Re: U.S. Appeals Court Rules Spanish Museum May Keep Nazi Looted Art #holocaust #announcements


Adam Cherson
 

First, I thank Professor Lazerow for summarizing the case for those of us with not time to digest another legal document. According to the professor, the case hinges upon whether the buyer showed the "due diligence [in verifying whether the seller had good title] that a reasonable purchaser would have exercised at the time under the circumstances of this purchase." I cannot tell from the summary whether Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza showed reasonable due diligence. All I know from this discussion is that the baron bought the work from a New York Gallery owner in 1976. So what would be reasonable due diligence under these circumstances? Certainly one would want to learn the provenance of the painting (where, when and how did the New York gallery owner get the work?), The next obvious question would be whether the prior owner(s) had good title. Now, I don;t know how much the dealer knew or told the baron about the painting's history, but supposing the baron knew that the Nazi government had been a prior owner, then due diligence, in view of well known and widespread Nazi looting activities, would have involved a determination, perhaps by a lawyer, as to whether the transaction between Lilly Cassirer and the Nazi government was a valid legal contract under German law at the time of that transaction. If it was considered legal under German law for a government official or agency to receive a painting in exchange for securing three exit visas, then there would be no legal issue as to whether succeeding owners could claim a valid title to the work (this would be a question of German law). On the other hand, if the baron had no knowledge of Nazi involvement in the chain of title and could not have reasonably obtained such knowledge, then we have a different case, which would seem to me to be governed by New York law, since the transaction seems to have taken place in New York. In New York State the innocent buyer of stolen property does not become its owner. The buyer would be required to return the property to its rightful owner, and the thieves would owe the innocent buyer the purchase price in restitution. The thieves in this case, if the original transaction was void, would be the successors-in-interest of the Nazi government and possibly other subsequent owners depending on their knowledge of the original theft.

Adam Cherson

Join main@groups.jewishgen.org to automatically receive all group messages.