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Painting Destined for Hitler’s Museum Returned to Rightful Owners
J.S. van Ruysdael’s “Wooded Landscape with Herd Near a Pond” restituted to the Heirs of Max Rothstein

June 14, 2007

Ruysdale painting

New York, N.Y.:  The New York State Banking Department’s Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) announced today the return of Jacob Salomonsz van Ruysdael’s “Wooded Landscape with Herd Near a Pond” (1655) to the children and heirs of Max (Markus Meyer) Rothstein.  The Ruysdael painting is one of many works of art Mr. Rothstein was forced to sell or leave behind when fleeing Nazi persecution in Germany and the Netherlands.

The HCPO discovered the Rothsteins’ missing Ruysdael on the Origins Unknown website, which lists the provenance of artworks in the Nederlands Kunstbezit-collectie (NK Collection). The NK Collection consists of approximately 4,500 objects that the Netherlands recuperated primarily from Germany at the end of World War II, which have remained in the Dutch government’s custody because the original owners could not be identified and/or located.

In 2001, Marianne Barbanell, and her brother, Fred H. Rothstein, the sole surviving children and heirs of Max Rothstein filed an art restitution claim with the HCPO, a division of the New York State Banking Department.  For the past six years, the HCPO has worked closely with the Rothstein heirs to identify and locate their father’s missing paintings and miniatures. The Ruysdael painting is the first work to be restituted to the family.

New York State Banking Superintendent Richard H. Neiman said, “It gives me great pleasure to see this painting returned to the rightful owners. The recovery of this piece was a culmination of the hard work and dedication of the HCPO team, and their partnerships with organizations both here in the United States and in the Netherlands.”

Max and Margot Rothstein
Max and Margot Rothstein

Max Rothstein was a decorated Jewish Austro-Hungarian veteran of World War I, successful banker, and a collector of paintings, miniatures, antique ivory figures, first edition books and Persian rugs.  Before World War II, he lived with his wife (Margot) and children (Marianne and Fred) in a luxury apartment in Berlin.  After the NSDAP’s rise to power in 1933, the Rothstein family suffered from Nazi persecution.  They were ordered to move from their home and Mr. Rothstein’s annual earnings were drastically cut.  In December 1937, Mr. Rothstein was forced to resign from his position as manager and co-owner of Willy Rosenthal Jr. & Co.  Soon after, the Nazis shut down his business.  As a result, in 1938 the Rothstein family emigrated from Berlin and tried to reestablish themselves in Amsterdam.

However, after the Nazis occupied Holland, the Rothstein family once again had to flee Nazi persecution.  Without steady income, Mr. Rothstein was forced to sell family valuables including pieces from his art collection to support his family and fund their emigration.  J.S. van Ruysdael’s “Wooded Landscape with Herd Near a Pond” was one of several paintings that Mr. Rothstein consigned and sold.  The Kunsthandel voorheen J. Goudstikker (acquired by Alois Miedl in 1940) “purchased” it in July 1940 and sent it to H. Hoffman in Munich.  Miedl later “sold” it to the Reichskanzlei in Berlin for the Führermuseum in Linz.  Mr. Rothstein left behind many other artworks, including several Dutch Old Master paintings, with H. Hoogewerff Jr. & Co., before leaving Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in 1941 with his family.  They ultimately settled in the United States via Spain and Cuba.

“I am in awe” said Mr. Rothstein’s daughter, Marianne Barbanell. “Without the tireless efforts of the Holocaust Claims Processing Office of the New York State Banking Department, in particular Anna Rubin and her team, the full cooperation of the Dutch government, and my daughter Stephanie Barbanell, the return of this painting that my parents, Max and Margot Rothstein, were unable to secure in their lifetimes, would not have been possible in mine. This is nothing short of a miracle of justice.”

Mr. Rothstein’s son, Fred H. Rothstein, said, “I am very grateful to the New York State Banking Department, the Holocaust Claims Processing Office, and the State of New York for having created such an office for recovery of artwork stolen during World War II; further to the members of the Restitutions Committee in the Netherlands, who advised the former Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Maria J.A. van der Hoeven, to return the painting by J.S. Ruysdael to the heirs of Max M. Rothstein after 67 years.”

The HCPO provided the Minister for Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands with information and documentation illustrating how Max Rothstein was forced to sell works of art, including the Ruysdael, from his collection due to Nazi persecution. The claim was referred to the “Advisory Committee on the Assessment for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War” (Restitutions Committee), which investigates and advises the Dutch Minister on applications for the restitution of cultural assets that went missing during World War II. 

The Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science said that “the recent decision of the Dutch Minister to return the Ruysdael to the rightful owners follows the advice of the independent Restitutions Committee and is one of 41 reported decisions thus far.  As of May 2007, 82 applications for restitution had been filed and 41 decisions were issued by the Restitutions Committee resulting in the return of approximately 420 items.”

On April 4, 2007, the active search for the original owners of works of art in the Dutch State Collection looted during the Second World War came to an end.  However Mr. Plasterk, the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, announced “even after that date, claimants will still be able to apply for the restitution of art objects of the State of the Netherlands. This is in line with the restitution policy as it was first introduced in 2000. In these new cases, the State will continue to be guided by the recommendations of the Restitutions Committee, a team of external and independent legal experts, art historians, and historians.”

“Wooded Landscape with Herd Near a Pond” oil on panel, 50 x 69 cm, was painted in 1655 by Jacob Salomonsz van Ruysdael (1629–81), the son of Salomon van Ruysdael.  He was largely influenced by his cousin, the famous landscape painter, Jacob Ruisdael.  Ruysdael was a member of the Noord-Nederland school and was a popular painter in his home town of Haarlem.  By 1666, he was working in Amsterdam.  Ruysdael eventually returned to Haarlem and died there.

The Holocaust Claims Processing Office is a division of the New York State Banking Department.  It was created in 1997 to help original owners and their heirs recover assets deposited in European banks; unpaid European insurance policies; and artworks lost, looted or sold under duress.  The HCPO provides its services free of charge to claimants.  To date, it has received 4,773 claims from 45 states and 37 countries regarding Holocaust era bank accounts, insurance policies and lost or stolen art. The HCPO has helped return approximately $54 million in bank claims, more than $21 million in insurance claims, over $5 million in other assets, and settled 16 art claims.  The HCPO staff is comprised of lawyers, archivists, historians, political scientists, art historians and linguists.

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

The New York State Banking Department is the regulator for all state-chartered banking institutions, virtually all of the United States offices of international banking institutions, all of the State’s mortgage brokers, mortgage bankers, check cashers, money transmitters and budget planners. The aggregate assets of the depository institutions supervised by the Banking Department are more than $1.8 trillion.

In addition to regulating banking institutions, the Banking Department is active in informing and educating all New Yorkers on banking matters. To contact the Banking Department, please call 1-877-BANK-NYS or visit our Web site at www.banking.state.ny.us.

 

 

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