Sunday, August 09, 2009
Nazi Looted Art at Oberlin College and Other U.S. Museums: Prague Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets
In late June I was invited to speak on a panel of legal experts on artwork looted by the Nazis. My topic was legal obstacles to the recovery of stolen artworks.
The image you see here is of an artwork by the artist Egon Schiele called Girl with Black Hair. Every major Schiele expert in the world - Jane Kallir, Eberhard Kornfeld and Rudolph Leopold - has said that this artwork came from Fritz Grunbaum's collection. Yet Oberlin College refuses to return it - or even to share their research or conclusions about where they believe it came from. Oberlin's website shows that the work mysteriously surfaced in Switzerland in 1956 - and stops there.
U.S. museums and liberal arts institutions concealing the origins of their artworks is one of the biggest obstacles to researchers being able to restitute artworks to the Jews and other Nazi persecutees from whom they were stolen. As Holocaust victims and their descendants die, U.S. museums simply wait, knowing that they have stolen artworks in their collections. In his 2006 testimony to Congress, AAMD Director James Cuno estimated the number of potentially Nazi-looted works in U.S. museums at "tens of thousands".
It is astonishing that U.S. museums can engage in this Holocaust denial and feel no backlash. Shame on Oberlin College. Its Dean should be tossed out on his ear.
Amb. Stuart Eizenstat supports a U.S. Art Restitution Commission. Good for him, and not a moment too soon.
You can find my full speech in Prague at the link below.
Disclosure: I represent the heirs of Fritz Grunbaum, a Jewish cabaret performer who was murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz.
Labels: egon schiele, holocaust, holocaust denial, nazi art looting, oberlin college, stuart eizenstat
Partner in Manhattan law firm Dunnington Bartholow & Miller LLP in New York City litigating in federal and state courts and arbitrations. Experienced trial and appellate practitioner. Author: Copyright Litigation Handbook (Thomson Reuters 2015-2016). The New York Law Journal called it "an indispensable guide". Serve on the Board of Directors of the Federal Bar Association, served as Chair of the Circuit Vice Presidents, Vice President for the Second Circuit and General Counsel. Member Board of Governors, National Arts Club. President, Network of Bar Leaders (2013-2014). Attorney advertising disclaimer - prior results do not guarantee success. The statements and opinions voiced here are my own and not of my law firm.