B. Historical overview
At the beginning of the twentieth century, David Katz ran an antiques business in Dieren, a village near Arnhem. His four sons were also active in the art and antiques business. According to information in the 1930 trade register, two of them, Nathan and Benjamin Katz, continued their activities as a general partnership using the name of their father’s business, which was said to have been discontinued by then. During the 1930s, this art dealership, Firma D. Katz, was established at various addresses in Dieren. Two other brothers, Abraham Katz and Simon Katz, were also active in the art and antiques business. As far as the Committee has been able to ascertain, they were not partners of Firma D. Katz of Dieren, but traded under their own name in Apeldoorn, Dieren and The Hague in the 1930s.
The brothers Nathan and Benjamin were very successful and the reputation of their flourishing business grew. Nathan was the driving force behind the trade in paintings, and the perspective moved beyond national borders. Paintings were purchased in England and other countries, such as works from the Cook collection, and there were intensive collaborations with art dealers in the United States. Nathan Katz also bought works on the instructions of collectors, such as in 1940 for example, when he bought various works from the Cook collection on behalf of the Rotterdam dock magnates D.G. van Beuningen, W. van der Vorm and others. Just before the German invasion in May 1940, the firm opened a branch at Lange Voorhout 35 in The Hague.
b. After the German invasion
In the years after the German invasion, the Dutch art market once again became an important market for German buyers due to the gradual abolition of trade and currency restrictions. Having had to deal for years with virtually unsaleable stocks as a consequence of the economic crisis of the 1930s, the art trade received an enormous boost. The art trade flourished and the price of paintings exploded. Both Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring attached great importance to building a top-quality art collection and sent their representatives to Dutch art dealers. As far as is known, the first contact between these German buyers and the Katz brothers took place in the first weeks and months after the occupation. After the war, Benjamin Katz said about the mood at the time: ‘Na de inval van de Duitsers waren wij angstig voor het verloren gaan van ons bezit omdat wij Joden waren. In sommige gevallen werden wij verplicht, maar dat was niet direct, om belangrijke stukken aan de Duitsers te verkopen’ [After the German invasion, we feared losing our property because we were Jews. In some cases we were forced, but not immediately, to sell key pieces to the Germans.]
The majority of the works of art that are the subject of the current claim were acquired by representatives of Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring, and by Alois Miedl, a German speculator and trader with close ties to Göring.
c. Buyer Alois Miedl
In June or July 1940, the Katz brothers came into contact with Alois Miedl, who was involved in taking over art dealership J. Goudstikker N.V. in Amsterdam at the time. Miedl had informed Katz that he was interested in buying paintings and it appeared that the brothers were prepared to sell. The ensuing negotiations were held in Utrecht, with Nathan Katz acting as chief negotiator on behalf of Firma D. Katz. After the war, his brother Benjamin said the following about the progress of the discussions: ‘Mijn broer heeft met de Heer Miedl altijd prettig onderhandeld en, toen wij in begin Augustus 1940 het definitieve contract sloten, hadden wij geen bijzondere vrees voor enige actie zijnerzijds.’ [My brother always had pleasant dealings with Mr Miedl, and when we concluded the final contract at the beginning of August 1940, we were not particularly worried that he would take any action]. On 2 August 1940, Miedl and the brothers concluded an agreement under which over 500 paintings, probably the bulk of the trading stock of Firma D. Katz, was purchased by Miedl for NLG 1,822,500. It can be concluded from a post-war investigation that this sum was credited to the business’s account a few weeks later. After the war, Benjamin Katz said: ‘In het begin dachten mijn broer en ik, dat de Heer Miedl onze heele zaak leeg wilde koopen en naderhand is mij gebleken, dat dit niet het geval was, want dat Miedl slechts een deel van mijn voorraad wilde hebben. Het is dus niet zoo, dat de Heer Miedl onze heele voorraad wilde koopen en daardoor ons als Joden de mogelijkheid wilde ontnemen om verder onze kunsthandel te drijven’. [Initially, my brother and I thought that Mr Miedl wanted to buy everything we had in the business and it later turned out this was not the case and that Miedl only wanted to buy some of my stock. So I cannot say that Mr Miedl wanted to buy up all our stock in order to rob us Jews of the opportunity of running our art dealership.] Benjamin Katz also stated that Miedl had indeed paid the purchase price of the transaction on 2 August 1940 and that the sum had been received: ‘De koopprijs van de groote partij schilderijen, die wij op 2 Augustus 1940 aan Miedl verkochten, is ons betaald via de Amsterdamsche en Rotterdamsche Bank. Wij kregen bij die banken dus een bedrag van ruim f. 1.800.000.- op ons saldo bijgeschreven’. [The purchase price of the large batch of paintings we sold to Miedl on 2 August 1940 was paid to us via the Amsterdamsche and Rotterdamsche Bank. In other words, our accounts with those banks were credited with more than NLG 1,800,000.]
