3. The facts
The following facts can be assumed in this procedure.
3.1. Fritz Gutmann was a German-born banker and art collector of Jewish descent who moved to the Netherlands in 1918. He was one of seven children of Eugen Gutmann, co-founder of the Dresdner Bank AG established in Dresden in 1872. Fritz Gutmann was granted Dutch nationality in 1924. From 1924, he and his family lived on the Bosbeek country estate near Heemstede (hereafter also referred to as: Huize Bosbeek), where he accumulated an extensive art collection. From 1939, the increasingly ominous international situation forced the Gutmann-Von Landau couple to sell or transfer abroad as many of their works of art as possible. For instance, in three transactions, Fritz Gutmann sold a significant number of art objects to German art dealers Böhler and Haberstock during the occupation. On 26 May 1943, the Gutmann-Von Landau couple were escorted out of Huize Bosbeek by the SS, on a journey to Berlin. They were made to believe that this journey would continue “nach dem Süden” (possibly Italy). They were, however, transferred to the Theresiënstadt concentration camp, where Fritz Gutmann was killed in 1944. His wife perished the same year in Auschwitz. The couple’s two children, Bernhard Eugen Friedrich Wilhelm Gutmann (later: Bernard Goodman, 1914-1994) and L.V.G. (born in 1919, one of the applicants), survived the war. After the war, they endeavoured for years to trace and recover the lost family property.
3.2. In 1751, painter Jacob de Wit was commissioned to decorate the drawing room, i.e. the great hall, of Huize Bosbeek in Heemstede. Apart from painting the ceiling with images of Bacchus and Ceres on clouds, he produced the currently claimed grisaille as an overdoor for the entrance to the drawing room. The ceiling painting can still be seen in Huize Bosbeek, as opposed to the overdoor, which at a certain point in time was removed from the wall panelling.
3.3. During the Second World War (until the confiscation by the Nazis), Huize Bosbeek was owned by Fritz Gutmann. In relation to the grisaille, the applicants referred to an inventory that came with a contract of sale dated 24 March 1942, under which Fritz Gutmann sold several numbered works of art to Böhler and Haberstock. This list includes, under the heading ‘Grosser Saal’, under number 64, the objects ‘1 grosses Deckengemälde von De Wit’ and ‘1 Grisaille von De Wit’. The following is written by hand after the first item mentioned above: “gestr. lt. Bf 5/10/42”. The following is written after the last item mentioned above, which is probably the currently claimed artwork: “da, soll zurück”. The number 64 is also crossed out by hand. Another document relating to the contract of sale of 24 March 1942 states the following about number 64 on the list: “Gestrichen von der Liste”. This suggests that the disputed grisaille was not ultimately sold to Böhler and Haberstock in 1942.
3.4. Documentation from the archives of the lawyer K.F. Mannheimer in the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) suggests that the currently claimed grisaille was still present in Huize Bosbeek at the time the Gutmann-Von Landau couple left the Netherlands on 26 May 1943. Mannheimer represented Bernard Goodman and L.V.G. in the actions for damages after the war in Germany, for which, on 29 November 1957, L.V.G. sent him, among other things, “verschillende brieven van de heer Westerbeek, die destijds bij mijn vader op kantoor was”. In a letter dated 1 October 1945, J.E. Westerbeek stated that he had been associated with the N.V. Trust & Administratie Maatschappij (Trustenad) in Amsterdam since 1942 – this was a company set up in 1921 to serve the commercial interests of Fritz Gutmann and his brothers and sisters – through which he came into close contact with the Gutmann-Von Landau couple. In this letter, Westerbeek stated that, after the Gutmann-Von Landau couple’s departure for Berlin on 26 May 1943, he had ventured to remove “de Grisaille en de plafondschildering in de Grote Zaal van de gebr. van Eyck” from Huize Bosbeek. He apparently did this because he was afraid that these works of art would otherwise have been “weggesleept”. The Committee assumes that Westerbeek was mistaken in the attribution of the artworks to these artists and that the grisaille he mentioned is the currently claimed work of art. In his letter dated 1 October 1945, Westerbeek also wrote that in the process of removing the ceiling painting and the grisaille, he was disturbed by “een der hoogste figuren van de N.S.V.” [National Sozialistische Volkswohlfahrt, Committee], after which the ceiling painting had to be put back in place. One of the things Westerbeek wrote in his letter about the condition of Huize Bosbeek after liberation was that the “beschilderingen van de Gebr. van Eyck” were still there.
