'German museums must do more over seized art'

18th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

18 April 2007, Berlin (dpa) - German museums should do more to look into the origins of paintings that changed hands under the Nazis, the head of a Jewish studies institute said Wednesday. "Every museum director knows what skeletons in the cupboard he has. The institutions have to act and trace possible heirs," said Julius H Schoeps ahead of a conference on restitution of art seized by the Nazis. The three-day meeting will seek to set guidelines for museums, art dealers and auction houses, said Schoeps, he

18 April 2007

Berlin (dpa) - German museums should do more to look into the origins of paintings that changed hands under the Nazis, the head of a Jewish studies institute said Wednesday.

"Every museum director knows what skeletons in the cupboard he has. The institutions have to act and trace possible heirs," said Julius H Schoeps ahead of a conference on restitution of art seized by the Nazis.

The three-day meeting will seek to set guidelines for museums, art dealers and auction houses, said Schoeps, head of the Moses Mendelssohn Centre for European-Jewish Studies.

About 260 experts from Germany, the United States and Israel are expected to attend the congress that is due to begin on Monday in Potsdam near Berlin.

"We want to contribute to settling unresolved issues and make suggestions how to deal with such problems in future," said Schoeps, who called for the creation of a "Repurchase Fund."

Such a fund, financed by private donations or foundations, could help museums retain artworks whose return has been sought by the heirs of the original owners.

German museums are alarmed they could loose some of their most important paintings because of a contentious law governing works of art confiscated from Jews by the Nazis.

Experts estimate 100 paintings by German Expressionists are subject of restitution claims, among them works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Franz Marc, a founder of the Blue Rider group.

In a high-profile case last November, Kirchner's Berlin Street Scene was sold at a New York auction for 38 million dollars after being returned by a Berlin museum to the granddaughter of its former owner, Jewish art collector Alfred Hess.

The painting was sold by Alfred Hess' widow Thekla to collector Carl Hagemann for 3,000 Reichsmarks, the currency under the Nazis. But it is unclear whether she actually received payment and whether the painting was sold under duress.

DPA

Subject: German news

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