After the war, Benjamin Katz said the following about whether any force was exerted during the sales: ‘De Heer Miedl heeft op mij en mijn broer nooit dwang uitgeoefend om schilderijen te verkoopen, die mijn broer en/of ik niet wilde verkoopen. De Heer Miedl heeft ons nooit bedreigd met de overigens wel door de Duitschers tegen de Joden genomen maatregelen’. [Mr Miedl never coerced either me or my brother into selling any paintings we did not want to sell. Mr Miedl never threatened us with the measures which the Germans had indeed put into place with regard to the Jews.] The circumstances of the occupancy did, however, play a part in the decision whether to sell a large batch of paintings in one go. Benjamin Katz said about this: ‘Ik wil nog opmerken, dat ik – wanneer er in Nederland geen Duitsche bezetting was geweest en wanneer er een willekeurige kooper was gekomen – mijn broer en ik er niet over gedacht zouden hebben een zoo groote partij schilderijen bij één transactie te verkoopen’. [I would like to note that if the Netherlands had not been occupied by the Germans and a random buyer had contacted us, neither my brother nor I would even have considered selling such a large batch of paintings in a single transaction.] He also remarked: ‘Wij waren er meer in het algemeen van overtuigd, dat er voor ons niets anders opzat dan te verkopen aan de Duitsers wat zij verlangden’. [More in general we were convinced that we had little option but to sell to the Germans what they wanted.]
After the large transaction of August 1940, Nathan Katz and Miedl stayed in touch with one another. After the war, Benjamin Katz said that he himself had spoken to Miedl only a few times, but that his brother Nathan talked to him regularly. Benjamin Katz said that he had the impression ‘dat Miedl en Nathan goede zakenvrienden van elkaar waren’ [that Miedl and Nathan were good business associates]. Nathan Katz concluded various smaller transactions with Miedl, about which Benjamin Katz said after the war: ‘Ook bij deze latere, veel kleinere, transacties, heeft de Heer Miedl voor zoover ik weet nooit pressie op mijn broer uitgeoefend of bedreigingen geuit’ [To my knowledge, in the case of these later, far smaller transactions, Mr Miedl also never brought any pressure to bear on my brother or uttered any threats.] In 1941, Miedl was said to have helped Nathan Katz and his family escape during a raid. Miedl allegedly hid them in his house until it was safe to return to Arnhem. Benjamin Katz said about this after the war: ‘In 1941 heeft de Heer Miedl zelfs eens mijn broer Nathan met vrouw en kinderen, toen zij door de Duitschers achterna gezeten werden bij een Jodenrazzia in den Haag, helpen ontvluchten’. [In 1941, Mr Miedl even helped my brother Nathan and his wife and children escape when they were being pursued by the Germans during a round-up of Jews in The Hague.]
d. Führermuseum in Linz: Buyer Hans Posse
At about the same time as Katz came into contact with Miedl, in the months after the German invasion, Dr Hans Posse made his first visit to the art dealership. Posse was a famous art historian and became director of the Staatliche Gemäldegalerie Dresden in 1910. In 1939, Posse had been given a special assignment by Adolf Hitler to assemble the collection for the Führermuseum which was to be set up in Linz. This assignment and the (informal) organisation set up to accomplish this were called the Sonderauftrag Linz. In the Netherlands, Posse was initially assisted by an employee of the Auswärtiges Amt, Felix Wickel. In the course of 1942, he also received assistance from a German art historian, Dr Erhard Göpel. Both were employed by the Referat Sonderfragen, a department of the Generalkommissariat zur besonderen Verwendung, headed by NSDAP delegate Fritz Schmidt. In practice, the department was engaged in influencing the relations between the Netherlands and Germany in the field of culture and in gathering information, such as for the Sonderauftrag Linz. Research has shown that the Nazi authorities regarded Nathan Katz as one of their chief contacts on the Dutch art market. It also emerged that the brothers were used as intermediaries for acquiring works of art from persons unwilling to trade (directly) with the occupying authorities, out of principle or for other reasons, but who were prepared to sell to a Jewish art dealer (see also below, under i).
On his first visit to art dealership Katz, Posse showed an interest in several dozens of works. On 29 June 1940, Katz sent Posse a quotation listing 25 paintings, and he wrote: ‘Bezugnehmend auf Ihren geschätzten Besuch an unsere Filiale in Haag danken wir Ihnen noch sehr für die grosze Ehre, die Sie uns damit erwiesen haben’. Posse decided to actually purchase 17 of the 25 works of art. On 19 July 1940, Katz confirmed the purchase worth NLG 358,000, stating that he hoped for more business: ‘Wir danken Ihnen sehr für die Tätigung dieses Geschäftes und hoffen recht gern, dass solchens einen Anlass zu weiteren Geschäften geben wird’. On 24 July 1940, Posse told Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary, that he expected that the ‘neu angeknüpften Beziehungen [in the Netherlands] fortlaufend weitere Erwerbungsmöglichkeiten von bedeutenden Stücken ergeben werden’.
