Assessment of the claim
7. The Applicant has stated he is the only heir of Juda Heijman de Vries. In this regard the Committee has taken note of the documents submitted by the Applicant and on the grounds of these documents, among other things, the Committee sees no reason to doubt the Applicant’s status as heir of Juda Heijman de Vries.
8. In view of the facts described above and the assessment framework, the Committee considers first of all the question of whether it is highly likely that the painting was among the possessions of Juda Heijman de Vries. If this is not the case, the basis of the Applicant’s claim lapses and the Committee does not continue with further substantive assessment of the application.
9. Before the Committee addresses the question of whether it is highly likely that the painting was among the possessions of Juda Heijman de Vries, however, in the context of careful provision of advice, it will address the Applicant’s comments about the sources referred to in the overview of the facts. For example, in his response of 20 November 2014 to the overview of the facts of 6 October 2014, the Applicant points out that the investigation report is based largely on statements from, and records describing actions by, people with (summarizing in the Committee’s words) dubious motives, for instance because they were German or were Nazi sympathizers during the war or had a certain interest in the painting. The Committee stresses that the goal of the investigation is to unearth as much as possible that may be relevant to the Committee’s advice. From the point of view of completeness of the investigation, it would be wrong not to include certain findings in the overview of the facts just because these findings can be traced back to individuals with questionable reputations. In view of the subject of the investigation, it is furthermore not possible to prevent such findings from surfacing. However, the statements and facts that the Applicant has cast doubt on are not important with regard to answering the question of whether it is highly likely that the painting was among the possessions of Juda Heijman de Vries.
10. In line with the Museum Association’s report, the Committee’s investigation has shown that the only indication that the painting was supposedly the property of Juda Heijman de Vries comes from the notes on the back of the painting. This therefore concerns “Haarlem, Walt…, Wil…plein 7’ written in blue chalk and ‘Fleij’ or ‘Heij’ written in red chalk. The latter text allegedly refers to Juda Heijman de Vries. Yet the Committee cannot ignore the fact that, as the Applicant himself has stated, Heijman was his father’s second first name. According to statements made by the Applicant, his father was not known by the name Heijman in everyday life. Similarly in written sources, for example two publications of the FC Haarlem football club submitted by the Applicant, the Applicant’s father is referred to as Juda de Vries. In view of this, according to the Committee it is not obvious that the note ‘Heij’ indicates Juda Heijman de Vries. The Committee can likewise not ignore the finding from the investigation that the provenance information suggests that the painting formerly belonged to HH, Verwalter (administrator) of the firm of Heijmans during the war. It therefore appears to be more likely that note refers to Heijmans in Groenlo and that this note was made in connection with the administration of HH’s possessions by the company N.V. Heijmans and Jacob Meijer Heijmans between 1945 and 1947.
11. As regards the note ‘Haarlem. Walt…., Wil…plein 7’, the Committee finds as follows. The Committee considers it to be almost certain that this refers to the address Wilsonsplein 7 in Haarlem. In Haarlem there are and were no other squares with names containing the letters ‘Wil’. The description of the painting in the valuation reports dated 20 December 2013 also assumes this, albeit with a minor slip of the pen. It also emerged from the investigation that Juda Heijman de Vries went into hiding in Wilsonsplein in Haarlem. It is possible that he was at Wilsonsplein 7, but this was not established by the investigation.
In addition the Committee draws attention to results from researching objective and indisputable sources such as many advertisements, including those in the newspapers the Algemeen Handelsblad and the Haarlemse Courant in the years after 1940. The advertising concerns paintings for sale with such descriptions as ‘by old masters’ and ‘from the Romantic School’, as recorded in the investigation report. It has emerged from this research that during the occupation and thereafter Wilsonsplein 7 was the address of an art gallery established with the name De Torenvalk. This art gallery was run as a one-man business by JJ, whose private address was the same. Quite apart from the fact that number 7 has not been established as Juda Heijman de Vries’s safe house, the Committee considers it plausible that the note ‘Haarlem. Walt…., Wil…plein 7’ refers to the aforementioned JJ. It should be pointed out that there are two number sevens in Wilsonsplein. If it is presumed that the safe house was at one of these number sevens, the Committee considers it unlikely that Juda Heijman de Vries would write this address, or have it written, on the back of the painting since this address – being a place of hiding – had by definition to remain secret. Furthermore the note ‘Walt….’ would remain unexplained. These factors mean that further research into the history of and people in Wilsonsplein 7 can be dispensed with.
12. The foregoing leads to the conclusion that it is not highly likely that the painting was the property of Juda Heijman de Vries. As stated above, the basis of the Applicant’s claim lapses herewith. In view of this the Committee can therefore not concur with the Applicant with regard to his position, as expressed for example in his response of 20 November 2014 and during the hearing of 8 December 2014 that, since this case is about looted art and the Minister has stated that no importance is attached to possession of the painting, there can be no objections to advising the Minister to restitute the painting to the Applicant. The Committee cannot recommend restitution of the painting to the Applicant on the basis of the yardsticks of reasonableness and fairness if it is not highly likely that the painting was the property of Juda Heijman de Vries.