The Art Newspaper has a useful update on the current state of the Guelph Treasure dispute. The Supreme Court has asked the Executive Branch, specifically the Solicitor General of the United States for an opinion on the case, in order to aid in its decision over whether or not to hear an appeal of the case from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Here’s a quick background on the dispute. The Welfenschatz, or Guelph trove, a collection of 42 objects dating from the 11th-15th centuries is currently in the possession of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and has been claimed by successors of art dealers who were fleeing the holocaust. These objects were originally housed in the cathedral in Braunschweig, owned by the House of Guelph. During the First World War, the House of Guelph lost reign over Braunschweig and in the 1920s the pieces were sold to a consortium of Frankfurt art dealers, including 82 items in 1929. Later in 1935 the Prussian state, led by Hermann Goering, bought the remaining pieces of the hoard in what the claimaints allege was a “genocidal taking”. In 2014, a German government commission found that the transaction was not a forced sale.
The claimants then brought suit in the United States. The current possessors, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation have defended that action on the grounds that as a Foreign Government, they are immune from suit in the United States under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Claimants have argued that the actions of the Prussian government fall under one of the exceptions to that law, that the actions of the Prussians was a violation of International law, namely genocide.
For some further helpful background from the perspective of the claimants, Nicholas O’Donnell, counsel for the claimants, has an excellent blog where he often updates this dispute.
Martha Lufkin, Supreme Court Delays Guelph Treasure Appeal so US Government Can Add Its Views to Case, The Art Newspaper, Jan. 21, 2020, http://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/supreme-court-delays-guelph-treasure-appeal-so-us-government-can-add-its-views-to-case [https://perma.cc/3UGP-SCJ2].