Holocaust Survivor Sues Oklahoma University to Retain Stolen Nazi Artwork in France #france #usa #holocaust
Jan Meisels Allen
Bergère rentrant des moutons (Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep)”
by French impressionist Camille Pissarro
Léone Meyer is suing Oklahoma University (OU) for the painting “Bergère rentrant des moutons (Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep)” by French impressionist Camille Pissarro. Before World War II, Meyer’s family owned the painting. The only survivor of her family due to the Holocaust, had a summons issued to OU wanting to revisit a 2016 settlement in OU and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris agreed to display the art on a rotating basis. Meyer has expressed concern for the potential damage that could befall the piece during travel between Europe and the U.S.
Meyer’s adoptive family was previously in possession of a 19th-century painting, "La Bergere rentrant des moutons," which was removed from France during the war and was eventually possessed by the Weitzenhoffer family, according to the summons documents.
Meyers’ adoptive father attempted to reclaim the painting after discovering it had been moved to Switzerland in 1951, but a 1953 decision by a Swiss judge dismissed her father’s attempt to recover the art due to the “five-year statute of limitations” which had elapsed, according to the summons documents. The painting was next spotted in the U.S. in 1956, where it came into the possession of the Weitzenhoffer family and was later donated to OU in 2000.
According to the summons documents, Meyers’ legal representatives said OU had not “(carried) out any provenance research” on the painting, which had previously been listed in the Register of Looted Goods.
The Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art of 1998 states “If the pre-War owners of art that is found to have been confiscated by the Nazis and not subsequently restituted, or their heirs, can be identified, steps should be taken expeditiously to achieve a just and fair solution,” though it does not necessitate outright return of the piece.
in 2016, the U.S. Congress passed the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, which seeks to “ensure that claims to artwork and other property stolen or misappropriated by the Nazis are not unfairly barred by statutes of limitations but are resolved in a just and fair manner.”
OU legal representatives argued under the principle of res judicata and collateral estoppel, as well as “international law,” the university was the rightful owner of the painting, according to the 2016 summons documents. The university also argued Meyer “failed to make a claim for breach of contract” and the action was “time-barred under the two-year statute of limitations” in Oklahoma, according to the 2016 summons documents.
A hearing in Paris District Court is scheduled for December 8.
To read more see: https://tinyurl.com/y2wmsljs
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee