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STOLEN BY AUSTRIA

 

Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Stolen from Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer and never returned!

Gustav Klimt’s famous Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer is just one of six paintings by that artist which were taken from Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer by the Nazis after March 1938 and never returned. Ferdinand’s niece and heir, Maria Altmann (age 84), has actively been trying to recover the paintings for the past two years. This is her story.

Contents

Summary 3

Before 1938 4

Escape from Austria 4

The Looting 5

Post-war Hostility 6

Attempts at Restitution 7

The Extortion 9

The Revelation 11

Promised Restitution 12

The Opposition 13

The Decision 14

The Law 15

Political Pressure 16

Lawsuit 17

The Treaty 17

Conclusion 18

Summary

Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a prominent Jewish Viennese businessman, head of the Austrian sugar industry and a lifelong collector of art, commissioned the well known painter and founder of the Austrian Secession Movement, Gustav Klimt, to do several portraits of his wife Adele. He bought two of these in addition to four landscapes by the same artist. In 1936 he donated one of the landscapes to the Austrian Gallery. The five remaining paintings were hanging in Ferdinand’s home until the day that the Nazis seized its entire contents.

Adele died in 1925 when the bacillus of the Nazi plague was still dormant. She left a will requesting her husband to leave the Klimt paintings in his will to the Austrian Gallery in Vienna. Ferdinand declared himself willing to do so when his time would come. However, in 1938 when the Nazis invaded the Austrian territory, he fled for his life to Switzerland, leaving of course, all his possessions behind. He died in exile in 1945 having revoked all previous wills. The reason for this is obvious; he had lost all of his Austrian possessions and therefore the possibility to dispose of them. The Austrian Government now takes the position that the request of Adele Bloch-Bauer's will has the force of a legacy. This, of course, is absurd.

The paintings belonged to her husband who had commissioned them and paid for them. Under this flimsy pretext the Austrian Government has refused to turn over the stolen paintings to the last surviving member of the Bloch-Bauer family, Maria Altmann. An attempt to take legal action against the Austrian Government was stifled by its demand of a prior deposit of $500,000. And so, the Klimt paintings are stolen again: the first time by the Nazis in 1938, the second time at the end of World War II when the Austrian Government forbade the export of "Austrian Art", the third time now by a flagrant perversion of the law.

Before 1938

Maria Altmann was born into an affluent Jewish family in Vienna, Austria in 1916. Every Sunday she and her four older siblings would have brunch over at the beautiful palais owned by her uncle Ferdinand and aunt Adele. The palais, a large building on one of the finest streets in Vienna, was gorgeously decorated with fine artworks, tapestries, porcelain and furniture. When Adele died suddenly of meningitis in 1925, Ferdinand created a memorial room for her with her two full-length portraits by Klimt and four landscapes. A seventh Klimt painting was in Ferdinand’s bedroom.

When Adele died, she left behind a short will that asked that her husband donate the two portraits and four landscapes to the Austrian Gallery after his death. Although the paintings belonged to Ferdinand, and not his wife, Ferdinand allegedly stated that he intended to fulfill his wife’s wishes although he was not legally required to do so. In 1936, at the request of the Austrian Gallery, Ferdinand donated one of the landscapes to the museum.

Escape from Austria

In December 1937, Ferdinand’s niece Maria (age 21) was married. Her husband Fritz Altmann was the younger brother of the cashmere sweater manufacturer Bernard Altmann. As a wedding gift, Ferdinand gave Maria a diamond necklace and earrings that had once belonged to Adele. After just two months of marriage, in March 1938, the Nazis annexed Austria. Fritz was arrested and sent to Dachau as a hostage to force his brother, who had escaped to France, to sign over his business to the Nazis. The Gestapo took Maria’s jewelry, sending her diamond necklace to the Nazi leader Hermann Göring as a present for his wife.

Ferdinand fled first to his summer home in Czechoslovakia, a large castle and estate outside Prague. When the Nazis took the Sudetenland, Ferdinand fled to Zurich, Switzerland, and his estate was used as the principal residence for the Nazi commander of the so-called Protectorate, Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich, one of the principal architects of the Nazi’s "Final Solution" was leaving Ferdinand’s castle when he was assassinated in 1941.

