THE HAGUE – 7 May 2010. The Restitutions Committee has issued a recommendation to the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science concerning five claims to looted works of art. The recommendation advises that three claims be granted and two be rejected.
The first recommendation (RC 1.96) concerns the painting Allegory of Earth and Water by Jan Brueghel the Elder. This work was claimed by theMax Stern Estate, a foundation that supports three university institutions in Canada and Israel. Allegory of Earth and Water was originally owned by the Düsseldorf-based, Jewish art dealer Max Stern. During the Nazi regime, Stern was prohibited from practising his profession and his company was dissolved. After paying a substantial amount in what was known as ‘escape tax’, Stern fled to England in 1937, before settling in Canada in 1940.
Sterns trading stock was partially auctioned at a so-called Judenauktion [Jewish Auction] and partially confiscated by the Gestapo. Other works were sold to fund his escape and that of his family. The Committee has been unable to determine the exact circumstances in which possession of the painting Allegory of Earth and Water was lost. In its recommendation, the Committee described various possibilities, on the basis of which it then concluded that Max Stern lost possession of the claimed painting involuntarily and as a result of circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime.
The second recommendation (RC 1.104) concerns a Persian medallion carpet claimed by the families of Samuel van den Bergh and Daniel Wolf, both of whom were successful Jewish entrepreneurs. During the war, their country estates in Wassenaar were commandeered by the occupying forces. The household effects in both estates were confiscated, combined and shipped to Germany. Although it has been ascertained that the claimed carpet belonged to one of these two estates, it has proven impossible to find out which one. The Committee is of the opinion that in this unique situation the carpet should be returned to both families, each receiving an equal share. This is in keeping with the fact that both families acted jointly during the procedure. The applicants agree to jointly seek a suitable destination for the carpet or the proceeds from any sale.
The third case in which the Committee has recommended restitution concerns the painting View in a Dutch Town by A. Eversen, which was originally owned by Joseph Stodel, a Jewish diamond merchant from Amsterdam. Stodel died in 1941, after which his estate came under the administration of a Verwalter appointed by the occupying authorities. This administrator had almost NLG 100,000 worth of objects from Stodel’s estate auctioned, including the painting by Eversen. The work was bought for the collection of Adolf Hitler. The conditions for restitution were also met in this case and the Committee advised the State Secretary to return the work to the heirs.
In the claims regarding Zadick (RC 1.100) and Rosenberg (RC 1.105), the Committee recommended that they be rejected. During its investigation into the claimed works of art – the painting Ships off the Coast by Govert van Emmerik and a regency style commode, respectively – the Committee concluded that there was insufficient evidence to suggest that the objects in question were ever owned by the alleged original owners.
The Restitutions Committee
Since January 2002, the Restitutions Committee has provided recommendations to the Minister for Education, Culture and Science regarding claims to items of cultural value in the possession of the national government. In addition, the Committee can also issue binding opinions concerning disputes between two parties over an item of cultural value not in the possession of the national government.