Juda Heijman de Vries
Recommendation regarding Juda Heijman de Vries
In a letter dated 20 June 2014 the Minister of Education, Culture and Science (hereinafter referred to as the Minister) asked the Restitutions Committee (hereinafter referred to as the Committee) for advice about the application from AA (hereinafter referred to as the Applicant), residing in BB, of 13 March 2014 for restitution of the painting Tavern Full of People, artist unknown (hereinafter referred to as the painting). The painting is among the possessions of the Dutch State, but not of the Netherlands Art Property Collection (hereinafter referred to as the NK collection), and it is in the Netherlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem (hereinafter also referred to as the NOM).
Pursuant to article 2, paragraph 1, of the Decree Establishing the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War, there is a Committee that is tasked with advising the Minister at the Minister’s request about decisions to be taken regarding applications for the restitution of items of cultural value whose original owner involuntarily lost possession due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime and which are:
a. part of the NK collection or
b. among the other possessions of the Dutch State.
Pursuant to paragraph 5, the Committee advises with regard to applications as referred to in paragraph 1, under b, and in paragraph 2 on the basis of the yardsticks of reasonableness and fairness.
In a letter dated 20 June 2014 the Minister asked the Committee for advice about the application of 13 April 2014 from the Applicant for restitution of the painting.
In response to the Minister’s request for advice, the Committee conducted an investigation into the facts. The results of the investigation are recorded in a draft overview of the facts dated 6 October 2014. The Applicant and the Minister were given the opportunity to respond to this overview of the facts. The Applicant responded in an e-mail dated
20 November 2014. The Minister responded in a letter dated 4 December 2014.
There was a hearing about the case on 8 December 2014. The Applicant was there in person, assisted by CC. The Minister was represented by DD, policy assistant, and EE, Dutch National Art Collection consultant. On behalf of the NOM the hearing was attended by FF, NOM Collections and Administration Sector Manager.
The Applicant sent further responses in e-mails dated 14 December 2014, 20 January 2015 and 7 February 2015. The Minister sent a further response in a letter dated 23 January 2015.
- The relevant facts have been described in the overview of the facts of 6 October 2014. The following summary is sufficient here. The Applicant is the only child of Juda Heijman de Vries (1900-1943) and his wife Jansje (Jenny) Callo (1912-2013). Juda Heijman de Vries lived at Van Riebeeckstraat 5 in Haarlem, he was a tailor and he had a workshop in Zijlweg in Haarlem. During the war Juda Heijman de Vries went into hiding in Wilsonsplein in Haarlem. While he was in hiding he was betrayed and deported, initially to Westerbork and then to Sobibor, where he was murdered on 21 May 1943.
- The Applicant’s restitution application was prompted by the results of the provenance investigation under the auspices of the Dutch Museums Association (hereinafter referred to as the Museums Association) into museum collections in connection with looting, confiscation or forced sale during the 1933-1945 period. The results of this investigation have been available since 29 October 2013 on the website www.musealeverwervingen.nl, where the following is stated about the painting.
It is not known who the painting belonged to before it was put under the management of the Netherlands Property Administration Institute.
The painting may have been among enemy assets that were seized after the war. In 1947 the Netherlands Property Administration Institute, Office for Movable Property of Enemies and Traitors, Winterswijk representation, transferred various paintings to the Netherlands Art Property Foundation. The correspondence about this transfer contains references to two paintings whose titles contained the words "Tavern" and "Peasant Tavern". One of these two titles may refer to this work. There is the following writing on the back of the frame: "Van Ostade" in black ink ‘"Haarlem, Walt…, Wil…plein 7" in blue chalk. "Fleij" or "Heij" in red chalk. This may refer to the address Wilsonplein 7 in Haarlem. Investigation has revealed that Juda Heijman de Vries (12 September 1900 - 12 May 1943, Sobibor), a Jewish tailor, was in hiding at this address. There are no further indications that Heijman de Vries had possessed this painting.’
- As a result of an article about this in the newspaper De Telegraaf of 30 October 2013, which among other things discussed the painting, the Applicant contacted the NOM. It can be deduced from the available correspondence that initially the NOM promised to restitute the painting to him, but it reneged on this undertaking because the painting is among the possessions of the Dutch State. The Applicant then turned to the Minister and requested restitution of the painting.
- Two valuation reports dated 20 December 2013, prepared by GG on the instructions of the NOM, describe the painting as follows:
‘Unsigned, possibly by a follower of Adriaan van Ostade (1610-1685), oil on linen, 71.5 x 59 cm. Age of painting 1675-1725. Depicting rustic figures in an interior, five seated and nine standing people, some playing music and some smoking. The interior contains jugs, furniture and small braziers, some of them on shelves high up on the wall. Condition of the canvas: considerable craquelure, paint has been lost in a number of small areas, and there is considerable damage in the form of scratches. The stretcher shows signs of woodworm (not active). The name van Ostade is written in black ink on the stretcher. Haarlem, JJ, Wilsonplein 7 is written in blue chalk on the stretcher. The stretcher also contains fragments of old newspapers bearing text in French.’
- The Committee requested the Applicant to complete a questionnaire. The Applicant wrote the following in response to the question about any recollections he might have of the artwork.
‘I was born in 8/1938 and was 3 or 4 at the time. No recollection. My late mother, who spoke rarely if ever about the war, did tell me that all their possessions had been stolen. She also talked about a painting and she did not know what had happened to it.’
The Applicant wrote the following in answer to the question about the circumstances in which the artwork was lost.
‘No knowledge whatsoever (I was 3 or 4 years old), I had gone into hiding (on my own) with farmers in Vijfhuizen.
My father (a famous footballer in Haarlem) was betrayed by the police (they received 25 guilders for each Jew).’
The following emerged from the Committee’s investigation into the painting’s provenance. The painting came from the seized enemy property of the German HH. During the occupation he was appointed Verwalter (administrator) of the ‘Jewish’ N.V. Heijman’s Industrie en Handelsonderneming in Groenlo. HH fled to Germany when it had become clear that Germany was going to lose the war. When HH departed he was said to have left behind various private possessions, including paintings, with the firm of Heijmans. After the liberation, Jacob Meijer Heijman(s) is said to have looked after HH’s goods for about two years. The formal administrator of HH’s possessions was II, a bailiff.
In February 1947 the Dutch Property Administration Institute in Winterswijk (hereinafter referred to as the NBI) removed II from his position, after which all the possessions (gold and silver objects, paintings) were handed over to the NBI. On 9 July 1947 an employee of the Dutch Art Property Foundation (hereinafter referred to as the SNK), F.W. van der Haagen, visited the NBI in Winterswijk. During this visit 21 items and artworks, including the painting, were transferred from the NBI to the SNK. Then, on 12 August 1947, the painting was handed over by Van der Haagen on behalf of the SNK to the NOM. In view of the fact that this painting originated from HH’s assets, and that there was an outstanding claim on them from ‘a certain Heijman of Winterswijk’, the NOM paid the NBI 120 guilders for the painting. The painting has been in the NOM since 1947.
Assessment of the claim
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister of Education, Culture and Science to reject the application from A. de Vries for restitution of the painting Tavern Full of People.
Adopted at the meeting of 2 February 2015 by W.J.M. Davids (Chairman), J.T.M. Bank, R. Herrmann, E.J. van Straaten, I.C. van der Vlies (Vice-Chair), and signed by the Chairman.
(W.J.M. Davids, Chairman)