Wooded landscape with shepherd and cattle by B.C. Koekkoek
Recommendation regarding the application for the restitution of Wooded landscape with shepherd and cattle by B.C. Koekkoek (NK 2944)
In a letter dated 6 April 2005, Mrs C.B.-V. submitted to the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science (OCW) an application for restitution of the painting Wooded landscape with shepherd and cattle by B.C. Koekkoek (NK 2944). This was followed on 15 April 2005 by a second application for restitution of this work of art submitted by Mrs C.N. of P. On 22 April 2005 and 10 May 2005, respectively, the State Secretary asked the Restitutions Committee to issue a recommendation regarding these applications for restitution. The claimed painting is currently on long term loan in the collection of the Museum Haus Koekkoek in Kleef (Germany).
On 30 November 2004 and 10 March 2005, the Origins Unknown Agency (BHG) wrote letters to several family members of Jonas Alexander van Bever, who had put the painting Wooded landscape with shepherd and cattle by B.C. Koekkoek up for auction in 1941. In these letters, BHG requested further information on the loss of possession of the painting, and family members were asked for details about the rightful heirs of J.A. van Bever and his wife Henriette Belinfante. BHG also alerted the parties receiving a letter to the possibility of submitting an application for restitution if it turned out the painting had been sold under duress.
In response, C.B.-V. sent BHG a list of 41 persons who were co-heirs of J.A. van Bever in 1961. She was unable to provide further information on the painting. On 6 April 2005, she submitted an application for restitution to the State Secretary, also on behalf of her two children (‘applicant I’). On 15 April 2005, a second application for restitution was submitted by C.N. (‘applicant II’), who said she was a relative of J.A. van Bever. She, too, was unable to provide further information on the painting and the circumstances of the loss of possession.
Based on the applications for restitution, the Committee conducted a fact-finding investigation, the results of which are included in the draft report of 1 May 2006. The report was presented to both applicants. Applicant I had no comments, while no response was received from applicant II. The report was then adopted on 3 July 2006. As regards the facts of the case, the Committee refers to the investigatory report, which is considered part of this recommendation. As both applications for restitution concern the same painting, the applications are handled jointly.
a) The Committee has drawn up its opinion with due regard for the relevant (lines of) policy issued by the Ekkart Committee and the government.
b) The Committee asked itself whether it is acceptable that an opinion to be issued is influenced by its potential consequences for decisions in subsequent cases. The Committee resolved that such influence cannot be accepted, save in cases where special circumstances apply, since allowing such influence would be impossible to justify to the applicant concerned.
c) The Committee then asked itself how to deal with the circumstance that certain facts can no longer be ascertained, that certain information has been lost or has not been recovered, or that evidence can no longer be otherwise compiled. On this issue, the Committee believes that if the problems that have arisen can be attributed at least in part to the lapse of time, the associated risk should be borne by the government, save in cases where exceptional circumstances apply.
d) The Committee believes that insights and circumstances which, according to generally accepted views, have evidently changed since the Second World War should be granted the status of new facts.
e) Involuntary loss of possession is also understood to mean sale without the art dealer’s consent by ‘Verwalters’ [Nazi-appointed caretakers who took over management of firms owned by Jews] or other custodians not appointed by the owner of items from the old trading stock under their custodianship, in so far as the original owner or his heirs did not receive all the profits of the transaction, or in so far as the owner did not expressly waive his rights after the war.
The applicants request the restitution of the painting Wooded landscape with shepherd and cattle by B.C. Koekkoek (NK 2944) as heirs of Jonas Alexander van Bever, who died in 1943. Applicant I has indicated that Henriette van Bever-Belinfante, J.A. van Bever’s wife, was a great-aunt of her husband, who died in 1965. Applicant II said that J.A. van Bever was her mother’s uncle. Both applicants have stated they are not acting on behalf of the joint heirs. The Committee has taken cognisance of a certificate of inheritance concerning the Van Bever-Belinfante couple drawn up on 21 July 1959 as part of compensation by the German authorities for damage to household effects. This certificate lists 41 persons as heirs. The Committee has no information as to who J.A. van Bever’s current joint heirs are.
The fact-finding investigation has shown that J.A. van Bever, born in Amsterdam on 4 September 1878 and of Jewish extraction, lived at Den Texstraat in Amsterdam with his wife and daughter when World War II broke out. An extract from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Noord-Holland from 1944 demonstrates he had a brokerage specialised in ‘insurance, furniture, homes and immovable property’. After the occupying forces had issued decree 48/1941 on 12 March 1941, also known as the ‘Order concerning the Exclusion of Jews from Economic Affairs’, Van Bever was no longer in a position to conduct his business. He was also forced to hand in his assets to looting organisation Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co, as evidenced by a 1950 report on Van Bever’s assets found in the archives of the Netherlands Property Administration Institute. The Van Bever-Belinfante couple, their daughter and their son-in-law perished in Auschwitz around 17 September 1943.
The following has become clear regarding the claimed work of art. According to an internal declaration form of the Netherlands Art Property Foundation of 22 February 1946, the Amsterdam auction house of Frederik Muller & Co. reported on the voluntary sale, on 11 July 1941, of a ‘Wooded landscape’ by B.C. Koekkoek, the work of art currently claimed. The painting was sold to the firm of Paffrath in Düsseldorf; the vendor was not mentioned. After the war, the painting was returned to the Netherlands and entrusted to the State. Archival records have shown that, in early 1951, the Bureau for Restoration Payments and the Restoration of Property (Hergo) asked the auction house who had put the painting up for sale at the time. The auction house stated that it had been sent in by ‘J.A. van Bever, broker in Amsterdam at the time (since deceased)’ and that the painting had been sold to the firm of Paffrath for NLG 2,900. There are no indications that Hergo later contacted Van Bever’s heirs with a view to possible restitution. The Committee therefore concludes that the claim of both applicants is admissible, as there can be no question of the matter having been dealt with in the past.
Given the facts described above, the Committee is of the opinion that it is firmly established that in July 1941 Van Bever owned the painting by B.C. Koekkoek, as he put it up for auction. The question is, then, whether Van Bever relinquished possession of the work of art involuntarily as a consequence of circumstances directly associated with the Nazi regime. The investigation yielded no further information on this matter and the applicants were unable to provide details. Important in this respect is the supposition in the third recommendation on private art property by the Ekkart Committee of 26 April 2001, which is part of national policy. By virtue of this recommendation, it is assumed that the sale of a work of art by a Jewish private party in the Netherlands after 10 May 1940 is to be considered a forced sale, unless explicitly demonstrated otherwise. In this particular case, there are no indications that Van Bever sold the work of art voluntarily. On the contrary – given the fact that he was no longer permitted to conduct his business in the course of 1941, it would seem obvious that Van Bever was forced to sell the painting in the summer of 1941 in order to support his family. In so far as necessary, the Committee also refers to its general consideration under c, based on which the risk of loss of evidence due to lapse of time is to be borne by the government.
In light of the above, the Committee regards the application for restitution of the work Wooded landscape with shepherd and cattle by B.C. Koekkoek (NK 2944) admissible.
The Restitutions Committee advises the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science to return the work Wooded landscape with shepherd and cattle by B.C. Koekkoek (NK 2944) to the joint heirs of Jonas Alexander van Bever.
Adopted at the meeting of 3 July 2006,
B.J. Asscher (chair)
P.J.N. van Os
E.J. van Straaten
H.M. Verrijn Stuart
I.C. van der Vlies