More purchases did indeed follow. Until it was wound up in February 1941, the art dealership Firma D. Katz sold works worth over NLG 1.1 million to Posse for the Führermuseum. It can be concluded from post-war documents that the sales sums were transferred to and received by the firm. It can also be concluded from archival documents found that in the months following the winding-up of the firm, Posse and his assistants continued to make active use of the services of Nathan Katz for their assignment. Nathan Katz was expected, for instance, to provide information if he came across any interesting works of art, or to immediately buy such works for Posse. In October 1940, Nathan Katz had been instructed by Wickel to immediately notify Posse by telegram if he found anything special and to do so he was permitted to use the facilities at Wickel’s office. In addition, Posse was bent on purchasing the collection that belonged to Prof. Dr Otto Lanz, a surgeon of Swiss descent, who had died in Amsterdam in 1935. In the course of 1940, Nathan Katz was closely involved in negotiations about the possible sale of Lanz’s collection to Posse.
e. Buyer Hermann Göring
Reichsmarshall Hermann Göring also bought works of art from Firma D. Katz, albeit fewer than Miedl and Posse. Most transactions with Göring probably went through the latter’s purchasing agent, Walter Andreas Hofer, an art dealer who was very familiar with the Dutch art market, as he had been director of the The Hague art dealership of his Jewish brother-in-law, Kurt Walter Bachstitz, for some time in the 1920s. Hermann Göring visited the branch of Firma D. Katz in The Hague at least once in person, on which occasion he bought three valuable works from the collection of H.E. ten Cate of Almelo, with Nathan Katz acting as agent. This probably took place on or around 27 September 1940. In a conversation with the Committee, Nathan Katz’s son stated that the tension surrounding Göring’s visit had made his father feel unwell.
f. Aryanisation of the art dealership
In September 1940, rumours started circulating that the occupational administration was to start expropriating Jewish businesses. Posse and his assistants did, however, express their satisfaction with the services Firma Katz had rendered thus far. So as not to impede the delivery of paintings for Hitler’s collection, Posse saw to it that Firma D. Katz was registered with the Wirtschaftsprüfstelle, a department of the Generalkommissariat für Finanz und Wirtschaft, whose responsibilities included the registration of Jewish businesses, and that he was to be treated with restraint when the restrictive measures were introduced.
On 22 October 1940, Regulation 189/1940 was imposed, obligating all Jewish firms to register their businesses with the Wirtschaftsprüfstelle by 30 November 1940. On 12 March 1941, this regulation was followed by regulation 48/1941, the so-called ‘Wirtschaftsentjüdungs regulation. Shortly before this regulation came into force, the art dealership was aryanised on the orders of the Wirtschaftsprüfstellen. As a result, Firma D. Katz went into liquidation on 17 February 1941. The liquidator was the brothers’ lawyer, Cornelis de Kempenaer from Arnhem. The firm was wound up on 1 June 1943. At the same time as the firm was wound up, a new ‘aryan’ business was set up, the N.V. Schilderijen- en Antiquiteitenhandel v/h Firma D. Katz. On 19 May 1941, the establishment of the N.V. was announced in the supplement to the Netherlands Government Gazette. The N.V. was headed by the directors, Dr J.L.A.A.M. van Rijckevorsel and H.E. Tenkink, who had probably been approached for that reason by the brothers. The German Dr H.O. Behrens was appointed as supervisory director, who, as it emerged from documentation found, worked for the Referat Sonderfragen. Nathan and Benjamin Katz continued to work against payment as advisors to the company. One of the requirements of the Wirtschaftsprüfstelle was that the share of the Katz brothers in the profits of Firma D. Katz was to be placed in a blocked account at the Vermögensverwaltungs- und Renten-Anstalt.
Regulation 148/1941, known also as the first Liro regulation, took effect on 8 August 1941. This regulation stipulated that Jews had to make bank assets in excess of NLG 1,000 payable to the looting organisation Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co, Sarphatistraat in Amsterdam. Through the intercession of Posse, Nathan, Benjamin and Abraham Katz were temporarily exempted from this duty, initially for a one-month period.
g. Travels to Switzerland
To give fresh momentum to the discussions with the Lanz family in connection with the purchase on Posse’s behalf of the Lanz collection as referred to under d, it was decided at the end of 1940 that Nathan Katz would have to go to Switzerland, where Lanz’s widow lived. Wickel organised a visa for him at Posse’s request. It was said that there was no danger that Nathan Katz would not return from Switzerland, because ‘Das Vermögen von Katz sowie seine Frau und Kinder bleiben hier und befinden sich unter deutschem Zugriff’. In early March 1941, two weeks after Firma D. Katz had gone into liquidation, Nathan Katz stayed in Basel for a week. It is possible that the brothers considered permanently fleeing the Netherlands, as the applicants sent the Committee a copy of a letter said to have been sent to a lawyer in the United States by one of the brothers on 1 March 1941 which reads: ‘(…) if the situation with us becomes still worse, we have plans to come to America; in fact this might happen quite soon’.
