Recommendation regarding Weijers
On 8 March 2007, J.A.C.M.V., on behalf of the ‘erven van wijlen H. Weijers uit Tilburg’ [‘the heirs of the late H.Weijers from Tilburg’] (‘the applicants’) sent a letter to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (‘OCW’), requesting restitution of nine works of art from the Netherlands Art Property Collection (‘NK collection’), which is administered by the Dutch government. It concerns paintings with the inventory numbers NK 1667, NK 1870, NK 2069, NK 2183, NK 2264, NK 2476, NK 2477, NK 2509 and NK 2774. In a letter dated 3 April 2007, the Minister for OCW asked the Restitutions Committee to issue a recommendation. The claimed paintings are currently on long-term loan to various Dutch museums, except for NK 2183, which is currently stored in the depot of the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (‘ICN’) in Rijswijk, the Netherlands.
The current application for restitution was preceded by an application for restitution to the Ministry of OCW’s Inspectorate of Cultural Heritage. On 20 March 1998, one of the current applicants, J.A.C.M.V., filed an application for restitution with that Inspectorate on behalf of his mother, M.A.V.-W., and his aunts, H.F.E.-W. and E.M.d.J.-W. That application for restitution concerned seven paintings from the NK collection, which are similar to seven of the nine works of art currently claimed (NK 2183 and NK 2509, which are part of the current claim, were not mentioned in the previous one). According to V., the works of art claimed in 1998 were lost involuntarily by his grandfather H.F.J. Weijers during the Second World War. On 3 August 1998, the Ministry of OCW rejected V.’s application for restitution (see under 2). On 8 March 2007, the applicants submitted the current application for restitution to the Ministry of OCW. On 3 April 2007, the Minister for OCW requested the Committee to issue a recommendation regarding this application for restitution. In a letter dated 5 March 2008, lawyer M.H. Stötzel informed the Committee that he had been authorised by the ‘heirs of the late H.F.J. Weijers’ to represent them in their application for restitution. In response to the application for restitution submitted to it, the Committee wrote a draft investigatory report (6 May 2008), which was sent to the applicants for comment on 13 May 2008. The applicants’ comments dated 24 June 2008 were added as an appendix to the definitive investigatory report, which was adopted on 6 October 2008. For the facts on which the application for restitution is based, the Committee refers to its investigatory report. R. Herrmann, former chairmen of the Committee, acted as consultant to the Committee in this case.
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, a daughter and ten grandchildren of H.F.J. Weijers (‘Weijers’), request the restitution of nine works from the NK collection. The applicants have stated that they are entitled to Weijers’ estate. In this context, the Committee has taken cognisance of documents submitted. The application for restitution concerns nine paintings with inventory numbers NK 1667, NK 1870, NK 2069, NK 2183, NK 2264, NK 2476, NK 2477, NK 2509 and NK 2774, which, according to the applicants, were once owned by Weijers. The applicants stated that their application for restitution applies to more works of art, but have not specified which (NK) works these are. The Committee cannot issue a recommendation on more works than those included in the Minister for OCW’s request for a recommendation.
In so far as the rejection by the Ministry of OCW of the previous application for restitution from 1998 regarding NK 1667, NK 1870, NK 2069, NK 2264, NK 2476, NK 2477 and NK 2774 (see under The Procedure) is concerned, the Committee does not consider the case settled in the sense of prevailing policy. Under the terms of the recommendations of the Ekkart Committee from 2001 and the Government’s 2001 response to these recommendations, a case is only settled if ‘the Council for the Restoration of Property Rights or another competent court has pronounced judgment’ or if ‘the claim for restitution resulted in a conscious and deliberate settlement or the claimant expressly renounced his claim for restitution’. Since this criterion does not cover the Ministry of OCW’s decision on the first application for restitution regarding Weijers, the Committee deems the applicants’ current application for restitution admissible. There is no information on any previous application for restitution of the works NK 2183 and NK 2509.
No significant problems were encountered identifying the claimed NK works based on the documentation consulted by the Committee, with the exception of NK 2509. The Committee deduced from research data from the Origins Unknown Agency (‘BHG’) that it is not certain that the painting in question, a work by G. van den Eeckhout, was once owned by Weijers and sold by Weijers to art dealer D. Sijperda in The Hague. In addition, the Committee found that, of all the works currently claimed, this is the only work not featured in the reproductions of the photo albums that the Weijers family made of its art collection during the war and that were sent to the Committee. However, identification of NK 2509 as a possible former possession of Weijers is irrelevant here, given the Committee’s recommendation as referred to under 13-14 below.