After several months in prison, Fritz was ransomed by his brother and released from Dachau. Maria was taken by the Gestapo to Berlin to seal the deal. Although Fritz was subsequently placed under house arrest, he and Maria managed to escape on the way to a doctor’s appointment. With Bernard’s help, they fled over the border to the Netherlands where they were met by Bernard and flown to Liverpool, England, where the British had invited Bernard to build a new sweater factory. Maria and Fritz soon came to the United States and in 1942 reached Los Angeles, where Maria has resided ever since. Maria became a U.S. citizen in 1945.

The Looting

In exile in Switzerland, Ferdinand was cut off from his family and all his possessions. The sugar company he directed was aryanized, and Ferdinand’s shares held in Swiss banks were handed over to the Nazis. Ferdinand’s palais was bought by the railroad for its new headquarters. The artworks were plundered. In early 1939, a large group of Nazi and museum officials met in Ferdinand’s palais to discuss dividing up the enormous art collection. His famous 400-piece porcelain collection was auctioned off, with the best pieces going to Vienna’s museums. Some of his 19th century artworks by Austrian masters were taken and given to Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring. Others were bought for Hitler’s planned museum in Linz. Erich Führer, the Nazi lawyer liquidating the estate, was allowed to take a few paintings for his own collection.

The Austrian Gallery expressed an interest in the Klimt paintings, ultimately obtaining three of them from Führer, including the famous gold Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. One landscape was bought by the City of Vienna and another was kept by Führer. The portrait in Ferdinand’s bedroom ended up in the hands of an art dealer.1

In his second-to-last will, dated Oct. 8, 1942, Ferdinand wrote while in exile in Zurich: "In an illegal manner, a tax penalty of one million Reichsmarks was imposed and my entire estate in Vienna was confiscated and sold off." Indeed, when the war ended in 1945, Ferdinand was almost penniless. He died in November 1945, never having recovered any of his property. Not surprisingly, in his last will written in October 1945, Ferdinand made no provision for the donation of his property to any Austrian museums.

Post-war Hostility

The government of Austria in the post-war period after 1945 was extremely hostile to restitution claims by exiled Jews. For example, at the end of the war, in April 1945, Dr. Karl Renner, a noted legal scholar, chancellor and president of Austria (and, incidentally, formerly an intimate friend of Adele Bloch-Bauer), wrote:

Restitution of property stolen from Jews, this [should be] not to the individual victims, but to a collective restitution fund. The establishment of such and the following foreseeable arrangements is necessary in order to prevent a massive, sudden flood of returning exiles. A circumstance, that for many reasons must be paid very close attention. . . . The restitution to the victims cannot follow naturally. As soon as the property of the fund, which shall serve to compensate collectively all of the robbed individuals, is established, shares will be given out, for each pro rata based on the suffered damages -- not by the measure of whether a person's property is completely, partially or not at all recoverable; this collective procedure naturally provides that claims can only be satisfied in relation to the recovered property and only after the completion of investigation, prosecution and return of valuables (that is after years!). . . . Basically the entire nation should be made not liable for damages to Jews.

This overwhelming hostility to the claims of Jews on the part of the Austrian government carried over from the Nazi period into the post-war period and placed every Jewish family with claims against the government in a very precarious position. If a claimant was to have any success at all, deals had to be made to assuage the government ministers and their cohorts, who in most cases were as anti-Semitic as their Nazi predecessors.

Attempts at Restitution

Ferdinand had no children and left his entire estate to Maria and her older brother Robert and sister Luise. Luise was stranded in Yugoslavia, where she had survived the war with two young children. Her husband was arrested by the communists and executed for being a "capitalist." Maria’s brother Robert, who had fled to Vancouver, Canada with his two other brothers, took up the task of attempting to retrieve Ferdinand’s property.

After the war, a family friend and lawyer in Vienna, Gustav Rinesch, attempted to recover the Klimt paintings and other artworks and property. The Allies had collected looted artworks and held them in the Art Collecting Point in Munich. However, individual applicants were not permitted to retrieve their property directly. Rather, the artworks would only be returned to their country of origin, which was then responsible for determining whether the artworks should be restituted. Austria used this procedure and laws against exporting cultural items to obtain and hold Nazi-looted artworks hostage. The Austrian Federal Monument Office routinely demanding donations to federal museums before it would permit any artworks to be returned and exported to their former owners, most of whom remained outside Austria.