Shortly after Nathan Katz had returned to the Netherlands, Posse thought it desirable that Nathan Katz visit Switzerland again. In May 1941, thanks to the intervention of Hitler’s right-hand man Martin Bormann and the head of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) Reinhard Heydrich, permission was granted. It took a while to get the formalities completed, but on 18 July 1941, Nathan Katz again left for Switzerland, where he stayed for a good two weeks. It can be concluded from correspondence that he was busy exploring the Swiss art market, amongst other things. He also attempted to have his son admitted to Basel University. Back in the Netherlands, on 9 August 1941, Nathan Katz reported his findings about the Swiss art market to Posse, including photos of paintings that were of possible interest to Posse. Among these was a painting by Rembrandt, described at the time as Portrait of Raman, in which Posse was greatly interested but which he could not buy because of an acute shortage of Swiss money.
h. Departure plans
Nathan Katz probably informed Posse or his staff in August or September 1941 that he wished to leave the Netherlands permanently (the formal emigration ban for Jews dates from October 1941). Whether Nathan Katz should be granted permission for that depended, according to Wickel, mainly on the extent to which Posse still needed him. On 19 September 1941, Wickel wrote to Posse, asking him to decide ‘ob bezw. inwieweit und wie lange Sie N.K. [Nathan Katz, RC] hier noch nötig haben’. Wickel noted that the most recent regulations of the Nazi administration were a substantial tightening-up of anti-Jewish measures so that Nathan Katz would need to be granted a further exemption to enable him to continue his work on Hitler’s behalf in a more or less normal manner. However, repeated requests submitted by Wickel on Posse’s orders caused resentment in parts of the Dutch occupation administration. This left Wickel in a vulnerable position seeing as he was of part Jewish descent himself. On 8 October 1941, Posse wrote to Wickel: ‘Sicherlich ist es weder für Sie noch für mich ein reines Vergnügen. Aber wir brauchen die Leute vorläufig noch im Interesse unseres Auftrags’. Wickel suggested to Posse that Nathan Katz be allowed to leave the country within three to four months. His brothers Benjamin and Abraham were to be presented with a similar proposal and if they rejected this, they would be fully subject to the anti-Jewish regulations from 15 October 1941, according to Wickel. The first deportation trains left Vienna, Prague, Luxembourg and Berlin at around the same date.
The brothers probably agreed to the proposal. In November 1941, Nathan Katz tried to obtain a transit visa for Switzerland, aiming to travel from there via Cuba to the United States. As security, a guarantee requested by the Swiss authorities that he would not be a burden on the authorities, he transferred several large sums of money to Switzerland. On 13 November 1941, Nathan Katz wrote to Posse about his possessions in the Netherlands, ‘das Ergebnis einer harten und mühevollen Lebensarbeit’. He expected that he would have to leave most of his possessions behind in the Netherlands, but in his letter he asked if he were allowed to take a sum of money and various goods, varying from jewels to paintings, with him so that he could build a new existence. According to Nathan Katz the ‘mir Ihrerseits stets erwiesene Hilfsbereitschaft’ had given him the courage to personally ask Posse to have his proposal looked upon favourably by the authorities in question. Nathan Katz argued that he assumed that ‘meine Dienste auch in der Zukunft für Sie von Nutzen sein und von Ihnen in Anspruch genommen worden können’, on the basis of which he hoped that Posse would manage to obtain permission from the responsible authorities.
A few days after receiving Katz’s letter, Posse discussed the matter with Generalkommissar Schmidt, suggesting that Nathan Katz’s departure be made as simple as possible. It was expected of Benjamin Katz, who remained behind in the Netherlands for the time being, that he continue to work for Posse. The completion of the formalities was held up a few times in the bureaucracy, but despite these setbacks, Posse continued his efforts to support the emigration plans of Nathan Katz and his family. After a request for an entry visa was rejected by the Swiss authorities on 16 January 1942, permission for a temporary stay was granted after all on 2 February 1942, initially for two weeks. Before he left, Nathan Katz had his household effects, which included paintings, put in storage at furniture warehouse De Gruyter in Arnhem. His family probably arrived in Switzerland on 11 February 1942, after a train journey Nathan Katz’s son described as ‘frightening’. A few weeks later, Posse visited Nathan Katz and the director of the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), Dr Hans Schneider, who had meanwhile also travelled to Switzerland, reporting to Wickel on 30 March 1942 that Nathan Katz was working for him in Switzerland: ‘Ich habe in der Schweiz eine ganze Menge sehr schöne dingen erworben. N.K. [Nathan Katz, RC] bin ich zweimal begegnet; er arbeitet für uns’.
i. After Nathan Katz’s departure
After Nathan Katz had left the Netherlands, his brother Benjamin took on work on Posse’s behalf. On 10 April 1942, he reported to his brother: ‘Ik heb nog eenige zeer belangrijke schilderijen kunnen krijgen voor Dr. P. en verwacht hem dan ook spoedig. Dus alles loopt goed’ [I have been able to get some very important paintings for Dr P. and expect him shortly. So everything is going well.] Meanwhile, Posse was found to be suffering from a serious form of cancer. In support of his assignment, he was assisted by Dr Erhard Göpel, who was to monitor Restitutions Committee recommendation (RC 1.90B) 10
the art trade in the Netherlands. Posse welcomed this because he considered the Dutch art market to be of key importance: ‘Es wäre tief bedauerlich, wenn eine unserer schönsten Weiden infolge des Abflusses von NK [Nathan Katz, RC] trockengelegt und unsere Kühe infolgedessen keine Milch mehr geben würden’. However, Benjamin Katz’s room to manoeuvre was very restricted by the anti-Jewish measures. Wickel reported to Posse ‘daß Juden keine Personenwagen mehr gebrauchen dürfen, sein Verfügungsrecht über sein Vermögen läuft demnächst ab; seine Erlaubnis zur Besichtigung von Ausstellungen, Museen etc. ist bereits abgelaufen, er benötigt seinen Sohn, da er die eine und andere Verbindung nicht allein aufrecht erhalten kann, und dieser braucht dann auch wieder Ausweise’. Wickel also noted that on top of that, Jews were also obliged to wear a star. Because Posse had been unable to lend his support to attempts to get the required exemptions because of his illness, Wickel had been unable to ensure that they were in place on time.