The applicants declare that in the period between 1940 and 1944, Weijers sold his entire art collection and that, given Weijers’ circumstances at the time, this sale ‘can not be considered voluntarily’ (letter of 1 April 2008). They state that although Weijers did not come from a Jewish family, he ‘must be considered to have been persecuted because he had been suspected and labeled to be an enemy of the Germans and of their Dutch sympathisers’ (letter of 1 April 2008). According to his memoirs from 1945, Weijers had fiercely opposed the Nazi regime in the 1930s, his initial sympathy for the Germans turning into covert hostility after the occupation of the Netherlands in 1940. In November 1940, his house in Tilburg was requisitioned by the occupying forces. In April 1943 and February 1944, Weijers was said to have been under threat of imprisonment due to his openly hostile attitude towards the Nazi regime; his advanced age and poor health prevented this threat from becoming a reality.
In order to answer the question of whether restitution can be recommended, it is important to know whether the sale of the claimed paintings can be considered involuntary due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. In this context, the Committee points out that Weijers did not belong to a population group that was persecuted by the Nazis. Consequently, the reversal of the burden of proof as expressed in the Ekkart Committee’s third recommendation from April 2001 does not apply here. The involuntary nature of the loss of possession as referred to above must, therefore, be demonstrated by the applicants.
When war broke out, Weijers owned a private art collection which he had accumulated in the period 1929-1940. The Committee infers this from the dates mentioned on the reproductions of photo albums the Weijers family made of the art collection during the war and that were sent to the Committee. The applicants therefore challenge, to no avail, that the purchase period extended until 1940 and mention 1929-1930/32 as the period during which Weijers bought most of the works of art (appendix 2 to letter of 1 April 2008). In his letter to the SNK of 4 October 1945, Weijers declared that he had purchased almost all of the works of art in his collection from ‘duitsche joden’ [‘German Jews’] through art dealer H.S. de Haan. But according to the applicants, there is no indication of such provenance (appendix to the investigatory report, p. 3).
During the war, Weijers sold his art collection. The nine works currently claimed were probably sold to different Dutch buyers and/or intermediaries, to wit sales to or through the Dutch art dealers H.S. de Haan (NK 1667, NK 2264), F. Parry (NK 1870, NK 2069, NK 2183, NK 2774), H.A. Wetzlar (NK 2476 and NK 2477) and possibly D. Sijperda (NK 2509). Part of Weijers’ collection was sold before his house was requisitioned in November 1940, part of it was sold subsequently. The exact sales data and prices are, however, not known.
Weijers completed an SNK declaration form for two of the paintings currently claimed (NK 1667 and NK 2264), filling in that this had been a ‘vrijwillige verkoop’ [‘voluntary sale’] to De Haan shortly after the beginning of the war. Weijers also declared that he later learned that De Haan had bought these works on behalf of Alois Miedl. Apart from two works (not claimed in this case), Weijers did not ‘aan Duitschers rechtstreeks geen schilderijen verkocht’ [sell paintings directly to the Germans] during the war, as he stated in his letter to the SNK of 4 October 1945. A large portion of Weijers’ collection was transported to Germany during the war, as the investigation has shown. The works Weijers sold to intermediaries and dealers were, in all likelihood, delivered to Germans.
In his letter to the SNK of 4 October 1945, Weijers said that the ‘joodse herkomst’ [Jewish provenance] of most of the works in his collection and his ‘bekende anti-duitschheid’ [well-known anti-German attitude] formed a risk of them being seized by the Nazis. In his letter he continued:
Dat gevaar werd nog grooter toen ik in Nov. 1940, door de duitschers, “wegens felle anti-duitschheid” uit myn huis werd gezet. Ik meende safe te zyn door myne schilderyen op te slaan by de Gruyter den Haag. Maar toen ik daar myn eerste inspectie-bezoek bracht, en constateerde, dat daar ook Seisz-Inquart en andere hooge nazi’s, door hen verzamelde ??? kunst hadden geborgen, zag ik my genoopt de verkoop myner in gevaar verkeerende schilderyen met den grootst mogelyken spoed door te voeren.
