California Federal Court of Appeals Revives Nazi-Looted Art Claim Against Norton Simon Museum
Marei von Saher, the sole living heir of the noted Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker (1897-1940), is delighted that a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will permit her to continue her fight to recover two important artworks from the Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena, California.
Today, on the anniversary of D-Day, the Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of Ms. von Saher's suit against the Norton Simon Museum to recover two iconic life-size paintings, Adam and Eve, by Lucas Cranach the Elder. The Cranachs, which are well-known throughout the world, were among the most important artworks in Goudstikker's collection, which contained more than 1,300 works, mostly Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings. His collection was looted by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring following the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in 1940.
In its decision, the Court ruled that Ms. von Saher's claim can proceed because a judicial ruling on its merits would not be an intrusion on the power to conduct foreign affairs that the U.S. Constitution reserves to the Federal Government. As the Court stated, "Not only do we find an absence of conflict between Von Saher's claims and federal policy, but we believe her claims are in concert with that policy. Von Saher is just the sort of heir that the Washington Principles and Terezin Declaration encouraged to come forward to make claims…. Perhaps most importantly, this litigation may provide Von Saher an opportunity to achieve a just and fair outcome to rectify the consequences of the forced transaction with Göring during the war…."
Ms. von Saher is represented by Herrick, Feinstein LLP's Art Law Group, and Burris, Schoenberg & Walden LLP. Herrick's Larry M. Kaye stated, "We are very pleased with the Court's decision. We believe it is extremely significant, not only for Ms. von Saher, but also for all of the other Holocaust victims and their heirs whose artworks were looted by the Nazis."
Ms. von Saher stated, "I am gratified by the Ninth Circuit's decision, but at the same time, I am disappointed that this litigation, which has already gone on for more than seven years, will have to continue simply because the Museum refuses to do the right thing and restitute paintings that were indisputably looted from our family by Göring and rescued by the Monuments Men, but never returned."
Ms. von Saher is committed to her continuing mission to restore Jacques Goudstikker's legacy. Governments, private collectors and other museums have already restituted hundreds of paintings that were looted from the Goudstikker gallery, but these represent just a small fraction of Goudstikker's vast collection.
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