On 17 May 1942, Benjamin Katz wrote to his brother in Switzerland that things were going as planned, ‘maar veel zorgen in deze tijd. Dat begrijp je wel. Dat ik overal alleen voor sta als er wat te regelen is, valt dit niet mee. Het wordt natuurlijk slimmer en dat drukt (…) Ik hoop dat ik je spoedig de hand kan drukken, want ik ben erg moe, maar zal proberen door te zetten’ [but this is a worrying time. You’ll understand that. It’s not easy for me that when it comes to organising things, as I’m on my own. It’s obviously getting worse and that weighs me down (…) I hope I will be able to shake your hand soon, because I’m very tired but I will try to persevere.] On 26 June 1942, a friend of Nathan Katz’s wrote him a letter in which he said about Benjamin Katz: ‘Gisteren was je oudste broer even bij me, om eens bij te praten. Hij ziet er beter uit, maar vindt de geregelde reizen naar het Haagje [Den Haag, RC] niet bijzonder prettig. Hij kan zich nu beter begrijpen, dat jij daar een moeilijke tijd hebt gehad’ [Your eldest brother dropped in yesterday to catch up. He is looking better but does not like the regular trips to The Hague. He’s now better able to understand that you had a hard time there.] The first major deportations started in the Netherlands in the weeks following that. The first transport from Westerbork to extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau took place on 15 July 1942.
It can be concluded from documentation found that Benjamin Katz obtained various exemptions from the German administration to enable him to work, including an exemption from the obligation to wear a star. However, repeatedly securing exemptions for Benjamin Katz became increasingly difficult. In June 1942, Generalkommissar Schmidt was aiming to obtain an extension for an indefinite period but Reichskommissar Seyss Inquart only permitted a month’s extension of the dispensation. The brothers also had to submit a detailed specification of assets within a few weeks. Based on this, Seyss-Inquart decided in August 1942 that they had to hand in a quarter of their assets to the looting organisation Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co, Sarphatistraat (analogous with the original regulation concerning payment of Reichsfluchtsteuer in Germany). It was only with a great deal of difficulty that Göpel was eventually able to extend the exemptions until 1 October 1942. In a letter, Göpel elucidated this objective: ‘Die Privatmittel von Herrn B. Katz dienen vorläufig noch immer zu Vorfinanzierungen gewisser Ankäufe, die diskret erfolgen müssen, und ohne daß die Holländer erfahren, wer hinter diesen Käufen steht. Die Erfahrungen des letzten Monats haben leider bestätigt, daß dieser Umweg immer noch eingeschlagen werden muß’.
j. The Katz family’s departure
On 5 August 1942, Göpel wrote that the emigration of all 25 Katz family members was envisaged and that this proposal had, in principle, been approved but that the practical implementation of the plans would probably prove to be quite complex. In this period, various people, including those linked to art dealership Katz, were attempting to enable Jews to emigrate to or via Switzerland in exchange for paintings. Among the people who wished to leave the country in this way was probably Dr A.B. de Vries, the later director of the Stichting Nederlands Kunstbezit (the Dutch Art Heritage Foundation, SNK) and his family (see below under n). Members of the Lanz family and Dr Hans Schneider were presumably involved in the plans, which were probably changed on countless occasions and about which it is not known whether they were actually carried out in the end.
At the end of September 1942, Benjamin Katz presumably promised Posse Rembrandt’s Portrait of Raman that Nathan Katz had shown Posse earlier in Switzerland and which he wished to have (see under g), if he and his family could leave the country safely. Eventually, an exchange did indeed take place (see for the post-war restitution of the Portrait of Raman under n). The wholesale deportations and raids where Jews were picked up and taken from their houses were meanwhile in full swing. It can be concluded from letters that Benjamin Katz was under heavy pressure at this stage: ‘Mijn kop zit totaal vol. Zoveel komen bij mij om te helpen, maar dat kan niet allemaal’ [My head’s completely full. So many people come to me for help but I can’t do it all]. On 23 September 1942, Martin Bormann’s assistant wrote Posse a letter saying that Benjamin Katz and 25 members of the family had been allowed to travel to Switzerland, but urgency was called for because the situation could change rapidly. Meanwhile, the brothers’ lawyer tried to arrange for the emigration of various friends and acquaintances and a request was made to Nathan Katz to make funds available and to organise visas. In addition to Benjamin Katz, this also caused great tension and uncertainty among other members of the family. On 13 October 1942, Schneider said the following about Nathan Katz to Wickel: ‘Die Sorge um seine Verwandten setzt ihm furchtbar zu und hofft er, dass diese und namentlich seine Schweigereltern inzwischen geschützt wurden und davon auch Kenntnis erhalten haben’.
Although they were initially to emigrate to Switzerland, the group with Benjamin Katz eventually travelled by train to Spain on 20 October 1942. Nathan Katz had arranged for the necessary visas from Switzerland. Like his brother, Benjamin Katz also put his household effects in storage with the firm of De Gruyter in Arnhem. The group was accompanied on their journey to Spain by the deputy head of the Zentralstelle für Jüdische Auswanderung in Amsterdam, Ferdinand Hugo Aus der Fünten, and the head of the SD in Amsterdam, Willy Lages, two of the most important individuals in charge of implementing the deportation of Jews from Amsterdam. Their presence was probably meant as a guarantee and intended to ensure that the family did indeed reach their intended destination, otherwise the painting would not be released in Switzerland. From Spain, the group took a boat to Jamaica. In the course of 1943 and 1944, some of them returned to Great Britain to join the army or work for the Dutch government. On 9 November 1942, Schneider wrote a letter to Posse thanking him on behalf of Nathan Katz for his support. After the brothers’ departure, the Referat Sonderfragen used the The Hague branch of the art dealership for the storage and transit of works of art.
k. Family members who remained behind
Nathan Katz had also requested permission for his parents-in-law to come to Switzerland. However, it emerged that they had not been included on the list of individuals who had been given permission by the German authorities to leave the Netherlands. Schneider subsequently attempted to arrange for this permission via Posse. From August 1942, Posse’s condition continued to deteriorate and he communicated more and more through telegrams with Wickel and Göpel from the Landhausklinik in Berlin. He died on 8 December 1942. After several anxious months, Nathan Katz’s parents-in-law joined their family in Switzerland, probably in mid-December 1942. During his stay in Switzerland, Nathan Katz offered financial support to stateless refugees.
After the group with Benjamin Katz had left the Netherlands, a few family members remained behind, among whom was Eva Katz-Franken, the brothers’ mother. A brother of Nathan and Benjamin, Simon Katz, also stayed behind in the Netherlands, with his wife Roosje. As agreed, they initially received protection against deportation but at the end of 1943 they were arrested on the orders of the SD and taken to Westerbork. On 18 October 1943, Reichskommissar Seyss-Inquart, Generalkommissar zur besonderen Verwendung Ritterbusch, envoy Otto Bene, commander of the Sicherheitspolizei and the SD Erich Naumann, the head of Gestapo Referat IV B 4 in The Hague Wilhelm Zöpf, head of the Referat Sonderfragen Ruoff and Dr Erhard Göpel convened in a meeting about the Katz family. After a lengthy discussion, Seyss Inquart and Naumann eventually agreed to exempt Nathan and Benjamin’s aged mother from wearing the Star of David and allow her to stay in Dieren. The four remaining members of the family stayed in Westerbork but ‘werden jedoch wie die Frederiks-Juden behandelt, vom Abtransport zurückgestellt’. They would be given permission to emigrate ‘wenn die Einreise für ein anderes Land beschafft worden ist’. As Nathan Katz had stated that in that event he was prepared to make a painting available, further negotiations about the family members’ emigration were conducted by Posse’s successor, Prof. Hermann Voss.
It can be concluded from correspondence found in the Bundesarchiv Koblenz that as late as 1944, while he was in Switzerland, Nathan Katz had attempted to get his family freed by making works of art available to the Sonderauftrag Linz. The elderly mother of the brothers, Eva Katz-Franken, probably died in the Netherlands on 9 November 1944. Family members who had been interned at Westerbork were deported later after all, to concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. When the Germans evacuated this camp ahead of the Red Army advance, they ended up in the so-called ‘lost transport’, a packed train that drifted in between enemy lines for weeks. Benjamin and Nathan Katz’s eldest sister did not survive this and she died in April 1945, near Schipkau in Germany.
l. After the war
After the liberation, Benjamin Katz returned to the Netherlands and continued the art dealership in Dieren. His brother Nathan remained in Switzerland with his family. In 1946, the Dutch government awarded Nathan Katz the silver Erkentelijkheidsmedaille [Medal of Appreciation] for his support of refugees.
Shortly after the liberation, an employee of art dealership Katz visited the De Gruyter furniture warehouse in Arnhem, where the brothers had stored their respective household effects before leaving the country. Much had been destroyed and stolen: ‘maar er zit nog aardig wat, ook van Heer Bey [Benjamin Katz, RC], veel lijkt er door elkaar, panelen ingetrapt, sloten opengebroken, schilderijen zijn er bij waar zij dwars door het doek hebben geslagen’ [there is still quite a bit, also of Mr Bey’s (Benjamin Katz, RC), a lot seems jumbled up, panels kicked in, locks forced, there are some paintings whose canvasses have been hit right through the middle]. Benjamin submitted a request for damages to the German authorities via Stichting JOKOS, which was granted. However, due to a misunderstanding between Nathan Katz’s widow and her civil-law notary, the request for damages for the loss of Nathan Katz’s very valuable household effects was not submitted until after the statutory term had lapsed, so that only a fraction of the total claimed amount could be paid out.
