Tag: Max Stern Art Restitution Project
“He who touches the ashes of the past,
Will burn himself with still glowing coals.” –Elizabeth Heyking
Han Sachs invoked this quote in his autobiographical work: "The World’s Greatest Poster Collection: How it came into being and How it Disappeared From the Face of the Earth." As the title of his book suggests, Sachs (who was, among other things, Einstein’s dentist) compiled an invaluable poster collection that was confiscated by the Nazis in November, 1938. He died without ever recovering his treasured collection.
In a recent essay published in the Timesonline, his great-granddaughter recounts the subsequent efforts made by Sachs’ son to recover his late father’s collection. Despite the fact that Germany: (i) committed to return confiscated art found in museums by signing the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art in 1999, and (ii) where the Third Reich was implicated, implied that it would not invoke any statute of limitations, a recent Court decision in favour of the estate was nonetheless appealed by the German government and the decision is pending.
The efforts of an executor of an estate to recover lost art poses special challenges that I recounted in this blog reviewing the efforts of the estate trustees of the estate of Max Stern and the advent of the Lost Art Internet Database.
David M. Smith
David M. Smith – Click here for more information on David Smith.
Sometimes an estate trustee may get more than she bargained for.
A case in point may arise when an estate has entitlement to various pieces of artwork in an assortment of jurisdictions. How does the estate trustee locate the artwork? What constitute sufficient efforts to locate such assets? How is it valued?
All of these questions raise significant issues for the estate trustee. The advent of the internet has provided new tools to anyone making a global search for artwork. The Lost Art Internet Database is such an example. This website is a project of the German government’s central office for the recovery of lost art. Not surprisingly, a large share of such art was seized from Jewish owners by the Nazis.
In all likelihood, the estate trustee of the estate of the late Max Stern has had recourse to this website in an effort to locate lost assets to which the estate is entitled. As recently reported in the Toronto Star, the late Max Stern was the owner of an art gallery in Germany from 1913 until 1934 when he was forced to sell his holdings by the Third Reich. He escaped to Montreal in 1937 where he set up an art gallery. Upon his death in 1987, Stern named Concordia University, McGill University, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as the beneficiaries of his estate. The estate trustee, operating as the Max Stern Art Restitution Project, has since located many pieces originally stolen from Stern’s German gallery.