Abraham Katz - Kummerlé (A)

Recommendation regarding Abraham Katz - Kummerlé (A)

Recommendation number: 
RC 1.132-A
Type: 
NK collection
Publishing date: 
16 October 2017
Period loss of possession: 
1940-1945
Location of loss: 
The Netherlands

In a letter dated 14 May 2012 the Minister of Education, Culture and Science (hereinafter referred to as the Minister) asked the Restitutions Committee (hereinafter referred to as the Committee) for advice about the restitution application of 6 March 2012 from AA, BB, CC and DD, represented by Professor H. Loonstein, lawyer of Amsterdam (hereinafter referred to as the Applicants). The Applicants state that they are grandchildren or great-grandchildren of Abraham Katz. The application is for the return of the following paintings.
-    Bathseba after the Bath, circle of Jan Steen (NK 3752),
-    Coastal Landscape, by Pieter van der Croos (NK 3753), and
-    Woman Kneeling by a Bed of Tulips, by an unknown Dutch artist, formerly attributed to Gerard Dou (NK 3754).

These paintings have been part of the Dutch National Art Collection since were handed back by the Federal Republic of Germany to the Dutch State on 4 March 2012.

The procedure

A restitution application concerning these same paintings was submitted on 8 May 2012 by the heirs of Nathan Katz and Benjamin Katz, brothers of Abraham Katz and partners in the art gallery Firma D. Katz in Dieren, both of whom are represented by the lawyer Thomas Kline of Washington DC, USA. The Minister laid this restitution application before the Committee for advice in a letter of 7 June 2012. The two applications concern the same paintings so the Committee combined them in file RC 1.132.
The present recommendation addresses only the application from the heirs of Abraham Katz - hereinafter referred to as the Applicants (recommendation number RC 1.132-A). The Committee will advise about the claim by applicants in regard to Nathan and Benjamin Katz at a later date (recommendation number RC 1.132-B).

In a letter of 12 July 2012 the Committee asked the Applicants to provide further information about their assertion that Abraham Katz was one of those entitled to the currently claimed paintings and, if possible, to underpin it with relevant documents. After the Committee had granted repeated postponements, it received some information in response on 24 October 2012.
After the Committee had studied this information it informed the Applicants in a letter dated 6 June 2013 that the information they had sent did not provide sufficient clarity in regard to their assertion that Abraham Katz was one of those entitled to the currently claimed works and gave them another opportunity to provide a more detailed explanation of this assertion. The Committee enclosed a copy of an extract from the Commercial Register of the Chamber of Commerce in Arnhem concerning Firma D. Katz. The Applicants did not respond.

In a letter of 17 April 2014 the Committee notified the Applicants that the application would continue to be handled until 1 November 2014. Since then the deadline was postponed a number of times, at the request of the Applicants or otherwise, most recently until 1 September 2017. In a letter of 5 September 2017 the Committee notified the Applicants that it would not continue handling the application and that it would proceed with formulating advice for the Minister.

Considerations

  1. The Applicants contend they are rightful claimants to the assets of Abraham Katz, who was born in Dieren on 9 January 1897 and died in Apeldoorn on 11 December 1984. They base their application on the grounds that Abraham Katz was co-owner of the currently claimed paintings and that he lost possession of the paintings involuntarily during the war.
  2.  It emerges from Origins Unknown Agency provenance information that the paintings concerned were sold in August 1940 by the Firma D. Katz art gallery to the German Alois Miedl. At some point he sold the paintings on to the German Alfred Kummerlé, after which the works ended up in Germany. The Committee brought the reported provenance information to the attention of the Applicants in letters of 12 July 2012 and 6 June 2013.
  3. In an undated document that the Applicants sent the Committee - designated as a petition to the Court of Arnhem – the Applicants contend as follows.
    ‘De vooroorlogse firma D. Katz te Dieren werd destijds opgericht door David Katz, de overgrootvader van AA en haar zuster DD en de grootvader van EE en BB. Toen (over)grootvader minder goed aanspreekbaar werd, namen de kinderen van overgrootvader de firma over, te weten Nathan, Benjamin, Abraham en Mientje […] Toen overgrootvader kwam te overlijden (zonder een testament gemaakt te hebben), ging de firma definitief over naar zijn kinderen.'

    [‘The pre-war Firma D. Katz in Dieren was founded at the time by David Katz, the great-grandfather of AA and her sister DD and the grandfather of EE and BB. When great-grandfather / grandfather became less competent, great-grandfather’s children, i.e. Nathan, Benjamin, Abraham and Mientje, took the business over.… When great-grandfather died (without having made a will), the firm definitively passed into the hands of his children.’]
    The Committee deduces from this that the Applicants adopt the position that Nathan, Benjamin, Abraham and Mientje (and their heirs) should be designated as rightful claimants to the artworks possessed by Firma D. Katz.
  4. The Committee is unable to concur with this position. Firma D. Katz, while in name a continuation of the one-man business founded in 1887 by David Katz, was established in 1930 by Nathan Katz and Benjamin Katz. Nathan and Benjamin Katz were also the only partners in the firm until the firm was wound up on 1 June 1943. This emerges from information held by the Chamber of Commerce of Arnhem about the Firma D. Katz art gallery. On the grounds of this information Nathan Katz and Benjamin Katz therefore have to be designated as the only individuals entitled to the assets of the Firma D. Katz art gallery. With regard to this opinion the Committee also refers to its recommendation in the case of Katz RC 1.90-B (consideration 2).
  5. The above leads to the conclusion that the Committee will advise the Minister to reject the application.

Conclusion

The Restitutions Committee advises the Minister of Education, Culture and Science to reject the application.

Adopted on 16 October 2017 by A. Hammerstein (Chair), J.T.M. Bank, J.H.W. Koster, P.J.N. van Os, H.M. Verrijn Stuart, G.N. Verschoor and I.C. van der Vlies (Vice-Chair) and signed by the Chair and the Secretary.

(A. Hammerstein, Chair)                                                       (M.C.J. Kooij, Secretary)

Gerelateerde adviezen: