Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Nazi Looted Art Panel: Dutch Have "Moral Obligation" To Steal 2/3 of Christian Painting from Jews

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 147r - The Road to Calvary the Musée Condé, Chantilly (courtesy Wikipedia - not the painting in dispute)

The Dutch celebrated Memorial Day by making sure that the dirty work done by the Nazis of stealing from Jews was profitable for Dutch citizens - basically spitting on the graves of those soldiers who fought against Nazism.

Rather than make restitution of an artwork stolen from the Oppenheimer family, the Dutch have decided that the people who got it through a Nazi forced auction should pocket 2/3 of the proceeds.   This is disgusting and should be condemned.

The press release below:


The Hague, 31 May 2010


THE HAGUE – The Restitutions Committee has issued binding advice concerning the dispute over the division of proceeds from the sale of a privately owned painting, Road to Calvary, Brunswijker Monogrammist (16th century).

The painting Road to Calvary was taken from the possession of the Jewish Oppenheimer family 75 years ago at an enforced auction in Nazi Germany. The current owner is a Dutch private individual who wants to sell the artwork. The parties were divided over how much of the sale proceeds would come to the Oppenheimer family. In its binding recommendation, the Restitutions Committee has now concluded that in the event of a sale, the current owner should relinquish one third of the net proceeds to the Oppenheimer family.

The Committee was able to establish that husband and wife Jakob and Rosa Oppenheimer involuntarily lost possession of the painting during the Nazi regime, at what was known as a Judenauktion (Jewish auction) at an auction house in Berlin in 1935. The current applicants on the part of the Oppenheimer family are all grandchildren of Jakob and Rosa Oppenheimer. The family discovered the location of Road to Calvary in 2006 after a report by Sotheby’s auction house in Amsterdam, where it had been taken to be valued.

The current owner came into possession of the painting as a result of inheritance from her father, who died in 1999. Her father probably bought the painting at a jumble sale or fair in the province of Noord-Holland in the period between 1985 and 1995 for the approximate sum of one hundred guilders. The art work has recently been valued at €80,000. The current owner wants to sell the painting Road to Calvary, but the parties could not agree on the division of any sale proceeds, which is why they requested that the Restitutions Committee issue a binding recommendation. The Committee concluded that in the special circumstances of this case, according to the standards of reasonableness and fairness, the current owner’s share should be twice that of the Oppenheimer family. According to this recommendation, in the event of a sale, a one third share of the net proceeds should be relinquished to the Oppenheimer family. This conclusion reflects that the current owner’s right of ownership is beyond all doubt and, all Press release on Restitutions Committee binding advice RC 3.95 2 in all, carries the most weight in this case. At the same time, the ownership of Road to Calvary as a looted work of art has brought forth a moral obligation towards the Oppenheimer family.

The Restitutions Committee

Since January 2002, the Restitutions Committee has provided recommendations to the

Minister for Education, Culture and Science regarding claims to items of cultural value in

the possession of the national government. In addition, the Committee can also issue

binding recommendations concerning disputes between two parties over an item of

cultural value not in the possession of the national government. Such advice is given on

the basis of what is ‘reasonable and fair’. Use the following link to access the complete

version of the recommendation in this case (RC 3.95), which can be found on the

Committee’s website:


More information:

For more information, please contact Evelien Campfens, secretary/rapporteur of the

Restitutions Committee on +31(0)70 376 59 92.

 Purchase Copyright Litigation Handbook from West here  


Ron Coleman said...

This conclusion reflects that the current owner’s right of ownership is beyond all doubt and, all Press release on Restitutions Committee binding advice RC 3.95 2 in all, carries the most weight in this case.I guess this is the key paragraph here. Without having that advice RC 3.95 2 we can't even guess how they can say that "the current owner’s right of ownership is beyond all doubt."

Ray Dowd said...

Ron - Thanks for the comment. Unlike common law jurisdictions where one can only take void title from a thief, civil law jurisdictions have statutes of prescription where a possessor can take good title, even from a thief. But most of these statutes say that you had to buy in good faith, not knowing or having reason to know it was stolen. But the Holocaust - where everything was stolen and everyone knew it, is a very different thing. It was in every newspaper for years that Jews had been ripped off and that the Allies were searching for the stolen art. So you are Dutch and you buy a fabulous artwork for nothing, with no paperwork - of course you had reason to know it was stolen. This decision is an outrage. Ray