3.5. On 11 August 1941, the occupying forces enacted Regulation 154/1941, under which measures were taken to liquidate Jewish immovable property and mortgages. Pursuant to this regulation, all Jewish immovable property and mortgages were registered with the Niederländische Grundstückverwaltung (NGV), which assumed control of these goods. Once verified by the Vermögensverwaltung- und Rentenanstalt (Office of Property Administration and Pensions, VVRA), the rental income and sales amounts were transferred to the Liro bank. Huize Bosbeek came under administration of the NGV on 6 August 1942. On 14 February 1944, the NGV sold the country estate for NLG 135,000 to the social welfare company National Sozialistische Volkswohlfahrt eingetragener Verein (NSV) in Berlin. Of the sale price, an amount of NLG 65,000 was allocated to settle the revolving mortgage on one of the immovable properties on behalf of the Trustenad in Amsterdam. The Committee did not find any specific information on the grisaille in the documentation from the National Archives of the Netherlands concerning the (post-war administration of the capital of) the NGV and the NSV.
3.6. A day report by the Haarlem municipal police dated 4 June 1945 in the Noord-Hollands Archive states that Huize Bosbeek was in a state of neglect and that the wall and ceiling paintings had disappeared. Further details on the paintings that had disappeared were not given. The Westerbeek letter to L.V.G. dated 1 October 1945, outlined here under 4, does however indicate that the currently claimed grisaille was still in Huize Bosbeek after the war. In this letter, Westerbeek outlines, among other things, the fate of “de Grisaille en de plafondschildering in de Grote Zaal” during the war (which, the Committee assumes, he erroneously attributes to “de gebr. van Eyck” instead of De Wit). He then writes: “Het huis is er niet beter op geworden, is n.l. flink verwaarloosd, evenals de tuin. De beschilderingen van de Gebr. van Eyck zijn nog aanwezig”. In a letter from Westerbeek to L.V.G., dated 17 November 1945, he refers to “Uw schrijven van 14 October”. This latter letter by L.V.G. (the contents of which the Committee is not familiar with) is probably a reply to Westerbeek’s letter dated 1 October 1945.
3.7. In a summary of a July 1945 day report from the Haarlem municipal police, it is mentioned that at that time there was a boarding school for children of NSB parents at Huize Bosbeek. This boarding school apparently lasted a few years. The heirs of Fritz Gutmann were given (formal) control of Huize Bosbeek again on 5 May 1945. Together with the Trustenad (i.e. the company that administered certain interests of the Gutmann family, see under 4), the heirs then concentrated on regaining their rights of ownership in relation to the country estate. In its ruling of 7 January 1950, the Afdeling Rechtspraak van de Raad voor het Rechtsherstel [Jurisdiction Department of the Council for the Restoration of Rights] considered that, apart from a few minor points, the claims of the Gutmann party and the Trustenad could be awarded and it reinstated their ownership rights to the country estate. To this end, the Council for the Restoration of Rights nullified the agreement the NGV had used to sell Huize Bosbeek to the NSV, as well as the settlement of the Trustenad’s mortgage claim and the mortgage cancellation carried out by the Treuhänder (administrator) of the Trustenad. The ruling also states that an agreement has been reached between the parties “dat de N.S.V. “ter algehele verrekening van huren en lasten zomede van tijdens de bezetting aan het onroerend goed toegebrachte schade” aan partij Gutmann zal betalen een bedrag van f. 19.669,48”. No reference was found during the research to (an entry that specifically related to) the currently claimed grisaille.
3.8. On 29 December 1950, Fritz Gutmann’s heirs sold Huize Bosbeek to the Saint Hieronymus Aemilianus foundation in Amsterdam (Congregation of the Sisters of Providence). The deed of sale makes no separate reference to De Wit’s grisaille or ceiling painting nor to any other works of art destined for Huize Bosbeek.
3.9. The archive of the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed [Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency] (RCE) contains a note dated 26 March 1954 from D.F. Lunsingh Scheurleer, Government Inspector for movable monuments, from which it can be ascertained that the grisaille was found in the basement of Huize Bosbeek during the inspection. According to Lunsingh Scheurleer, the work of art was severely damaged, but could still be saved with immediate restoration. Apparently, the Sisters of Providence handed over the grisaille to the Dutch State via Lunsingh Scheurleer.
3.10. According to documentation in the archives of the RCE and the Museum, the currently claimed grisaille was loaned to the Provincial Museum of Drenthe by the Dienst voor ’s Rijks Verspreide Kunstvoorwerpen [Service for Dispersed Government-owned Art Objects, DRVK] in The Hague in the 1950s. In 1964, the Province of Drenthe finally purchased the currently claimed work of art from the State of the Netherlands for the museum in question and the Ontvangershuis in Assen. The purchase price for the grisaille was NLG 800.
3.11. In a letter dated 7 May 2010, the Holocaust Claims Processing Office in New York sent the Museum a letter from the applicants dated 5 May 2010. The letter said that the applicants would like to receive a proposal from the Museum for the restitution of the work of art to them as rightful owners. The subsequent correspondence between the Museum and the applicants led to an August 2011 joint request to the Committee for binding advice.