One of the Klimt landscapes was retrieved by Rinesch from Führer, who was imprisoned for Nazi activities. It was kept in an apartment in Vienna pending a request for export permits. The City of Vienna agreed in 1947 to return another landscape painting to Ferdinand's heirs, but demanded a return of the purchase price. But the Austrian Gallery refused to return the three paintings it had taken from Ferdinand's collection during the war, claiming instead that the paintings had been given to the Austrian Gallery in 1925 by Ferdinand's wife Adele. This claim was inconsistent with Adele Bloch-Bauer's will of 1923, which makes only the legally unenforceable request that her husband donate the paintings after his death. The heirs and their attorney, however, did not have access to Adele’s will or other court documents, which were taken out of the court files by the Austrian Gallery.

The Director of the Austrian Gallery, Karl Garzarolli, realized the invalidity of his museum’s claim to the Klimt paintings, as he very revealingly confided to his Nazi-era predecessor, Bruno Grimschitz, on March 8, 1948:

Because there is no mention of these facts [the purported donation of the Klimt paintings by Adele or Ferdinand] in the available files of the Austrian Gallery, i.e. neither a court-authorized nor a notarized or other personal declaration of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer exists, which in my opinion you certainly should have obtained, I find myself in an extremely difficult situation. . . . I cannot understand why even during the Nazi era an incontestable declaration of gift in favor of the state was never obtained from Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. . . .

In any case, the situation is growing into a sea-snake . . . I am very concerned that up until now all of the cases of restitution have brought with them immense confusion. In my opinion it would be also in your interest to stick by me while this is sorted out. Perhaps that way we will best come out of this not exactly danger-free situation.

The Extortion

Meanwhile, despite his reservations, Garzarolli took an aggressive stance against the heirs and prepared to sue them to obtain the other Klimt paintings that were not yet in the Austrian Gallery. On April 2, 1948, Garzarolli wrote to Otto Demus, head of the Austrian Federal Monument Office, expressing his strategy with regard to the Klimt paintings and other artworks in Ferdinand's collection:

I ask that the acquisition and trade proposals only be made when the attorney general has given the okay; in other words, for tactical reasons a delayed procedure is requested.

Demus immediately telephoned and met with Rinesch on April 3, informing him that the Austrian Gallery desired a number of artworks from Ferdinand's collection, including the Klimt paintings. He told Rinesch that none of the paintings would be allowed to be exported if the heirs disputed the Austrian Gallery’s ownership of the Klimt paintings. Based on this meeting, Rinesch decided (without first obtaining the informed consent of his clients, and obviously under extreme duress) to agree to "donate" the Klimt paintings to the Austrian Gallery in order to get the absolutely necessary support of Garzarolli and Demus for export permits for the other works recovered from Ferdinand’s collection, many of which were being held at the Munich Art Collecting Point. Rinesch met with Garzarolli to confirm this deal on April 10, 1948 – the same day he first saw Adele's will and concluded, "This is not in the form of a bequest." On April 13, Rinesch sent his five-page request for export permits for the rest of the Bloch-Bauer collection to Demus, with a copy to Garzarolli adding, "I rely on your sense of justice."

In this underhanded way, Austria managed to avoid having to return the Klimt paintings to Ferdinand’s heirs. In the end, the heirs were required to donate additional paintings, drawings and porcelain, and trade several other artworks, in order to obtain export permits for the remnants of Ferdinand’s once enormous collection. Still fighting for export permits in July 1949, Rinesch wrote:

The Bloch-Bauer heirs have, to document their interest in the public Austrian collections, in the most loyal way agreed that the major works of the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt from the Bloch-Bauer collection may remain at the Austrian Gallery as a bequest. Even if this bequest was originally already foreseen in the will of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer’s deceased wife, the heirs certainly had the ability to prevent the fulfillment of this bequest, because in the meantime the financial circumstances of the testatrix’s family had changed catastrophically and also the remaining conditions of the bequest had fallen away through the experiences of the Third Reich.

He enlisted the support of Garzarolli, who now agreed to approve lifting the export restriction on several remaining works, based on the donation of the Klimt paintings:

The Austrian Gallery has recently studied the question again and believes that for the following reasons approval of export can be recommended for both paintings without exception. Namely, the heirs of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer have immediately agreed to acknowledge and accept Ferdinand’s declaration that in the event of his death he wished to follow the wishes of his deceased wife to donate the paintings by Gustav Klimt to the Austrian Gallery, despite various transactions by Bloch-Bauer’s attorney during the Nazi era that extremely worsened the situation of the Austrian Gallery, and thereby established a way for the Austrian Gallery actually to receive this bequest.

