Recommendation regarding Adelsberger
In a letter dated 4 July 2007, the Minister for Education, Culture and Science (hereafter referred to as ‘the Minister’) requested the Restitutions Committee to issue a recommendation regarding the application for the restitution of Jupiter, disguised as a satyr, approaches the sleeping Antiope by H. Goltzius, Mountain landscape by A. von Stadler and Landscape by A. von Stadler. Since their return to the Netherlands after the Second World War, these works of art have been part of the Netherlands Art Property Collection (hereafter referred to as ‘the NK Collection’) under inventory numbers NK 2425, NK 3277 and NK 3278. NK 2425 is at present on loan to the Frans Halsmuseum in Haarlem, while NK 3277 and NK 3278 are currently housed in the depot of the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage.
In a letter dated 27 March 2007, Mrs R.F.-I. of H., Israel (hereafter referred to as ‘the applicant’) sent a letter to the Minister requesting restitution of the three said paintings. The reason for the application for restitution was a publication on the website of the Origins Unknown Agency (hereafter referred to as ‘the BHG’), which states with regard to the provenance of NK 2425, NK 3277 and NK 3278: ‘A. Adelsberger (collectie), Nürnberg’ [A. Adelsberger (collection) Nuremberg]. In the request for recommendation, the Minister asked the Committee to pay attention to the admissibility of the claim, given that ‘op het departement met betrekking tot de ontvankelijkheid serieuze vragen zijn gerezen’[serious questions have arisen at the Ministry regarding the admissibility]. Also in the light of a note by Prof. R.E.O. Ekkart included with the request sent on 20 June 2007, the Committee understands the Minister’s question in the sense that the loss of possession of the currently claimed works of art may have occurred as early as 1930/1931 and that the Committee must assess whether the application for restitution can be considered in pursuance of the current restitutions policy.
On the basis of this request for a recommendation, the Committee instigated a fact-finding investigation, the results of which were included in a draft investigatory report dated 18 August 2008. This draft report was sent to the Minister on 7 October 2008, and to the applicant on the same day, with a request for additional information or comments. The applicant responded to the report in writing on 20 November 2008. This reply included hitherto unknown information, on the basis of which it was possible to rule on the admissibility of this claim. An additional investigation was conducted in response to this information, and together with the detailed information sent by the applicant to the Committee on 27 January 2009, these results were incorporated into the draft investigatory report. The investigatory report was subsequently adopted during the meeting of 9 March 2009. For the facts of the case, the Committee refers to the investigatory report.
During the procedure, the applicant was represented by L. Fremy, a lawyer based in Berlin, Germany.
The applicant declared that she is a granddaughter and heir of Abraham Adelsberger. In this context, the Committee has taken cognisance of several inheritance documents, which have not led the Committee to question the applicant’s status as heir. According to the applicant, Adelsberger lost possession of the paintings in question as a result of the Nazi regime in Germany.
The relevant facts are described in the investigatory report of 9 March 2009. The following summary of events will suffice for the present purposes. Abraham Adelsberger (hereafter: Adelsberger) was born in Hockenheim, Germany, on 23 April 1863. He was married to Clothilde Reichhold (1872-1954) and both were of Jewish descent. Two children were born into this marriage: Paul Adelsberger (1894-1973) and Sophie Adelsberger (1897-1983). Adelsberger was a toy manufacturer who lived with his family in Nuremberg. According to the applicant, Adelsberger possessed a large art collection.
The applicant claimed that Adelsberger came up against anti-Jewish measures in Germany, as early as 1934. In 1937, he was forced to sell his house, and two other properties and his toy factory were ‘aryanised’. His son Paul probably emigrated to New York in 1934, where he married Rosalie Weill. Daughter Sophie married Alfred Isay, also of Jewish descent, in 1920. The applicant was born into this marriage on 28 June 1921, followed by a son, Walter, in 1927. Sophie’s family was also faced with anti-Jewish measures due to the Nazi rule. She and her family emigrated to the Netherlands in February 1934, and settled in Amsterdam. Adelsberger and his wife also moved to the Netherlands in 1939, living first of all with their daughter Sophie and son-in-law Alfred Isay at Schubertstraat 66 in Amsterdam. When he emigrated, Adelsberger was forced to give up his valuable possessions, including the family jewels, to the Nazis. He did, however, manage to take some paintings with him to Amsterdam, though several of them eventually had to be sold.
Adelsberger died in Amsterdam on 24 August 1940. His daughter Sophie and her family survived the war in hiding. Adelsberger’s widow Clothilde was arrested by the Germans in 1943 and deported to transit camp Westerbork from where she was taken to Bergen-Belsen. She survived the war.
The investigation did not reveal that there had been any contact between Adelsberger’s heirs and the Dutch restitutions authority about the currently claimed works. With reference to the first recommendation of the Ekkart Committee regarding private art property, the Committee therefore concludes that this case cannot be considered to have been settled in the past.
