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 Governor Announces Major Holocaust-Era Art Recovery
Feuerbach Painting Returned to Fein Family Heirs;
 Painting Donated to the
Leo Baeck Institute in New York City

May 7, 2004

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Governor George E. Pataki and Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany Uwe-Karsten Heye present painting "Mädchenkopf" (Head of a Girl) to claimant Fran Fredrick of Bayside, Queens

 

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Governor Pataki and Superintendent Taylor present recovered painting to Dr. Oliver Fein, Robert Daniel, and Fran Fredrick, the claimants, who were searching for a painting that belonged to their grandparents, Sigmund and Erna Fein, and was confiscated by the Nazis.

Governor George E. Pataki today announced a major Holocaust-era art recovery negotiated by the Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) of the New York State Banking Department. The recovery ends the Fein family’s long search for a cherished painting and family heirloom, entitled Mädchenkopf (Head of a Girl).

The Fein family has chosen to donate the painting to the Leo Baeck Institute, a research and lecture center dedicated to the study of German Jewish history.

"The return of this family heirloom is another example of our ongoing efforts to seek justice for those who were victimized during one of the darkest periods in history," Governor Pataki said. "This recovery provides a measure of closure and justice for the Fein family, while also securing a permanent home for a very special painting. The Fein family has waited 65 years for this day. I am very proud to be a part of returning this piece of history to the Fein heirs."

Anselm Feuerbach, a German painter and draughtsman, painted Mädchenkopf in 1853. Mädchenkopf was owned by Sigmund and Erna Fein who lived in Leipzig, Germany, prior to World War II. Mr. Fein was a furrier and ran a business called Rauchwarenfirma Fein & Co.

During the Holocaust, Mädchenkopf was confiscated by the Nazis and sold to a Leipzig art dealer by the name of Huhn. The painting subsequently changed hands eventually making its way to the estate of Elisabeth Prässler. The painting was given by her estate to the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SPK) [Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation].

The art claim was filed with the HCPO in 2001 by Fran Fredrick, representing the five heirs of Sigmund and Erna Fein. Ms. Fredrick is the granddaughter of Sigmund and Erna Fein and lives in New York. The other heirs are Charlotte Sack of Florida, Beatrice G. Woyke of Connecticut, Susan Setton of Israel, and Robert S. Daniel of New Jersey. The Fein heirs had been trying to recover Mädchenkopf since the end of the war in 1945.

Ms. Fredrick said, "Mädchenkopf means a great deal to the Fein family for its symbolic value, as it is just one of many items that was confiscated. We wish to thank Governor Pataki for establishing the HCPO, Monica Dugot and William Lee, and the SPK in Berlin for making this possible." The HCPO conducted extensive research to locate the painting and in 2003 reached an amicable agreement between the claimants (the Fein heirs) and the SPK in Berlin. The heirs chose to donate Mädchenkopf to the Leo Baeck Institute in New York City where it will be exhibited with its proper provenance, referencing the pre-war legitimate ownership of the Fein family.

Superintendent of Banks Diana L. Taylor said, "Since the Governor created the Holocaust Claims Processing Office seven years ago, it has established a remarkable record of tracing property and funds and negotiating and resolving claims without litigation and for the benefit of everyone involved. I am very proud that we have been able to play a small part in restoring these assets and heirlooms to those families from whom they were seized so long ago."

Ms. Dorothea Kathmann, Counsel for the SPK said, "The SPK was unaware of the painting's history until presented with the claim supported by significant documentation. Additional research confirmed the Fein family's ownership and prompted the SPK to return the Feuerbach to the family, the only morally right decision given the injustices suffered by the Fein family at the hands of the National Socialist regime."

Dr. Ismar Schorsch, President of the Leo Baeck Institute said, "The Leo Baeck Institute is proud to be the venue for this ceremony that affirms the remarkable efforts that have been made to ensure the return of Nazi looted art to the rightful heirs. Thanks to the work of Governor George E. Pataki and the Institute this special legacy will live on."

Consul General Uwe-Karsten Heye said, "Let me reaffirm the pledge that Germany made during the Washington conference on Holocaust-related claims and assets in 1998: We will do our utmost to help the heirs of Holocaust victims to recover art that was lost, looted, or stolen during the years of Nazi rule. I also salute the generosity of the heirs of Sigmund and Erna Fein for donating Mädchenkopf to the Leo Baeck Institute, this unique institution devoted to studying the history of German-speaking Jews and to preserving their culture."

In 1938 Sigmund Fein was interned in Buchenwald, subsequently released and then fled to Brussels, Belgium, to escape Nazi persecution.

When the Feins fled to Brussels they paid a shipping company to move their property to Belgium. However, the Gestapo confiscated much of their property. Leipzig finance authorities auctioned the Feins’ confiscated property in 1940 and 1941 and deposited the proceeds into blocked bank accounts. Among the property seized from the Feins’ was Mädchenkopf, which was later located at a moving and storage company, Gerard & Herg.

In 1941, the Fein family emigrated to the United States where Mr. Fein died in 1942.

Mädchenkopf was taken by the Nazi authorities and sold by a Leipzig art dealer, Huhn. The painting subsequently changed hands and in 1974, the SPK received the painting as a gift from the Nationalgalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin [State Museums of Berlin], from the estate of Elisabeth Prässler.

Anselm Feuerbach was a German painter and draughtsman who painted Mädchenkopf in 1853. Stylistically, this oil sketch is among a number of studies of heads that Feuerbach created in the spring of 1853 in the studio of Thomas Couture in Paris. The style of this Berlin study of a head is reminiscent of Thomas Couture’s sketchy studies of heads. Feuerbach eventually studied at the Munich Akademie, where he saw the landscape painter Carl Rahl as his real mentor. Many of his works combine the rich mood of the Munich landscape tradition with subject matter more typical of the Düsseldorf school.

The Holocaust Claims Processing Office seeks to recover assets deposited in European banks, recover monies never paid in connection with insurance policies issued by European insurers and reclaim lost or looted art for the rightful heirs. The office processes all claims for free. Since it was opened in 1997, it has received a total of 4,754 claims from 45 states and 37 countries regarding Holocaust-era bank accounts, insurance policies or lost or stolen art. The HCPO has been able to return approximately $16 million in bank claims, almost $9 million in insurance claims and has settled 11 art claims to date.

The HCPO staff is comprised of lawyers, archivists, historians, political scientists, art historians, bankers, linguists, and a former interviewer for Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation. The combined experience and skill sets permit it to perform complex historical and technical research that results in significant settlements for claimants, without having to resort to litigation.

Anyone who believes they may have a potential claim or who wishes to obtain additional information regarding the Holocaust Claims Processing Office should call 1-800-695-3318 or log on to its website at www.claims.state.ny.us.

 

 

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