leeuwen, with premises at Noordeinde 164-164a in The Hague, as a one-man business since 1914.
After the German invasion of the Netherlands, Van Leeuwen, as owner of the antiques business, granted Huybrecht Jobse full power of attorney on 1 February 1941. Shortly after that, on 12 March 1941, the occupying authorities issued what was known as the ‘decree to remove all Jews from the business sector’. Based on this decree, Jewish businesses were put under administration and subsequently wound up by a Liquidationstreuhänder (liquidation trustee) or bought and permanently administered by a Verwaltungstreuhänder (administration trustee), or ‘Verwalter’. Under this decree, the German authorities appointed Dutch merchant J.A. Koppelle as Verwalter of Van Leeuwen’s antiques business on 2 November 1942.
Shortly after his appointment, Koppelle forbade Van Leeuwen from entering the business and also refused to pay Van Leeuwen an allowance from the business, leaving Van Leeuwen without income. Koppelle left the running of the business almost completely to attorney-in-fact Jobse, while Koppelle himself received a monthly salary of NLG 750.
In addition to Koppelle’s appointment as Verwalter, Van Leeuwen faced the threat of further economic persecution measures. On 13 April 1943, the occupying forces appointed the Niederländische Aktiengesellschaft für Abwicklung von Unternehmungen (NAGU) with the aim of expropriating the business.
In an attempt to put an end to Koppelle’s office as Verwalter, in 1944 attorney-in-fact Jobse had Van Leeuwen transfer the antiques business by way of a gift to his adult daughter Sophia and her nine-month-old son, A. (the applicant). Because the Nazi authorities did not recognise Van Leeuwen’s children as ‘Jewish as defined in the then prevailing decrees’, it became possible after this transfer to suspend the ‘Aryan management’ of the antiques business. However, Koppelle demanded a buyout sum of NLG 10,000 for his resignation. In the end, Koppelle was paid a sum of NLG 8,000, for fear that he would otherwise make trouble with the German authorities.
Jobse’s plan succeeded and on 31 March 1944 the occupying forces discharged Koppelle from his duties as Verwalter and thus the business remained - indirectly - the property of Van Leeuwen.
It was during that period that Van Leeuwen went into hiding with his wife and new-born son A. (the applicant). It is not known when this started exactly, but the applicant has stated that this was probably shortly after he was born, on 3 April 1943. The Van Leeuwen family survived the war. The antiques business S. van Leeuwen is still in existence and is run by the applicant.
After the war, Salomon van Leeuwen turned to the Jurisdiction Department of the Council for the Restoration of Rights. The Council declared the gift of the antiques business to the children null and void because its sole purpose had been to keep the business out of the hands of the occupying authorities. In addition, Van Leeuwen demanded the annulment of the legal ties that had arisen between him and Koppelle by virtue of the latter’s appointment as Verwalter of his business. Van Leeuwen also requested that Koppelle be ordered to pay damages for the salary that he had received as Verwalter and for the ‘buyout sum’ that Koppelle had demanded from the children. The Council awarded the claim and, in its ruling of 4 August 1948, ordered Koppele to pay Van Leeuwen ‘the sum of NLG 3,949.75 plus NLG 8,000, which comes to NLG 11,949.75’.
As far as is known, Van Leeuwen did not report any works of art as missing to the Netherlands Art Property Foundation (SNK) after the war. Nor was any evidence found that the SNK had attempted to get in touch with Van Leeuwen about the chest (NK 3201) that had been returned after the war, although the return of the chest to the Netherlands was connected to the fact that it was purchased from art dealership Van Leeuwen.
The Committee considers that to the extent to which there had been contacts with the Dutch restitution authorities in the past, they certainly did not lead to a final decision regarding the application for restitution of the chest. Hence this is not a case that was settled in the past, which means that the applicant’s request is admissible.
On the basis of current restitution policy, it is of importance in assessing the current claim that Van Leeuwen’s title to NK 3201 is proved with a high degree of probability and that possession of it was lost involuntarily due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime.
Based on sources found during its investigation, the Committee concludes that the currently claimed chest was most probably bought in The Hague from Van Leeuwen on 31 July 1944 by the German W. Geisler of Wiesbaden for a sum of NLG 500. It has been established, therefore, that the chest was in any case part of Van Leeuwen’s trading stock in 1944. The Committee was unable to find out when Van Leeuwen acquired the chest.
