Karlsruhe (dpa) – The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) today wishes to announce its decision on whether a database entry regarding possible Nazi loot and an Interpol search constitute imperfections in a work of art. An art collector has filed a complaint with the authorities because he considers his property to be compromised.
As part of an exhibition in Baden-Baden, he discovered that the “Calabrian Coast” by painter Andreas Achenbach (1815-1910) from his possession was in the so-called Lost Art Database. The criminal police organization Interpol was also looking for him. The painting belonged to Jewish art dealer Max Stern, who was banned from working by the Nazis and sold the painting.
The database helps to find lost works
The Magdeburg-based German Foundation for Lost Art operates the database which documents cultural property that was confiscated from Jewish owners notably under the Nazis – or for which such loss cannot be ruled out. According to the information, the former owners or their heirs should be put in contact with the current owners and supported in the search for a fair and equitable solution on the location of the works.
It was the same in this case: Stern had emigrated to Canada at the time. A Canadian trust manages his estate. Administrators have posted a wanted notice for the image on the Lost Art Database website. It has been listed there since June 29, 2016. The entry reads: “Circumstances of loss reported as confiscated cultural property as a result of Nazi persecution”.
The plaintiff does not want his ownership to be further criticized as Stern may have sold the painting under the pressure of Nazi persecution. He had acquired the painting at an auction in London in 1999. The representative of the trustees also declared during the hearing in Karlsruhe at the end of May that he was the legal owner according to German law.
“Calabrian coast” difficult to sell
“We can see here that the plaintiff is in a delicate position,” court president Bettina Brückner said at the time. The “Calabrian Coast” must be such a hard sell. However, the plaintiff failed in the lower courts.
Representing the plaintiff, attorney Wendt Nassall at the BGH said publication in the database required the consent of the journalist – so he could also have the entry removed. Since the German Foundation for Lost Art is not a party to the specific dispute, it has not commented on it. A spokeswoman said this was not the first entry procedure into the database.
From the point of view of the lawyer for the trustees, Siegfried Mennemeyer, the register is there to record historical facts. This would have delivered its customers. “We didn’t do anything more or less.” In Germany, the images listed in the database were resold quite profitably. However, he admitted things might be different overseas. In order to remove the entry, the applicant had to contact the database operator.
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