m. Investigation into economic collaboration
After the liberation, the fact that art dealership Katz had supplied large quantities of art to the Germans during the occupation caused quite a stir. The Political Intelligence Department launched an investigation into the art dealership on suspicion of trading with the enemy or economic collaboration. In December 1947, the investigators reported on the attitude and activities of Benjamin and Nathan Katz. They concluded that the brothers had indeed supplied paintings to the Germans. Nathan Katz was said to have acted as ‘Sachverständiger’ for the Germans, for which he received a salary. It was not possible to ascertain whether these activities were conducted voluntarily. Within the Special Criminal Jurisdiction this was regarded as a complicated case. The investigation should therefore focus on the period before the liquidation of Firma D. Katz in February 1941. It would be difficult to prove that there had been no duress on account of the brothers’ Jewish origins after this period. The case was eventually dismissed.
n. Request for restitution of recovered art
After the war, several hundred works of art that the brothers Katz had supplied to the Germans were recovered from Germany and Austria. No declaration forms completed by Kunsthandel Katz for paintings that the art dealership had lost possession of during the war were found in the SNK archive. SNK director Dr A.B. de Vries, a good acquaintance of Nathan Katz’s from his Swiss period, was said to have granted the art dealership exemption because the administration of art dealership Katz was no longer available.
The brothers submitted a first application for restitution relating to two paintings on 15 May 1946, through their lawyer, Cornelis de Kempenaer. According to the brothers’ lawyer, he himself had been obliged to transfer the profits of the works to Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co, Sarphatistraat (Liro). Two paintings were returned in exchange for assignment of a debt of NLG 127,000 owed to the former Liro bank. The Rembrandt, which had been given to Posse in exchange for Benjamin Katz and his family leaving the country (see under j), was returned too. On 19 February 1947, Katz’s lawyer then requested the return of 26 other paintings, in respect of which advance talks had probably been held between SNK director De Vries, the Katz brothers and their lawyer. To support this application for restitution, Katz’s lawyer submitted, amongst other things, statements by the former director of the RKD, Dr Hans Schneider, and by art historian Prof. Dr J.G. van Gelder, both of whom said that the Germans had coerced the brothers, also naming Posse by name. Van Gelder stated that:
Bij alle moeilijke gevallen is ondergeteekende vaak te hulp geroepen; telkens weer moest hij vaststellen, dat tegen overmacht niets te doen was en dat onder pressie kunstwerken moesten worden verkocht, wilde het leven van de familie Katz niet in gevaar komen. (…) De leiding had aanvankelijk Dr. Posse, Dr. Voss met zijn vertegenwoordiger Dr.E.Göpel en ambtenaren van diens bureau. Alleen onder grooten druk zijn een aantal kunstwerken verkocht; een zeer grote rol heeft hierbij gespeeld de angst voor het wegvoeren van familieleden. Van een vrijwillige verkoop is nooit sprake geweest, temeer niet, daar tegenover verkoop van goederen elke mogelijkheid voor inkoop van goederen ontbrak. Achteraf kan worden geconstateerd, dat de taktiek van de Heeren Katz juist is geweest, wat nooit van tevoren kon gezegd worden; zoals bekend zijn ruim 30 familieleden uiteindelijk gered door vertrek naar het buitenland.
[I was called in to assist in all difficult cases, and each time, I was forced to conclude that there was nothing you could do about a situation of force majeure and that the paintings had to be sold under duress if the lives of the Katz family were not to be endangered. (…) Initially, Dr Posse, Dr Voss with his representative Dr E. Göpel and officials from his office were in charge. It was only under considerable duress that a number of works of art were sold. The fear that members of the family would be deported played a major part in this. This was never a voluntary sale, especially not since the sale of goods was never matched by the purchase of goods. With hindsight it can be concluded that Mr Katz’s tactics were right, something that you never know beforehand. As we know, over 30 members of the family were saved by going abroad.]
Destijds kon ik alles zeer van nabij volgen, omdat ik bij de inval der Duitschers de gebroeders Katz behulpzaam ben geweest bij het verbergen van hun belangrijke schilderstukken. Toen zij later door den genoemden opkoper Posse in ‘t nauw werden gedreven, kwamen zij telkens bij mij het hart lichten. Ik heb hen aangeraden alle transactie’s zoo veel mogelijk te traineeren en er vooral naar te streven, dat zij aan eventuele verkoop hunner stukken de conditie van “loskoop” voor hun zelf en hun familieleden annex konden maken. In dien zin heb ik dan ook persoonlijk bij den heer Posse gepleit – en succes ermee gehad.
[At the time I was able to follow everything from close by because I had helped the Katz brothers to hide their most important works of art when the Germans invaded. Every time they were cornered by the said buyer Posse, they came to me to pour out their woes. I advised them to delay all transactions wherever they could, and especially to attach to the sale of any of their works the condition of a “ransom” for themselves and their family members. I also argued that personally with Mr Posse, and was successful.]