[That danger only increased when I was thrown out of my home by the Germans in Nov. 1940 because of my fierce opposition of the Germans. I though I was safe by storing my paintings at De Gruyter in The Hague. But when, during my first inspection visit, I found out that Seisz-Inquart and other high-ranking Nazis also kept the art they had collected ??? there, I was forced to sell my paintings, which were now in danger, as soon as possible.]
Referring to a notebook (not known to the Committee) in which Weijers was said to have recorded his sales, his wife Weijers-Arnold wrote in a letter to the SNK of 13 June 1947:
Zooals uit het cahier blykt (en ik herinner me nog alles zeer goed), werdt myn man in Juli of Aug. 1940 opgebelt door F. Parry uit den Haag en vroeg prys van diverse schilderyen met het verzoek deze drie dagen in optie te mogen houden. Op de vraag voor wie deze schilderyen bedoelt waren, juist omdat hy niet aan Duitschers wilde verkoopen, kreeg myn man ten antwoord, dat het geen usance was namen van clientèle te noemen. Een en ander werdt door myn man op verzoek van de heer Pary schriftelyk bevestigd. Binnen drie dagen was de Heer Parry per auto met zyn client, een zekere Dr. Kieslinger uit Weenen by ons tot groote ergernis van myn man. De in optie genomen schi[l]deryen werden gekeurd, gekocht, betaald en direct in de auto geladen en meegenomen.
[As is clear from the notebook (and I remember it all very well) my husband received a call from F. Parry from The Hague in July or August 1940, who wanted to know the price of various paintings and asked if he could exercise an option on them for three days. When he asked for whom these paintings were intended, given that he did not want to sell to Germans, my husband was told that it was not customary to mention the names of clients. This was confirmed in writing by Mr Parry, at my husband’s request. Within three days, Mr Parry and his client, one Dr. Kieslinger from Vienna, arrived at our place by car, to the great annoyance of my husband. The paintings on which he had an option were examined, bought, paid for and immediately loaded into the car and taken away.]
According to the applicants, Weijers-Arnold also wrote on the back of two photographs of works that Weijers had sold to De Haan: ‘verkocht door de Haan aan voor Hitler te stichten museum. onder pressie’ [sold to De Haan for museum to be set up for Hitler. under pressure]. Weijers and Weijers-Arnold did not apply for restitution after the war. Weijers died in 1947, his wife in 1972.
The applicants claim that the loss of possession of all nine paintings was involuntary, pointing to Weijers’ personal circumstances during the war, i.e. the fact that he was anti-German and had been threatened and given a hard time as a result of it. Moreover, they state that the German buyers used local art dealers to acquire parts of Weijers’ collection. Weijers is said to have sold ‘under the impact of the more or less blunt threats by De Haan, by Parry and Sijperda and others’ and because he was given the idea that his collection would be confiscated. The Committee’s investigatory report contains relevant quotes from the applicants. On 2 April 2008, Weijers’ daughter E.-W. said the following about the sales to De Haan:
Uit allerlei gezegdes tussen hem en moeder kon ik ook afleiden dat De Haan vader onder druk zette. Dat gebeurde al vóór de oorlog. Het had te maken dat veel van vaders schilderijen oorspronkelijk uit Duits bezit kwamen. De Haan had tegen vader gezegd dat de Nazi’s in Duitsland achter joodse kunst aan zaten en je wist maar nooit wat de toekomst zou brengen. Veel van de schilderijen die vader ooit via De Haan had gekocht, kwamen blijkbaar oorspronkelijk uit joods bezit. Volgens De Haan zou dit vaders collectie in groot gevaar brengen. Hij had in Duitsland gezien hoe de Nazi’s tekeer gingen.
[All kinds of things he and my mother said to each other led me to believe that De Haan was putting pressure on my father. This occurred even before the war. It had to do with the fact that a lot of father’s paintings were originally owned by Germans. De Haan had told my father that the Nazis were looking for Jewish art in Germany and you never knew what the future would bring. A lot of the paintings father had bought through De Haan apparently came from Jewish ownership. According to De Haan, this would gravely endanger father’s collection. He had seen for himself how the Nazis carried on in Germany.]
