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Governor: Painting is Returned to Heirs of Holocaust Victims
- Recovered Painting Returned to Family, Will be Exhibited at Museum of Jewish Heritage -

February 1, 2001

Governor George E. Pataki today announced that part of a significant collection of art was returned to the heirs of Holocaust victim Dr. Ismar Littmann at a ceremony held this morning at the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

The painting, which was completed in 1927 by artist Alexander Kanoldt (1881-1939), was recovered as part of a Holocaust-era art settlement arranged by the Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) of the New York State Banking Department. The painting will be on display at the museum through April 30, 2001.

"In addition to committing mass genocide against the Jewish people, the Nazi regime also organized and carried out one of the most sweeping and appalling campaigns of theft and robbery in human history," Governor Pataki said.

"The return of stolen or lost art to the families of the original owners like the Littmanns is a small but important symbol of justice to those who suffered through the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust. New York State is committed to helping as many claimants as possible recover assets or artwork that was stolen by the Nazis or lost during the Holocaust."

The painting returned during today's ceremony, titled "Olevano," is part of a large collection originally owned by Dr. Littmann, who was a prominent attorney, art collector and supporter of the arts, in pre-war Breslau, Silesia, Poland. With the Nazis' rise to power, Dr. Littmann faced overt persecution, culminating in his suicide in 1934. Part of his considerable collection was sold at auction and many other pieces of the collection were confiscated.

Dr. Willi Korte, speaking on behalf of Dr. Littmann's heirs, said, "The Littmann heirs have received today an important work of art that they have long sought, and the HCPO's assistance was critical in ensuring its expeditious return. We are particularly pleased that the National Gallery in Berlin recognized that the 1935 forced sale was unlawful and unjust. Their willingness to return 'Olevano' to Dr. Littmann's heirs in such a prompt and unbureaucratic manner is commendable. Under the leadership of Governor Pataki and Superintendent McCaul, the HCPO has not only worked to secure the return of 'Olevano,' it has also helped to ensure that Dr. Littmann's significant collection is finally recognized and given the attention it deserves. It gives us great pleasure to make the painting, together with its entire tragic history, available to the public."

Robert M. Morgenthau, Chairman of the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A  Living Memorial to the Holocaust said,"We are most grateful to Governor Pataki, Superintendent McCaul and the HCPO of the State Banking Department for securing the safe return of this painting to the family of Dr. Littmann.

We are honored that the family has decided to loan this painting to the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. The painting is a symbol of one family's struggle and their unwavering commitment to preserve their legacy and that of the Jewish people."

Superintendent of Banks Elizabeth McCaul said, "I am very proud of the work that has been done to retrieve this painting. The Littmann claim was one of the very first art claims filed with the HCPO in the Spring of 1998, and we plan to continue our investigative work in an effort to secure the recovery of other parts of the collection. Many families lost everything and everyone as a result of Nazi persecution. We hope that Dr. Littmann's heirs find comfort in the knowledge that we will not rest until we have determined the fate of every last piece of their family's collection."

"Olevano" was created in 1927 by Alexander Kanoldt (1881-1939), a founding member of the New Secession movement who was noted for his cubic forms and use of color. Kanoldt achieved much acclaim during the 1920s as a member of the New Realist movement. By 1937, the Nazis had declared Kanoldt's work "degenerate."

"Olevano" was sold in February, 1935, at the Max Perl Auction House in Berlin, during a type of sale commonly referred to by the Nazis as "Jew Auctions." The painting was purchased by a Berlin art dealer at the 1935 sale and then sold to the Municipality of Berlin in 1950. In 1951, the Municipality of Berlin gifted the painting to the National Gallery in Berlin.

On April 3, 1998, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) filed a universal claim for the Littmann collection, thereby preserving the legal rights of the Littmann heirs. In 1999, the painting was located in the National Gallery in Berlin. The HCPO presented the Littmann heirs to the Claims Conference as the rightful owners of "Olevano" in November 2000, suggesting that the Claims Conference withdraw its claim. At the urging of the HCPO, the Claims Conference agreed to withdraw its claim and the National Gallery in Berlin promptly released the painting to its rightful owners.

The HCPO then worked with Sotheby's, which generously agreed to arrange for the safe transfer of the painting to the United States.

Participants in today's event included the President of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, a representative for the Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Ms. Ute Minke-Koenig, who appeared on behalf of the National Gallery in Berlin, Dr. Willi Korte, who appeared on behalf of the four Littmann heirs, and Dr. Littmann's granddaughter.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is located on the waterfront of Battery Park City at the southern tip of Manhattan. Overlooking both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, the Museum uses personal stories and a core exhibition of more than 2,000 photographs, 800 artifacts, and 24 original films to present the 20th century Jewish experience.

Anyone who believes they may have a potential claim or who wishes to obtain additional information regarding the Holocaust Claims Processing Office should contact 1-800-695-3318.

 

 

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