Restitutions Committee issues recommendation on two claims to looted art

THE HAGUE – The Restitutions Committee is publishing two recommendations that it issued recently, advising the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science (OCW) to return a 17th-century chest to an heir of the original owner. The State Secretary has adopted the recommendations.

On 2 April 2012, the Committee issued a recommendation on a 17th-century beech chest in the National Art Collection (NK 3201), originating from the trading stock of antiques dealership S. van Leeuwen in The Hague (RC 1.103). This company was run by Jewish antiques dealer Salomon van Leeuwen, who found himself during the Second World War in an increasingly perilous position because of the Nazi regime's anti-Jewish measures. The occupying forces appointed an administrator (Verwalter) to his business, as a result of which Van Leeuwen lost his income overnight and could no longer enter his business property. With the assistance of his non-Jewish attorney-in-fact, Van Leeuwen was able to save his business from final expropriation by the occupying forces. In the meantime, however, he had fallen into financial difficulties and gone into hiding with his wife and new-born son.
The 17th-century chest was most probably purchased at the antiques dealership on 31 July 1944 by the German W. Geisler from Wiesbaden. The Committee assumes that, even if Van Leeuwen was aware of this sales transaction, he did not enter into it freely. It is very doubtful that Van Leeuwen would have been able to cooperate in the sale from his place of hiding. Furthermore, the Van Leeuwen family fell into financial difficulty as a result of the anti-Jewish measures. The Restitutions Committee finds that this qualifies as involuntary loss of possession as a direct result of the Nazi regime, on the basis of which it advises the State Secretary to return the chest to an heir of Salomon van Leeuwen.

The second recommendation, dated 5 March 2012 (RC 1.107), concerns a claim to various artworks in the National Art Collection, submitted by family of art dealer Louis Morpurgo. The Committee concludes that no evidence has been found that the objects claimed once were the private property of Louis Morpurgo, on the basis of which the Committee finds that the applicants' request is inadmissible.

The Restitutions Committee

Since January 2002, the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War has issued 110 recommendations and 131 claims have been presented to it. The Committee is chaired by Willibrord Davids.

See for the recommendations in the cases of S. van Leeuwen (RC 1.103) and Morpurgo II (RC 1.107)

More information

For more information, please contact Evelien Campfens (secretary/rapporteur) on +31 (0)70 376 59 92.

Relevant recommendations: 
NK 3201