The government continued to fight the heirs in other ways, dragging out the negotiations over the return of Ferdinand’s sugar factory for over ten years. The heirs and their attorney finally gave in, settling for a payment of just $600,000 from the sale of the sugar factory. As part of the settlement, they were forced to give up the beautiful palais, which to this day houses the offices of the Austrian railroad. They also had to sell a number of the returned artworks to pay taxes the government said was due from the factory. Nothing was ever retrieved from Czechoslovakia. Most of the fabulous porcelain collection was never returned, and pieces continue to show up at auction – the owners immune from suit under Europe’s "bona fide" purchaser rules.

From Ferdinand’s once enormous personal estate, little or nothing remained. The post-war restitution process in Austria had turned the old maxim on its head – to the defeated went the spoils.

The Revelation

In early 1998, in the wake of the seizure of two paintings by Egon Schiele that had been loaned to the Museum of Modern Art in New York by a government-supported Austrian foundation, the Austrian federal minister for education and culture, Elisabeth Gehrer, opened up the old archives to permit researchers to prove that no looted artworks remained in Austria. Thereafter, and much to her surprise, an Austrian author and journalist, Hubertus Czernin, published a series of articles exposing the fact that Austria’s federal museums had profited greatly from the extortion of artworks from exiled Jewish families after the war. Principal among these artworks were the collections of the Bloch-Bauer, Rothschild and Lederer families. Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which all the museum publications represented as having been donated to the museum in 1936, was revealed to have been transferred to the museum only in 1941 with a letter from the Nazi lawyer Führer signed "Heil Hitler." The revelations were devastating.

Gehrer responded by closing the Ferderal Monument Agency archives and ordering a thorough investigation by a committee of archivists from the various federal museums and headed by the director of the Federal Monument Agency, Ernst Bacher. The researchers essentially confirmed Czernin’s stories and reported to Gehrer that indeed many valuable artworks had not been restituted to their owners after the war and in many cases donations were coerced by government officials. In many cases, such as with the Klimt paintings from the Bloch-Bauer collection, the provenance had been falsified to hide the fact that the paintings had been stolen during the war.

Promised Restitution

In response, in September 1998, Gehrer proposed a new restitution law, designed to return artworks that had been donated to federal museums under duress in exchange for export permits, or obtained by the federal museums despite having a provenance which suggested that they were never properly restituted to their pre-war owners. The law was unanimously approved by the Austrian parliament and signed into law by the President in December 1998. The new law created a committee made up of government officials and art historians which was to advise Gehrer which artworks should be returned and to whom. Rudolf Wran, the section chief for culture under Gehrer, was selected to head this committee.

In January, 1999, the government permitted Czernin to copy the documents in the Federal Monument Agency files. Czernin provided copies to Maria Altmann’s attorney, E. Randol Schoenberg. It was at this time that Altmann first learned that the Austrian Gallery had lied to her brother’s attorney about the contents of Adele’s will, and had swindled her out of her inheritance.

In early February, the committee announced its first recommendation to return hundreds of artworks to the Austrian branch of the Rothschild family. Later that month, Minister Gehrer responded to parliamentary inquiries regarding a long list of suspect artworks by concluding that "the connection between the donation of the Klimt paintings and the export permit law is evident." The Austrian press reported in big headlines that the Klimt paintings would have to be returned.

The Opposition

But Wran and the other committee members had other plans. Most of them were greatly distressed by the prospect of returning these icons of Austrian art to Ferdinand’s heirs. The Rothschild collection, while certainly very valuable, did not include any significant Austrian artworks. As valuable as it was, the entire Rothchild collection, which was auctioned off in July 1999 for $90 million, was probably worth only about half as much in today’s market as Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer’s Klimt paintings that were at the core of the Klimt collection at the Austrian Gallery, Vienna’s most popular museum. Certainly in terms of their importance to Austria, Ferdinand’s Klimts were in a class by themselves.

Anticipating possible opposition from the very conservative committee, Schoenberg obtained an opinion from an Austrian expert on probate and estate law, Andreas Lintl, on the significance of Adele’s will. Lintl concluded (as had Garzarolli and Rinesch in 1948) that the statements in Adele’s will were of no legal consequence and that the heirs had not been required to give the paintings to the Austrian Gallery. This meant that the paintings were donated solely in exchange for export permits and would have to be returned under the new restitution law. Schoenberg sent the opinion to Wran. He met with Wran in late April, but Wran refused to discuss the specifics of the case.

