Another Dutch Holocaust Claim


Four heirs of art dealer Nathan Katz have brought a claim for 227 works recovered in German at the end of World War II reports Marlise Simons in todays NY Times. Among the contested works is this painting by Salomon van Ruysdael, Horsefair at Valkenburg. The claim was made public Friday, just as the Dutch were moving to discourage new restitution claims.

These restitution disputes are ill-suited to an adversarial litigation process with one winner and one loser as is the current situation in the United States. Professor Norman Palmer has persuasively made this case in the UK, while Jennifer Anglim Kreder has proposed an interesting idea. She makes a great case for an International Tribunal for dealing with Nazi-Looted Art. It’s forthcoming in the Brooklyn Law Review, an early version is up on SSRN. In the Netherlands the claims are studied by the Restitution Commission which advises the government on the return of objects lost or stolen when the Germans invaded in WWII.

Here’s an excerpt of the NYT story:

Although the Dutch government in exile had decreed that citizens could not trade with the enemy, many Dutch art dealers, both Jews and non-Jews, sold works to eager German collectors, who circulated wish lists in the first few years of the war. Dutch traditional painting was sought after, because the Nazis did not consider it “degenerate” art.

After the war the Dutch government returned 28 paintings that the Katz brothers had claimed. Among them was Rembrandt’s “Portrait of a Man,” believed to have been used to buy their mother’s freedom.

Evelien Campfens, a member of the Restitution Commission in The Hague, said the claim of the Katz heirs would “be a complex case, with many different aspects to it: it will take time.” She said that the Katz brothers were important dealers involved in many transactions, and that many important paintings had passed through their hands.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Another Dutch Holocaust Claim”

  1. I’ve devoted this space to cultural issues. I’ll admit I’m a bit puzzled by your comment Jernej. For starters I see no reason why the two are mutually exclusive.

    Perhaps a case can be made for a World Court, and perhaps you might be familiar with scholarly work which makes a case for it? Shutting off debate strikes me as unhelpful, and a rights discourse is not the only legal discussion which should take place.

    A tribunal for nazi spoliation would ameliorate many problems that exist under the current legal regime which picks winners and losers among two relative innocents. I see no reason why a Human Rights Court would exclude a scholarly discussion of the other. Indeed, if a spoliation tribunal were shown effective, it might make a compelling case to extend the principles to a World Court.

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