Von Podwinetz (EN)

Recommendation regarding Von Podwinetz

Recommendation number: 
1.73
Type: 
NK collection
Publishing date: 
2 June 2008
Private owner/art dealer: 
Private individual

In a letter dated 10 April 2008, the Minister for Education, Culture and Science (OCW) asked the Restitutions Committee to issue a recommendation regarding the application for restitution submitted on 9 March 2007 by U.W.-S. (hereafter referred to as the ‘applicant’) of the painting Stable interior with peasant family by A. van Ostade. The claimed object is part of the Netherlands Art Property Collection (hereafter referred to as the ‘NK collection’) under inventory number NK 1808. According to details provided by the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (hereafter referred to as the ‘ICN’), the claimed work is currently stored in the ICN depot in Rijswijk.

The procedure

The application for restitution was prompted by the posting of the currently claimed painting on the website of the Origins Unknown Agency (hereafter referred to as the ‘BHG’), which included the provenance name ‘Podwinetz, Paris’. According to the applicant, the painting belonged to her great-uncle F.H. von Podwinetz. In response to the request for a recommendation, the Restitutions Committee instituted a fact-finding investigation, the results of which were summarised in a draft report dated 7 April 2008. This draft report was sent to the Minister on 25 April 2008 to give the Minister the opportunity to add information. On the same day, the draft report was also sent to the applicant with a request for more information, who responded in writing on 28 April 2008. The report was adopted on 2 June 2008. For the facts of the case, the Committee refers to this report, which is considered an integral part of this recommendation.

General considerations

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 if the art was privately owned, 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) It is highly probable that loss of possession was involuntary if the object was sold 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.

Explanation of general considerations c and e[1]

In line with the recommendations with regard to art dealing and the explanation thereof, the Committee has come to the conclusion that consideration c should only apply to the ownership of art by private parties. Consideration e has been modified accordingly and, furthermore, this consideration should be taken to mean that only those objects that were effectively part of the old trading stock are eligible for restitution.

Special considerations:

  1. The applicant is requesting restitution of the painting Stable interior with peasant family by A. van Ostade (NK 1808). The applicant claims to be the second cousin and heir of F.H. von Podwinetz. According to the applicant, Von Podwinetz was born on 16 June 1891 in Vienna as the son of L. von Podwinetz. The applicant also claims that her grandmother, M. Podwinetz, was L. von Podwinetz’s daughter. In terms of inheritance, the applicant claims that ‘ich und meine beiden Kinder die einzigen direkt abstammenden verbliebenen Erben meines Grossonkels F.H. von Podwinetz sind’. The Committee has not been able to establish or discount the applicant’s claim to being her great-uncle’s (sole) heir. In this context, the Committee points to the fact that while the applicant undoubtedly has family connections to Von Podwinetz, the information she provided implies that Von Podwinetz was survived by his wife, thereby casting doubt on the applicant’s position as his heir. Given what follows, the Committee deemed it unnecessary to carry out a more detailed investigation into the position of the applicant as the rightful claimant.

  2. According to the applicant, F.H. von Podwinetz became the owner of the Vienna-based firm L. Podwinetz & Co. on the death of his father in 1917. He was married to J.A. Podwinetz – also referred to by the applicant as H. D. – with whom he lived at VIII Feldgasse 10 in Vienna between 1926 and 1939. According to information supplied by the applicant, F.H. von Podwinetz was of Jewish descent. However, in the documentation sent by the applicant, she states that: ‘His religion was stated on his police residential permit as Evangelikus or Lutheran’. In 1938, Von Podwinetz supposedly left Vienna for England, but no record exists of him ever being there. According to the applicant, Von Podwinetz stayed in Berlin from 1934 and Paris from 1938. Nothing is known of Von Podwinetz after 1938. The applicant presumes that he was killed as a result of Jewish persecution. The applicant claims that Von Podwinetz’s wife fled to England in 1939 and has submitted a statement to the Committee made by an acquaintance of the Von Podwinetz-D. in 1964, in which it is stated that, due to measures introduced by the Nazis, the couple were forced to flee Berlin, where the wealthy Von Podwinetz had a luxury mansion and a ‘Privatbankhaus’, leaving behind all their possessions.

  3. According to the applicant, her great-uncle F.H. von Podwinetz is the as yet unidentified owner of the painting in question. A post-war overview concerning ‘Irrtümliche Restitution nach Holland’ from the Federal Archive in Koblenz states the following in relation to the provenance of the currently claimed painting: ‘28.3.1941 von Podwinetz, Paris an Gal. Haberstock, Berlin; 16.4.1941 von dort an S[ammlung]L[inz]’. The 1945 Art Looting Investigation Unit’s ‘Consolidated Interrogation Report No. 4’ indicates ‘PODWINETZ 1941’ with regard to the provenance of Van Ostade’s painting. Presumably, ‘PODWINETZ’ is one and the same as the person indicated as ‘PEDWINETZ, F.I. / Paris’ in the Art Looting Investigation Unit’s ‘Final Report’, and about which the report remarks ‘Sold to HABERSTOCK’. The applicant is of the opinion that the person named in these documents is her great-uncle. She claims that Von Podwinetz lived in Paris after 1938 and that since ‘Podwinetz’ and in particular ‘Von Podwinetz’ are highly uncommon names, it can be assumed that the provenance specified as ‘Podwinetz, Paris’ refers to her great-uncle. The position taken by the applicant, particularly her assumption that her great-uncle lived in Paris at the time the painting in question may have been sold in 1941, cannot be substantiated.

  4. In accordance with the Ekkart Committee’s eighth recommendation of April 2001, current restitution policy dictates that art objects can only be returned if a plausible case has been made for ownership rights and there are no indications to the contrary.

  5. On the basis of the above summary, the Committee deems it possible but not highly likely that NK 1808 was owned by F.H. von Podwinetz. The applicant has been unable to provide details of ownership of the painting and the circumstances of its involuntary loss, other than in her statements. Ownership is only implied because the surname mentioned in the Federal Archive in Koblenz corresponds with that of her great-uncle. This provides insufficient grounds for the Committee to determine with any certainty that this painting was the property of the applicant’s great-uncle and that it was involuntarily lost as a result of circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime.

Conclusion

The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister for Education, Culture and Science to reject the application for the restitution of the painting Stable interior with peasant family by A. van Ostade (NK 1808).

Adopted at the meeting of 2 June 2008 by R. Herrmann (chair), J.Th.M. Bank, J.C.M. Leijten, P.J.N. van Os, E.J. van Straaten, H.M. Verrijn Stuart, I.C. van der Vlies (vice-chair), and signed by the chair and the secretary.

R. Herrmann (chair)
E. Campfens (secretary)

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[1] Until 12 November 2007, general considerations c and e read: 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. 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, insofar as the original owner or his heirs did not receive all the profits of the transaction, or insofar as the owner did not expressly waive his rights after the war.