In March, Bacher’s research committee submitted a report on the Bloch-Bauer collection to Wran’s committee, and sent a copy to Schoenberg. The report omitted key documents, gave only a partial view of the story, and made several incorrect conclusions. Schoenberg wrote to Wran and Bacher correcting the report and asked that his letter and further documents be shown to Wran’s committee. Unbeknownst to Schoenberg, this request was not honored and the rest of the committee was forced to rely on an incomplete and misleading report.

Wran forced the decision on the Bloch-Bauer collection to be pushed off by the committee until the end of June. In the meantime, he and one of his compatriots on the committee, Rudolf Kremser, a government attorney, drafted a legal opinion contrary to the one submitted by the heirs. Not knowing the conclusions of the government attorney’s opinion, Schoenberg requested by telephone and in writing that he be given an opportunity to read any contrary opinion and to address the committee and respond to any arguments made against restitution. This request was refused by Wran and Kremser. Having heard from the press that opposition was brewing, but in the dark as to what Kremser had written, Schoenberg submitted a further opinion from Lintl again concluding that neither Ferdinand, nor his heirs, were legally required to donate the paintings to the Austrian Gallery.

The Decision

On June 28, 1999, the committee met and quickly affirmed the recommendation of Wran and Kremser that the Klimt paintings not be returned. The committee did agree to return 16 Klimt drawings and 19 porcelain settings that had been donated by the family in 1948 as part of the consideration for export permits. Gehrer simultaneously announced her adoption of the committee’s recommendations.

The other members of the committee were not given copies of the two opinions by Lintl, nor were they given any of Schoenberg’s letters or informed of his request to see and respond to Kremser’s opinion. Wran confirmed this when he informed Schoenberg of the committee’s decision. The Bloch-Bauer heirs and their attorney had been purposely excluded from the entire decision-making process.

Not all of the committee members were in accord with Wran’s tactics. Ilsebill Barta-Fliedl abstained from the vote and questioned the judgment and motives of the other members. Before the committee even discussed the matter she had been ordered by her boss, one of the government ministers, not to vote in favor of restitution in the Bloch-Bauer case. Apparently, the committee vote was predetermined by the Austrian government before the committee had even discussed the Bloch-Bauer matter. The vote was a sham. At the end of the year, Barta-Fliedl resigned from the committee in protest. She has stated that it was clear from the first couple of meetings that the attitudes of the other members of the committee were inconsistent with the purposes of the committee. The committee was made up of people who opposed art restitution in general and were especially hostile to the claims of Ferdinand’s heirs.

The Law

Kremser's legal opinion, and therefore the committee's decision, was premised on the false assertion that Adele’s will gave the Austrian Gallery an ownership interest in the paintings. In coming to this conclusion, however, Kremser expressly disagreed with all of the leading Austrian legal experts who have written on this precise legal issue in the last several years (before the Bloch-Bauer case arose). In his 1994 article on "The Legacy of an Object Not Belonging to the Estate," Prof. Rudolf Welser concluded:

That the testamentary disposition of an object not belonging to the estate is valid when the object belongs to an heir, does not apply in the case when the testator sets forth that the heir should upon his own death leave an object from his own separate property to a third party.

Adele's will reads as follows:

I ask my husband after his death to leave my two portraits and the four landscapes of Gustav Klimt to the Austrian Gallery.

In the estate files is a declaration dated January 1926 from Gustav Bloch-Bauer (Ferdinand’s brother), the attorney for the estate, stating:

It should be noted that the referenced Klimt paintings are not the property of the deceased testatrix, but of her husband.

Thus, it is clear that Adele's request in her will was a "Legacy of an Object Not Belonging to the Estate" directing her husband Ferdinand to dispose of his own property in a certain way after his death. This wish, according to Prof. Welser and the other Austrian legal scholars, is and was unenforceable. To enforce such a request against the terms of Ferdinand’s last will would violate the and circumvent the strict laws regarding testamentary dispositions. And yet Kremser and Wran led the commission members to believe the exact opposite so that there would be no opposition to the government’s pre-ordained decision not to return the paintings.

