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A tough first case for the man who wrote the rules for the Nazi art of looting

Few people have done more to advance the cause of those seeking to recover property lost to Nazi Germany during World War II than Stuart E. Eizenstat.

As a diplomat and attorney, Mr. Eizenstat, 79, has advised five US administrative agencies, including: President Biden, on the Holocaust issue. He negotiated with European governments and companies, recovered more than $8 billion for Holocaust survivors and their families, and helped write the milestone. Washington Principles on the return of looted art, a treaty now used around the world for “rapid promotion” “Fair and fair solution” claim.

“No self-respecting government, art dealer, private collector, museum or auction house may trade or possess art stolen by the Nazis,” said Eizenstat. say in an essay in 2019.

However, as a lawyer, Mr. Eizenstat has never been involved in a personal compensation case. That changed a few months ago when he agreed to help a childhood friend whose family is being sued by the heirs of a Jewish couple whose art collection was confiscated by the Nazis. Hold.

Since 2015, relatives of Ludwig and Margret Kainer have pursued a request for a painting by Pissarro, the Impressionist master, once part of the Kainers collection. Last month, the heirs sued family of Gerald D. Horowitz, and in the following weeks Mr. Eizenstat, a childhood friend of Horowitz’s wife, Pearlann Horowitz, agreed to work on behalf of the family.

“Different claims to works of art that changed hands during World War II have different merits; Eizenstat said in a statement to The New York Times last week. “Our investigation into the historical facts regarding this painting have convinced us that this is not a clear statement that raises complex historical questions and includes contradictory information. together.”

Mr. Eizenstat said Mr. Horowitz, who bought the painting from a New York dealer in 1995, acted in good faith, making no sense that there was a cloud over its title. He said his efforts to reach an amicable settlement were in line with his work of life and that both sides had reached an agreement in principle.

“I am confident,” he said in his statement, “I am uniquely qualified to undertake the task of seeking a ‘fair and reasonable solution’ for both parties, as referred to in the Plaintiff. Washington principle of which I am the chief negotiator.”

Although Mr. Eizenstat’s clients themselves are Jewish, his appearance for the first time in an alternative lawsuit, not on the part of the claimants but the defendants, caused a The number of experts in this field surprised.

Lynn H. Nicholas, a historian and expert on Nazi looting, whose 1994 book, “The Rape of Europa,” is credited with drawing attention to the scope of the problem. . “But I don’t know all the details and he may have a good reason.”

The painting “The Anse des Pilotes, Le Havre”, an oil painting from 1903, depicts a harbor scene and was part of the Kainers’ collection when the couple left Germany in 1932, eventually settling there. France, according to court papers. . Since the Jews were unable to return safely after the Nazis took power, the Kainers shunned, and in their absence, their world-class art collection and other belongings gone to the tax office. Berlin seized, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Georgia. 15 Kainer heirs.

In 1935, more than 400 Kainer properties, including the Pissarro and 31 other paintings, were sold at auction in Berlin, the suit said, to pay for the Reich’s flight tax, a commonly used financial instrument. used to punish Jews who fled the country. According to James Palmer, founder of Mondex Corporation, a company pursuing the claim and representing the Kainer heirs. Additionally, the Kainer heirs have a page from the 1935 auction catalog that mentions the painting.

Mr. Palmer said that the path of the painting over the next 60 years was not entirely clear, although it had been owned for some time by a German industrialist who bought it at auction.

In 1995, Mr. Horowitz bought it from Achim Moeller Fine Art in New York, but only after checking with a reputable database that tracks robbed artwork. The picture is not listed.

In 2014, the Horowitz family lent the work to display at the Higher Museum of Art in Atlanta, at which point Mondex had identified the work, the company was working with Kainer heirs . The Kainers died in the 1960s childless, and their current heirs claim the painting to be the cousin’s children and grandchildren.