SNK director De Vries’s opinion about the paintings for which an application for restitution had been submitted was that while duress certainly did play a part, it was still unclear whether there had been a quid pro quo. Because of this unclarity, Katz’s lawyer had suggested paying a sum of money and donating some important paintings to Dutch museums in reciprocation of the return of the work, an uncommon regulation in those days. With the consent of such authorities as the Netherlands Property Administration Institute (NBI) and the Ministry of Education, Arts and Sciences, 25 works of art were returned to the Katz brothers on payment of a sum of NLG 289,000 and the donation of three of the works – what were at the time called the Bicker portraits by Maarten van Heemskerk and a Rubens oil sketch – to the State of the Netherlands.
o. SNK affair
In the course of 1948, a judicial investigation was launched into the activities of the director of the SNK, seeing as there was a suspicion that various irregularities had occurred at the foundation. During this investigation, the works returned to Katz were also looked into. The suspicion arose that De Vries had given undue preference to the Katz brothers when returning the paintings. On 8 July 1948, Dr A.B. de Vries and Benjamin Katz were arrested in connection with this and interrogated for several days. The public prosecutor charged with corruption cases, W.H. Overbeek, formally opened the investigation on 12 July 1948. The arrest caused quite a stir in the press. Some newspapers conducted a fierce campaign against De Vries and certain issues were greatly magnified. Various witnesses were heard in the following years, including the German Alois Miedl, who had fled to Spain just before the liberation. At the request of the Dutch authorities, who provided him with a letter of safe-conduct and a reimbursement of expenses, Miedl visited the Netherlands from the end of August to mid-September 1949 in order to give evidence against De Vries and Katz. Action was also brought against Katz’s lawyer, C. de Kempenaer, after it emerged that the debt of NLG 127,000 with Liro had not come about as a result of the sale of paintings, as he had previously claimed. Nathan Katz died in Switzerland on 29 August 1949, before he could be interviewed.
The investigation dragged on for a while and was wound up on 10 January 1951. Public prosecutor Overbeek recorded his findings in a detailed final report, in which he concluded that Restitutions Committee recommendation (RC 1.90B) 15
De Vries had acted out of personal sympathy for the Katz brothers and with a view to Dutch museological interests, and that he had not been motivated by any personal gain. Overbeek saw Katz’s lawyer as the driving force behind the largest of the contested claims, and he doubted the latter’s good faith on certain points. Overbeek also reported on Nathan and Benjamin Katz’s activities during the occupation. In his view, compared to other Jews in the Netherlands, the brothers were in a very privileged position and the firm had greatly benefitted from the flourishing of the art market at the beginning of the war due to the German’s interest in buying art. As to the extent to which coercion had been at issue, Overbeek considered the following: ‘Het zal moeilijk zijn precies een onderscheid te maken tussen de hierbij gebleken koopmansgeest en het begrijpelijke gevoel van angst, dat bij hen tegenover de bezetters bestond’. [It will be difficult to distinguish exactly between the business sense that was in evidence and the understandable feeling of fear they would have felt with regard to the occupying authorities].
Because in De Vries’s case the investigated facts were on the ‘grens van het strafrechtelijke en de beleidssfeer’ [border between what was criminal and what was policy] and the lingering case had caused considerable suffering, Overbeek regarded further action against De Vries not desirable. As the charges against Benjamin Katz could not be proved, and his brother Nathan had meanwhile died, Overbeek recommended not prosecuting Benjamin Katz any longer either. The public prosecutor followed the advice with regard to Benjamin Katz, who ‘inmiddels een volslagen wrak [is] geworden, zo zelfs, dat zijn verhoor nog nauwelijks heeft kunnen plaats grijpen’ [has meanwhile become such a wreck that an interrogation has hardly been possible at all] but on 28 February 1951, Dr A.B. de Vries was handed a notice to the effect that prosecution would be continued. On 18 April 1951, by order of the district court, De Vries was granted immunity from further prosecution because of insufficient evidence of guilt.
Once the decision was taken to drop the case against Benjamin Katz, the Ministry of Finance did investigate whether it was possible and desirable to annul the return of paintings to Katz or else claim sums of money from him. The state advocate investigated the case but concluded that various difficulties would first have to be overcome. After all, the element of uncertainty with regard to the quid pro quo received had deliberately been included in the equation when concluding the agreement (of amical restoration of rights) between Katz and the SNK, and the element of ‘force’ in the sale to the Germans was not easy to refute, in part because in a previous case concerning the sale made by a private Jewish individual to Miedl, the Council for the Restoration of Rights had decided that this had been an enforced transaction. Nonetheless, negotiations took place between the State of the Netherlands and the Katz family, which eventually resulted in payment to the State of the Netherlands of NLG 183,250.20 plus interest by way of a settlement, thus bringing the case to a close.
Finally, in connection with a supposed embezzlement of money and mismanagement, the Katz family instituted a further action against their former lawyer, De Kempenaer. On 11 December 1952, the district court of Arnhem sentenced him to render account of his actions, as the Katz family demanded. The district court refrained from passing judgement on any sum he might have to pay. The proceedings dragged on until 1958, when the High Court decided that the lawyer was not obliged to pay a sum to Katz. Benjamin Katz died in 1962. The family continued the art dealership for a while, after which it was wound up and discontinued on 1 January 1974.