Croatia returns Looted Art to Grandson of Holocaust Victim

Monday, September 25, 2023
Croatia returns Looted Art to Grandson of Holocaust Victim

Three Croatian museums return pieces to Andy Reichsman, who continued decades-long struggle by late aunt to reclaim works stolen by Nazi-allied regime

The move marks the end of a 70-year struggle by the descendants of Dane Reichsmann, who was a wealthy owner of a department store in the country’s capital Zagreb before the Nazi-led genocide and was deported and murdered at Auschwitz along with his wife.

The artworks returned include paintings by André Derain, “Still Life With a Bottle,” and Maurice de Vlaminick’s “Landscape by the Water,” which were held by the National Museum of Modern Art, and lithographs from the Croatian Academy of Sciences and lithos by Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne and Pierre Bonnard.

André Derain, Still Life With a Bottle

In a statement on Facebook the museum says :

The National Museum of Modern Art, by decision of the Civil Court in Zagreb, handed over two paintings to Andrew Reichsmann. This marked the conclusion of a three-generation-long process of returning ownership of the paintings "Still Life with a Bottle" by André Derain and "Landscape by the Water" by Maurice de Vlaminck, which were once owned by the entrepreneur Dane Reichsmann, the father of Danica Ann Reichsmann Svoboda and the grandfather of Andrew Reichsmann. The fate of these paintings reflects the tragic and complex history of the Reichsmann family, the Jewish community, and the uncertainties of Croatian society. In 1946, the Ministry of Science and Culture, acting on behalf of the State as the owner of the paintings, transferred them to the Museum after they were received from Marijan Polić by the post-war Commission for the Collection and Preservation of Cultural Monuments and Antiquities. The Reichsmann family had entrusted the paintings to Marijan Polić for safekeeping after their property was confiscated by the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). The Reichsmann spouses were killed in Auschwitz.

The museum's administration at the time, guided by civic conscience and professional ethics, did not inventory the paintings into the museum's collection but recorded them in the Storage Book. This decision significantly facilitated the legal process of returning the artworks at the request of the family. Unfortunately, the entire process took over 70 years. The National Museum of Modern Art (NMMU) adheres to existing regulations and laws, emphasizing the importance of the legal framework for returning art that was unjustly seized during World War II and the post-war period as a fundamental civilizational, ethical, and professional obligation. To complete the process, museums throughout Croatia, in collaboration with numerous related heritage institutions and with the crucial support of the Ministry of Culture and Media, are now actively engaged in researching provenance, that is, determining ownership of artworks for which there is reasonable suspicion that they were unjustly taken during World War II and the post-war period.

Image on top : Maurice de Vlaminck's, Landscape by the Water

Stephanie Cime

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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