On 2 April 2008, E.-W. said about Sijperda:
Toen hij [Sijperda] drie prachtige schilderijen had gekocht, bleek dat dit sujet helemaal niet uit zichzelf had gehandeld maar de schilderijen had gekocht voor een museum van Hitler in Duitsland. Hij vroeg namelijk of vader maar de schilderijen naar Duitsland wilde versturen. Vader weigerde en zei dat hij niets met Duitsland te maken wilde hebben. [..] Vader werd verzocht bij Seisz-Inquart te komen en die zou alles verder met hem in orde maken. Vader weigerde, hij had niets te maken met Seisz-Inquart, alleen met Syperda zelf.
[When he [Sijperda] had bought three beautiful paintings, it appeared that this character had not acted on his own behalf but had bought the paintings for a Hitler museum in Germany. He asked my father if he could ship the paintings to Germany. Father refused and told him he didn’t want anything to do with Germany. […] Father was summoned to come to Seisz-Inquart, who would arrange everything. Father refused. He had no dealings with Seisz-Inquart, only with Syperda himself.]
On 2 April 2008, E.-W. said the following about the sales through Parry:
Vader en moeder vertelden mij dat de kunsthandelaar naar Bremhorst was gekomen samen met een Oostenrijker, Kieslinger. Deze man bleek de klant te zijn en wist alles van vaders collectie. Ter plekke kocht hij meerdere schilderijen en betaalde hij meteen in contanten. Vader durfde de koop niet te weigeren. Kieslinger was een Oostenrijker, maar hij kwam wel aanzetten in een Duitse auto met daarop de letters ‘R.K.’ Hij was gewoon een stroman van de Nazi’s .Wat zou er gebeuren als hij niet vrijwillig aan Kieslinger zou verkopen?
[Father and mother told me that the art dealer had come to Bremhorst together with an Austrian, Kieslinger. This man turned out to be his client and he knew everything about father’s collection. He bought several paintings on the spot and paid in cash. Father did not dare refuse the purchase. Although Kieslinger was an Austrian, he arrived in a German car with the letters ‘R.K.’. He was just a puppet of the Nazis. Who knows what would have happened if my father had not sold to Kieslinger voluntarily?]
The Committee rules that the two sales to the Dutch art dealer De Haan, corresponding to the works currently being claimed NK 1667 and NK 2264, must be considered voluntary. The sales were made shortly after war broke out and Weijers himself declared, on the SNK declarations related to these works, that the loss of possession was a result of ‘vrijwillige verkoop’ [voluntary sale].
As regards the seven other works currently claimed, NK 1870, NK 2069, NK 2183, NK 2476, NK 2477, NK 2509 and NK 2774, the Committee sees insufficient reason to assume that the loss of possession was involuntary due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime.
- By way of further explanation of point 13, the Committee considers the following. First of all, the Committee states that in the case of sale by private parties not belonging to persecuted population groups, involuntary loss of possession due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime only exists if there is a direct correlation between specific threats or coercion on the part of the Nazis and the sale in question. Weijers sold the works of art to intermediaries and dealers who then supplied them to Germans. The Committee assumes that Weijers, given the circumstances of the war and, more specifically, the confiscation of his house in November 1940, intended to sell the paintings in question to various intermediaries and dealers, but that he would not have wanted Germans to buy his paintings. The Committee finds corroboration of this standpoint in the statement by Weijers’ wife Weijers-Arnold as referred to under 10 and the statements by his daughter E.-W. as referred to under 11. The Committee has found no evidence of specific threats or coercion by the Nazis for the different sales. The Committee deems it plausible that Weijers would have feared confiscation of his collection, given the requisitioning of his home, but the Committee also finds that there are no concrete indications that his art collection was about to be confiscated. There is, therefore, no direct relationship between a specific threat or coercion by the Nazis and the sales in question.
The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister for Education, Culture and Science to reject the application for restitution by J.A.C.M. V. on behalf of the ‘heirs of the late H. Weijers from Tilburg’ regarding the works of art with inventory numbers NK 1667, NK 1870, NK 2069, NK 2183, NK 2264, NK 2476, NK 2477, NK 2509 and NK 2774.
Adopted at the meeting of 1 December 2008 by I.C. van der Vlies (acting chair), J.Th.M. Bank, J.C.M. Leijten, P.J.N. van Os, E.J. van Straaten, H.M. Verrijn Stuart, and signed by the acting chair and the secretary.
(I.C. van der Vlies, acting chair)
(E. Campfens, secretary)