Political Pressure

Schoenberg wrote to Gehrer to inform her of the committee’s grave error and the denial of due process to Ferdinand’s heirs. He recommended an arbitration process to resolve the dispute over the legal significance of Adele’s will. Gehrer rejected this approach, stating that if the heirs believed the decision was wrong, their only remedy was to go to court. Gehrer also stated, contrary to all the facts that were available to her and in clear denial of what had transpired during the Nazi era, that "The paintings were not stolen from Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer."

Clearly, even the one government minister who had proposed the new law, now found it politically impossible to continue. Her party, the conservative People’s Party, faced difficult elections in October, where her party eventually came in third, behind even the far-right Freedom Party led by Jörg Haider, known for praising Nazi SS leaders as "men of character," and referring to Nazi death camps as "penal institutions." By rejecting the Bloch-Bauer’s claims to the Klimt paintings, Gehrer joined in the Holocaust denial and revisionism that has reigned in certain circles in Austria since the end of the war. It is no surprise that she was rewarded for her "loyalty" and reappointed as a prominent minister in Austria’s new right wing coalition government.

Lawsuit

In September, Maria Altmann announced that she would file a lawsuit in Austria to vindicate her claim. However, the government had more in store for her. First, it was necessary to apply for a waiver of the enormous court costs required to bring a lawsuit in Austria. These court costs are based on the value of the recovery that is sought and in this case would total several million dollars, far beyond what Mrs. Altmann, who still works as a dress designer at age 84, can afford.

However, in November, the Austrian court granted Mrs. Altmann and the other heirs only a partial waiver, and ruled that they were required to spend $400,000 or all the assets at their disposal – essentially their entire life savings – in order to proceed. This is in addition to the risk of paying costs to the opposing side more than $500,000 if the heirs lose the case before an Austrian judge. Not content with even this impossible ruling, in December the Austrian government appealed the court’s decision, arguing that the amount Mrs. Altmann and the other heirs should have to pay should include the value of the porcelain and drawings that were finally returned to them, after lengthy bureaucratic delays, in November. Despite Gehrer’s earlier invitation, Austria clearly is behaving as if it does not want the Bloch-Bauer case decided in a court of law.

The Treaty

In Article 26 of the Multilateral Austrian State Treaty of May 15, 1955, Austria promised:

In so far as such action has not already been taken, Austria undertakes that, in all cases where property, legal rights or interests in Austria have since 13th March, 1938, been subject to forced transfer or measures of sequestration, confiscation or control on account of the racial origin or religion of the owner, the said property shall be returned and the said legal rights and interests shall be restored together with their accessories.

Austria has failed to live up to its treaty obligations. It is incumbent upon the United States to assert its rights under the 1955 treaty and insist that Austria provide due process to the victims of Nazi persecution, especially those like Maria Altmann who have been loyal U.S. residents and citizens since they fled from Austria over 60 years ago.

In his May 15, 1959 letter regarding the settlement of Article 26 claims for restitution, U.S. Ambassador to Austria H. Freeman Matthews concluded:

My Government has instructed me to advise you that it may approach the Austrian Federal Government in the future in connection with the settlement of individual claims asserted under Article 26 of the State Treaty which are not presently known to my Government and do not fall within the classes and categories of claims enumerated in paragraphs 1 and 2 of Section A of your note.

In other words, the U.S. reserved the right to assert unknown claims, such as the ones for the Bloch-Bauer's paintings. The fact that the Austrian government had lied to the heirs and had falsified the provenance of the paintings was not revealed until last year, so these claims fall within the category of claims "not presently known" in 1959.

Conclusion

The Bloch-Bauer case and others like it could be easily resolved if Austria was willing to submit to neutral arbitration. It is a fundamental maxim that in the event of a legal dispute, claimants should be afforded a reasonable opportunity to prove their claims before a neutral tribunal. Today, more than half a century after the defeat of the Nazis, it is time that these matters be resolved and settled fairly and quickly. Unfortunately, given the current political situation in Austria, it seems that without U.S. intervention on behalf of its citizens, these wrongs will never be righted.

Dated: February 4, 2000 ______________________________

E. Randol Schoenberg

For further information contact:

E. Randol Schoenberg
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson
350 S. Grand Ave., 32nd Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90071-3406
tel: (213) 473-2045
fax: (213) 473-2222
e-mail: schoera@ffhsj.com
http://www.adele.at



 

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