Seeing as the art dealership was under the Verwalter’s administration from 2 November 1942 to 31 March 1944 (see considerations 3 and 4), it is possible that the chest was purchased during the Verwalter’s administration and would as such have to be considered ‘new trading stock’. The Committee considers the following in this regard.
Compared to the entire period during which the chest may have been acquired, from the establishment of the antiques business in 1914 up until shortly before the sale in 1944, 30 years therefore, the seventeen-month period of Verwaltung was so short that, in the Committee’s view, the chest was most likely not purchased during that period. Accordingly, the Committee assumes that Van Leeuwen himself purchased the chest, probably before the war already, and that as such it can be regarded as ‘old trading stock’.
The Committee then asked itself the question whether there is any evidence to suggest that it is highly probable that possession of the chest was lost involuntarily during the war due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime.
Pursuant to the Ekkart Committee’s 2003 Recommendations for the Art Trade, if application forms are missing at the post-war restitution authorities - as is the case here - the required high degree of probability of involuntary loss of possession can also be assumed in the case of theft, confiscation or enforced sale. Recommendation 4 implies that when assessing such evidence, threatening general circumstances with regard to Jewish art dealers must be allowed for.
The following is known about the loss of possession.
It emerged during the investigation that after the proclamation of the ‘Decree to remove all Jews from the business sector’, Van Leeuwen’s position as Jewish antiques dealer became increasingly perilous. After Koppelle had been appointed Verwalter, Van Leeuwen not only lost the freedom to enter his own business, he also lost his income overnight and, moreover, in mid-1943 the occupying authorities were making further plans to dispossess his business. By gifting the business to his daughter (deemed as non-Jewish) and her son, the Verwaltung of the art dealership was suspended on 31 March 1944. Van Leeuwen felt so threatened during this period that in the course of 1943 he went into hiding with his wife and new-born son.
On the basis of these circumstances, the Committee assumes that even if he had been aware of the purchase in July 1944 by the German Geisler (see above), he did not enter into the sale voluntarily. Moreover, it is very doubtful whether as (indirect) owner of a one-man business, Van Leeuwen would have been able to cooperate in the sale from his place of hiding. The whereabouts of Van Leeuwen’s hiding place are not known but he stated after the war that he had witnessed the liberation in Nijverdal (province of Overijssel).
There are also clear indications that the Van Leeuwen family was in financial difficulties and that these were a direct result of anti-Jewish measures. For example, during the period in which his business was administered by a ‘Verwalter’, Van Leeuwen had no income from his business (see consideration 3). It can also be concluded from a statement made by Jobse after the war that Van Leeuwen did not receive any allowance from the capital that he had had to transfer to the looting organisation Lippman, Rosenthal & Co, Sarphatistraat, on the orders of the occupying forces. That Van Leeuwen had no access to reserves is demonstrated, for example, by the fact that business manager Jobse had to advance the buyout payment that the Verwalter claimed from Van Leeuwen’s children.
The Committee concludes that under these circumstances the loss of possession was involuntary and directly related to the Nazi regime.
The Committee sees no reason to link its recommendation for restitution to an obligation to repay the consideration received at the time (see consideration 8). The Committee cites as a reason the circumstance that Van Leeuwen would have had to use this money to go into hiding with his family, and that he therefore did not dispose freely of this sum within the meaning of restitution policy. In this context, the Committee refers to the fourth recommendation of the Ekkart Committee of 2001.
Finally, with regard to the question to whom restitution is to be made, the Committee considers the following. In this case, the applicant is also acting on behalf of his sister A.A.H.-v.L., while the chest in question (NK 3201) comes from the trading stock of antiques business S. van Leeuwen. The Committee considers that the current NK 3201 should be returned to A.v.L. (the applicant), who, as appears from the deed of partition of property mentioned in consideration 1, had been assigned the antiques business S. van Leeuwen from the estate of his father, Salomon van Leeuwen, which one-man business he continues to this day.
The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister for Education, Culture and Science to return the chest in question (NK 3201) to A.v.L. as owner of the one-man business S. van Leeuwen.
Adopted at the meeting of 2 April 2012 by W.J.M. Davids (Chair), J.Th.M. Bank, P.J.N. van Os, D.H.M. Peeperkorn, H.M. Verrijn Stuart, I.C. van der Vlies (vice-chair), and signed by the chair and the secretary.
(W.J.M. Davids, chair) (E. Campfens, secretary)