Pursuant to current national policy in respect of the restitution of items of cultural value, the Committee can only recommend restitution if there is a convincing case regarding the right of ownership and if the original owner relinquished possession involuntarily as a consequence of circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime.
The provenance details of the work NK 2425 are inconclusive. The BHG reconstruction of the provenance states that this painting was part of Adelsberger’s collection that was put up for auction at auction house Hugo Helbing of Munich, Germany, on 10 August 1930. The BHG concluded that the painting was not sold at the auction. It then established that the work came into the hands of art dealership D.A. Hoogendijk & Co of Amsterdam on 11 February 1941. The name ‘Jay’ was also found in the provenance details, a name that also appeared on an inventory card in Hoogendijk’s archive, stating that the work in question was from: ‘den heer A. Jay, Schubertstr. 66 Amsterdam’[‘Mr A. Jay, Schubertstr. 66, Amsterdam], and the date: ‘11/2/’41’. This is very probably an incorrect spelling of the name ‘Isay’, which, in all probability, refers to Adelsberger’s son-in-law Alfred Isay (mentioned in consideration 3), who was registered at that address from 1936. On the basis of this information, the Committee concludes that the current NK 2425 was, in all likelihood, sold by Isay on 11 February 1941.
The Committee was not able to deduce from the documentation consulted whether the painting, when it was sold, was still part of Adelsberger’s undivided estate or whether it had since passed into Isay’s possession. The applicant notes the following about this:
‘Due to the difficult situation for Jews in 1940 and later it was not possible for Abraham Adelberger’s heirs to settle the estate after his death and to divide up the assets. The single items were in the possession of the heirs in Amsterdam who lost them later due to persecution’.
The Committee regards this as a very plausible statement and hence takes the view that up until its sale, NK 2425 was part of Adelsberger’s undivided estate. Based on the above, the Committee believes that a very plausible case has been made that NK 2425 was the property of Adelsberger’s heirs during the war, until 11 February 1941.
Regarding the loss of possession of NK 2425, the Committee notes the following. According to the third recommendation of the Ekkart Committee of 26 April 2001, all sales by Jewish private owners in the Netherlands from 10 May 1940 must be deemed involuntary, unless expressly proven otherwise. This painting was sold by Adelsberger’s heirs, private persons of Jewish descent, in Amsterdam on 11 February 1941, a sale which the Committee therefore regards as involuntary.
The provenance details with regard to the two other claimed works, NK 3277 and NK 3278, are likewise inconclusive. It is stated in the provenance reconstruction conducted by the BHG that various works by A. von Stadler from the Adelsberger collection had been put up for sale at Hugo Helbing auction house in Munich at the auction held on 8 October 1930, referred to in consideration 7. In terms of illustration and measurements, both NK 3277 and NK 3278 correspond to the works listed in the auction catalogue under numbers 155 and 154. It is not known whether the paintings were actually sold at this auction. In any case, the names of potential buyers are not known. Investigations further revealed that the two paintings were sold by a certain Weinberg to Kunsthandel N.V. voorheen Kunsthandel J. Goudstikker (Goudstikker/Miedl) on 13 November 1941. The investigation was unable to shed any more light on what happened to these paintings during the war. In connection with this, the applicant stated the following:
‘Regarding the two paintings by Toni von Stadler (NK 3277 and NK 3278) no further evidence was found. As both paintings appeared in 1941 in Amsterdam, it has to be concluded that Abraham Adelsberger also managed to take these paintings with him to Amsterdam and that the paintings were sold to finance the subsistence of the family’.
As regards this statement of the applicant, the Committee’s consideration is as follows. It is possible that Adelsberger or his heirs sold the works in question in Amsterdam. However, it is equally likely that they were sold voluntarily by Adelsberger at the abovementioned auction at Hugo Helbing in 1930, or possibly in subsequent years. The Committee rules that as long as no new information is discovered regarding the loss of possession of NK 3277 and NK 3278, the investigation has thus far yielded insufficient evidence to accept the applicant’s argument that the works were sold during the war for the benefit of Adelsberger and/or his family. Therefore, with regard to NK 3277 and NK 3278, the Committee is unable to accept that Adelsberger or his heirs suffered involuntary loss of possession due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime.
The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister for Education, Culture and Science to return the painting H. Goltzius, Jupiter, disguised as a satyr, approaches the sleeping Antiope (NK 2425), to the heirs of Abraham Adelsberger.
The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister for Education, Culture and Science to reject the application for the restitution of the paintings A. von Stadler, Mountain Landscape (NK 3277) and A. von Stadler, Landscape (NK 3278).
Adopted at the meeting of 9 March 2009 by W.J.M. Davids (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.
(W.J.M. Davids, chair) (E. Campfens, secretary)