Germany Unhappy with the State of Restitution

Apparently, the German Government is considering its options about how best to deal with art sold by or confiscated from Jews under the Nazis the Sydney Morning Herald reports today. This comes in the wake of the record sale at Christie’s last week, in which a number of returned works
helped fuel the market. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has summoned culture ministers and museum directors to discuss overhauling the restitution law. This was a predictable development, especially considering the fabulous sums of money these works are getting on the market.

I postulated last week, that something does not quite seem right about the heirs of these works profitting so handsomely off works which had been hanging in German and Austrian museums. Another factor which may be fueling these discussions, is the news that the City of Berlin is in dire financial straits, and may have to sell some of its cultural buildings or works. When Berlin was essentially two cities, it maintained separate concert halls and museums, but since reunification, the city has too many cultural institutions for its budget. This museum is the Sammlung Berggruen, which houses many impressionist and post-impressionist works.

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

3 thoughts on “Germany Unhappy with the State of Restitution”

  1. I postulated last week, that something does not quite seem right about the heirs of these works profitting so handsomely off works which had been hanging in German and Austrian museums.

    First, these works of art do not belong to the Germans, they were taken during the Nazi Sub-human days
    Too even contemplate feeling sympathy for the German museums is falling into the trap of justifying Nazi war crimes.

    Any support for the German museums, or any museum that has artwork that is deemed unlawful is resentful nonsense.

    You cannot be half-pregnant, by your reasoning a high value stolen art handler could use the same argument about the Stolen Vermeer from Boston, if it has been hanging in his property for 16 years.

    The truth of the matter is these artworks were obtained in dubious ways and therefore it is only right that heirs are either given the works of art, or given the real, full, market value, via auction.

    Anything less will be pandering to Nazi memories and would seem to confirm a secret affection towards Nazi views.

    The “Something not quite right” stems from a deep down anti-semitism that is entrenched in a whole generation of people.

  2. Thanks for your comment, but I think you oversimplify the issues involved. Claimants are certainly entitled to some legal remedy. I’m just not sure the appropriate remedy is ownership of the painting, which they will usually quickly auction anyway. I think it likely that the German conference next year will pursue more appropriate legal compromise. No thinking person can deny the brutality of the Nazis, and that’s why courts have applied special rules to Nazi spoliation. However your comments strike me as quite insensitive and rude, and I don’t accept their premise.

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