by Walter Pavlo
In September, Moderna Museet Stockholm decided that a portrait by Austrian expressions artist Oskar Kokoshka would be returned to the family of Alfred Flechtheim. The museum bought the piece in 1934, a year after Alexander Vömel, an art dealer who was a member of the Nazi Party’s brownshirts paramilitary group, confiscated Flechtheim’s entire Dusseldorf gallery. In 2009, the same museum returned a painting by Emil Nolde to a Jewish family which once owned it. In October, a court in Paris ruled that a Pissarro painting stolen from a French Jewish family during the German occupation must be returned to them. It has taken decades to return these pieces but there are still other pieces of art that were wrongly taken from Jewish families during the Nazi expansion in the 1920s through the 1940s.. A new lawsuit filed in the U.S. seeks to have 143 paintings taken and they know where the paintings are located … in a prominent museum in the Netherlands.
The law firms of Berg & Androphy and E. Paul Gibson P.C filed a lawsuit on behalf of Bruce Berg, a grandson of the late Benjamin Katz and a great-nephew of the late Nathan Katz, brothers and partners who owned paintings, including valuable works by Dutch “Old Masters” such as Ferdinand Bol, Pieter Claesz, Jan Steen, and the school of Rembrandt.. According to the lawsuit the paintings were sold or traded under duress to representatives of the Nazi regime between mid-1940 and 1942, during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.
According to Rebecca Gibson of Berg & Androphy, the paintings, once taken, were meant to be displayed in Adolf Hitler’s future ‘Führermuseum’ in Linz, Austria, or for the massive art collection of war criminal Hermann Goering. Goering personally inspected and selected a number of the paintings named in the lawsuit. While Goering paid for the art, it was at deep discount and the proceeds were used by the Katz family to keep their relatives and families from being transported to concentration and death camps. Gibson said, “Nazi agents deceptively cloaked the forced sales in the appearance of legality, avoiding the wholesale looting carried out in other occupied countries.”