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Governor Pataki Announces Holocaust-Era Art Settlement
- Bamberger Family Ownership Recognized -
- Painting Exhibited in Germany -

December 2, 2002

Governor George E. Pataki today announced a major Holocaust-era art settlement negotiated by the Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) of the New York State Banking Department. The settlement ends the Bamberger family's long search for a cherished painting and family heirloom, entitled "Bauernhof" (Farm).

"Today's announcement helps to provide a measure of closure and justice for the Bamberger family, while also securing a permanent home for a very special painting," Governor Pataki said. "This settlement is a testament to the commitment of the Holocaust Claims Processing Office and to the legacy of Neil Levin, whose passion and inspiration helped to shape the mission of office when it was first created."

Painted by Emil Nolde in 1924, Bauernhof was owned by Heinrich and Elizabeth Bamberger of Frankfurt am Main in Germany prior to the Second World War. During the Holocaust, Bauernhof ended up in the hands of Wilhelm Schumann, an art dealer and member of the Nazi party. The painting subsequently changed hands several times over the years, eventually making its way in 1984 to the Kunsthalle in Emden, a museum in Emden, Germany.

The family contacted the HCPO in July of 1999 who then conducted extensive research and finally reached an amicable agreement between the claimants (the Bamberger family) and the Kunsthalle in Emden. The terms of the settlement are confidential. Bauernhof will remain in the collection of the Kunsthalle in Emden, where it will be exhibited with its proper provenance, referencing the former pre-war ownership of the Bamberger family.

David Bamberger, the grandson of Heinrich and Elizabeth Bamberger, said, "Our family is incredibly grateful to the HCPO for their tireless efforts in bringing to closure this matter that arose out of terrible events over 60 years ago. Their efforts required not only painstaking research but also wise counsel and great sensitivity to the human issues involved. They are a unique and valuable resource. We also appreciate greatly the willingness of the museum, the Kunsthalle in Emden, to engage in a constructive dialogue with us that facilitated a resolution of this matter at long last."

Superintendent of Banks Elizabeth McCaul said, "I am very proud of the work done by the HCPO and am gratified by the Kunsthalle in Emden's approach to this claim. Their cooperation with the HCPO deserves particular commendation and validates what we have known all along?that settlement of Holocaust-era looted art claims is not only of interest to Holocaust survivors and heirs of victims, but also to institutions who find themselves innocent possessors of looted art."

In 1938, Mrs. Bamberger, by then a widow, was forced to register all of her property with Nazi authorities, part of the increasing persecution of Jews in Germany. Fleeing Germany for her life in 1940, Mrs. Bamberger left her property behind at the home of the cantor of her synagogue, Mr. Siegfried Würzburger. Along with his wife, Gertrude, Mr. Würzburger was deported to the Lódz ghetto in 1941. Both later perished during the Holocaust.

Mrs. Bamberger's long journey of escape took her from Berlin to Moscow, through Siberia, Manchuria, Korea, and Japan, until her arrival in Ecuador. Immediately after the war, Mrs. Bamberger began searching for Bauernhof, a task carried on by two successive generations of Bamberger heirs. The Bambergers located Bauernhof in the Kunsthalle in Emden, where it arrived in 1984 as a bequest from the Henri Nannen Foundation.

In January 2001, the Kunsthalle in Emden offered to open a dialogue with the Bamberger heirs, who in the meantime had asked the HCPO to research and help document the theft of Bauernhof. The HCPO's extensive research in German archives revealed that Bauernhof ended up in the hands of Wilhelm Schumann. Beginning in 1939, Mr. Schumann appraised art confiscated from Jewish collections, rising through the ranks of the Nazi administration in Frankfurt to become a state-appointed "expert on formerly Jewish-owned cultural property."

Nazi cultural policymakers defined the abstract, non-narrative work of Nolde and other modern artists as "degenerate." Nolde (1867-1956), a prominent member of the German Expressionist movement, specifically Die Brücke, was expelled from the Akademie der Künste in 1934. The Nazis removed over 1,000 of his works from German museums and included several of his paintings in the propagandistic "Degenerate Art" traveling exhibition in 1937. Forbidden to paint in 1941, Nolde left Berlin and never returned, settling near his birthplace close to the border between Germany and Denmark. A prolific printmaker and painter, Nolde's bold yet nuanced use of color was his hallmark, and he is regarded as one of the premier watercolorists of the twentieth century.

The HCPO, created by Governor Pataki in 1997, assists individuals in recovering assets deposited in European banks, monies never paid from insurance policies issued by European insurance companies, and art that was lost or looted between 1933 and 1945. Since the Office's inception, it has responded to approximately 9,400 inquiries resulting in 4,720 claims from 45 states and 34 countries. As of 2001, 2,300 are bank claims, 2,300 are insurance claims, and 120 are art claims. The office charges no fees to claimants.

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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