The heirs sought to redeem the painting in 2015, and presented evidence to the Horowitz family demonstrating that, in 2005, the painting was listed in Pissarro’s raisonné catalog with the robber “from L” . Kainer”, according to court papers.

But Mr Palmer said the Horowitzes were reluctant to move forward in discussions because they were unsure of who the legal heirs were. (At that time, a platform created by Swiss banking officials was established to serve as Kainers’ heir and Margret’s father. But in 2015, a German court found that Kainer’s relatives, not the foundation, were the couple’s real heirs.)

More recently, Kainer’s relatives presented additional evidence to support their claim, according to their court papers, including documents showing the Kainers had registered the work. was robbed with the French Ministry of Declarations and Resolutions, which published records of the work, along with a photograph, in 1949.

And auction houses considered several other paintings from the Kainers collection that were sold with Pissarro in 1935 as looted property. In 2009, for example, Christie’s sold “Danseuses” by Edgar Degas, was once owned by Kainers, for nearly $11 million under the terms of a replacement arrangement. (At the time, the agreement recognized the Swiss foundation, not the kin, as the heir.)

Mr. Eizenstat began advising the Horowitzes family after the Kainer heirs took the case to court last spring, according to Palmer, and is assisting attorney on the case, Joseph A. Patella.

Mr. Palmer said he was a bit apprehensive when Mr. Eizenstat joined the negotiations, led by attorney for the Kainer heirs, Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Eizenstat served in the Carter administration as a domestic policy adviser and served as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration. His many awards include the French Legion of Honor. Last year, the Holocaust Memorial Museum of the United States awarded him its highest honor for working “tirelessly to secure a measure of justice for Holocaust survivors.”

“He works with governments and policy as well as processing at a much broader macro level, so for him he engages on a personal level, which is a big deal,” said Mr. Palmer. unexpected.”

Mr. Eizenstat said in his statement that he joined the effort in part because Mr. Horowitz is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and is defenseless.

“The Horowitz family is a pillar of Atlanta’s Jewish and secular community, with a top track record in philanthropic support for numerous charities, including the Tragedy Survivors Foundation,” said Eizenstat. the Atlanta massacre.

A key point in the negotiations, Mr. Eizenstat said, was that Ludwig Kainer “appears to have intentionally misrepresented the circumstances of the alleged seizure of the Pissarro and is fully aware of who owned it after the war.”

He did not say what those false claims were. However, Mr Palmer admitted that Mr Kainer misled the French authorities the first time he filed the claim by reporting that the painting had been lost in France. Mr Palmer defended Mr Kainer’s decision, saying at the time Mr Kainer could not afford a lawyer to file the lawsuit in Germany and did not believe he would receive justice there. He also did not know the location of the painting, Mr. Palmer said he had to apply to German authorities.

Although the negotiations appear to have been successful, there are still some difficulties along the way. Last week, before an agreement was reached, Mr. Eizenstat said that settlement negotiations with Mr. Carter had “progressed effectively until Mondex breached trust and caused shocking misconduct, made sensational accusations to the press about the secret settlement. negotiate. ”

Mr. Eizenstat also noted in his statement that Mondex is a for-profit company, saying, “It is well known that Mondex acted and received compensation from the Holocaust lawsuits of others.”

Mr. Palmer said that some of the fees the company collects must be used to cover the costs it incurs in pursuing claims, “which we do with passion and pride. “

He said there was no agreement to maintain any secrecy about the negotiations. “Certainly a ‘fair and fair’ solution requires transparency and clarity,” Mr. Palmer said. What’s more important, he said, is the agreement in principle “is a very beneficial outcome for all parties involved.”

Mr. Palmer added that during the negotiations, he told Mr. Eizenstat that it was an honor to work with him. “I told him we wouldn’t exist without him, so I thank him,” he said. “I greatly appreciate the contributions he has made to the rest of the world.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/23/arts/design/stuart-eizenstat-pissarro-looted-art.html A tough first case for the man who wrote the rules for the Nazi art of looting

Fry Electronics Team

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