Recommendation regarding Hollander
In a letter dated 17 October 2008, 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 the watercolour Horses by a stable by W. Verschuur II, which is currently in the Dutch National Art Collection and has inventory number NK 2569. It concerns a work of art that may have belonged to Eduard Hollander (1897-1944, hereafter referred to as: ‘Hollander’) that was returned to the Netherlands from Germany after the Second World War. The work is on loan to the Rijksmuseum’s National Print Collection in Amsterdam.
In June 2007, J.C.M.-F. of B. (US) submitted an application for restitution to the Minister, also on behalf of her brother J.M. (hereafter also referred to as: ‘the applicants’), as ‘heir[s] of Eduard Hollander’. In her letter she refers to correspondence conducted with the Origins Unknown Agency (BHG). The application for restitution is based on evidence from the BHG that the current NK 2569 was owned by their grandfather Eduard Hollander (1897-1944) and that he may have involuntarily lost possession of it during the war. Following the request for a recommendation, the Committee instigated a fact-finding investigation, the results of which were included in the draft investigatory report dated 8 June 2009. This draft report was sent to the applicants on 26 June 2009 for comment and also to the Minister with a request for additional information. On 23 July 2009, the Minister informed the Committee that no further information would be brought to its attention. Despite a further invitation in a letter dated 25 August 2009, the applicants have not responded. The Committee therefore assumes that the applicants have no wish to add any further comments. The investigatory report was subsequently adopted by the Committee on 12 October 2009. For the facts of the case, the Committee refers to this report.
The applicants requested the restitution of the watercolour Horses by a stable by W. Verschuur II (NK 2569). M.-F. stated that she and her brother J.M. are heirs of Hollander. The applicants stated that their mother, Anna Elisabeth Hollander-Marinissen (1926-2000), was the only child from Hollander’s first marriage to Marion Clara Johanna Cats (1899-1943), which lasted until 1934 when it ended in divorce. Hollander was remarried to Louise Marie Hortense Emmanuel van den Berg (1905-1996) in 1938.
The Committee examined whether this case should be considered to have been settled in the past. In connection with this, the Committee is not aware of any judgements issued by the Council for the Restoration of Rights or any other authorised judicial body regarding Hollander’s former art collection. Nor does the Committee have any evidence showing that Hollander’s heirs renounced their right of action. The Committee therefore deems the applicants’ request admissible.
The relevant facts are described in the investigatory report of 12 October 2009. The following summary suffices for this purpose. Hollander was a Dutch lawyer of Jewish descent from The Hague who died in Auschwitz in 1944. On various occasions during the Second World War, Hollander offered works of art for sale and/or sold works of art to the Kunsthandel voorheen J. Goudstikker N.V. in Amsterdam, under the management of the German Alois Miedl. It can be concluded from the records of the Kunsthandel voorheen J. Goudstikker N.V. that Hollander very probably sold the watercolour on or around 31 October 1940 to this art dealership for the sum of NLG 450. According to these records, the watercolour was then sold to ‘Breidenbacherhof’ in Düsseldorf on 25 August 1943. As far as is known, Hollander’s heirs did not notify the Dutch authorities after the war that the watercolour was missing.
Based on the regulations concerning private art property, restitution is possible if the original owner of the claimed object involuntarily lost possession of it due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. According to the Ekkart Committee’s eighth recommendation from 2001, the title to the object must be proved with a high degree of probability and there must not be any indications to the contrary. The sale of an object in the Netherlands between 10 May 1940 and 5 May 1945 by private persons who belonged to a population group that was persecuted is regarded as involuntary unless expressly proven otherwise.
The Committee notes the following with regard to the right of ownership of the currently claimed work NK 2569. Although it is not known when and how Hollander came into possession of this work, the Committee regards it as proven that the work was, in any event, in Hollander’s possession on 31 October 1940. The Committee bases this on a letter from Hollander of that date in which he talks of the sale of the watercolour to the Kunsthandel voorheen J. Goudstikker N.V. for a sales price of NLG 450, as well as on an invoice with the date 8 November 1940 and on a record of the details of the sale in the ledgers of the Kunsthandel dated 9 November 1940.
Regarding the nature of this loss of possession, the Committee notes the following. Given the fact that as a Jew, Hollander belonged to a persecuted population group and that the sale of the claimed work must be dated somewhere around 31 October 1940, it must be assumed that this sale took place under duress. It can be concluded therefore that as the original owner, Hollander involuntarily lost possession of the current work NK 2569 due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime. No evidence was found during the investigation to contradict this conclusion.
The Committee therefore deems that all grounds for restitution have been met. The Committee sees no reason to recommend repayment of the consideration of NLG 450 received at the time. Pursuant to the fourth recommendation of the Ekkart Committee of 26 April 2001, repayment of the sales proceeds can only be considered if the seller actually obtained the free disposal of the proceeds, and in case of doubt, the previous owner should be given the benefit of the doubt. In the absence of further information, the Committee considers the following in this respect. As a Jew living in a country occupied by the Nazis, Hollander’s situation was perilous. He was picked up in 1943 and deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp where he perished in 1944. The Committee deems it plausible that Hollander was forced to use the sales proceeds he received in 1940 to finance ways of avoiding Nazi persecution. The Committee therefore considers it implausible that Hollander obtained the free disposal of this sum within the meaning of restitutions policy.
The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister for Education, Culture and Science to return the watercolour Horses by a stable by W. Verschuur II (NK 2569) to the heirs of Eduard Hollander.
Adopted at the meeting of 12 October 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)