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Governor Announces Holocaust-Era Art Settlement
- Fourth Littmann Collection Painting Returned to Rightful Owners -

June 17, 2003

Governor George E. Pataki today announced another major Holocaust-era art recovery successfully completed by the Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) of the New York State Banking Department. Today's recovery is the fourth painting that will be returned to the heirs of Dr. Ismar Littmann, the artwork’s rightful owners, as a result of the efforts of the HCPO.

La Procession, completed in 1927 by Lucien Adrion, was one of approximately 1,000 paintings in the Littmann collection that was sold at a forced sale in 1934 at the Max Perl auction house in Berlin. Mrs. Ruth Haller and her husband Chaim, Holocaust survivors living in Israel, filed the claim with the New York State Banking Department in the spring of 1998. La Procession is being returned by the Ernst Strassmann Foundation, a foundation under the umbrella of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Germany.

“La Procession is the fourth painting recovered for one family in less than two years, and I applaud the vigilance and determination of our Holocaust Claims Processing Office,” Governor Pataki said. “The successful return of stolen art to the only living child of Dr. Ismar Littmann, Mrs. Ruth Haller, is a small but important step in seeking justice for Dr. Littmann and his family. We are committed to helping Mrs. Haller, her family and the many others who suffered through the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust."

Ruth Haller said, “We are thrilled to have the painting returned to us. We are very grateful to the Holocaust Claims Processing Office for their continued efforts on our behalf and to the Ernst Strassmann Stiftung for taking the swift and courageous decision they did. The HCPO has not only secured the return of La Procession, it has also helped to ensure that my father's significant collection continues to be recognized and given the attention it deserves.”

Superintendent of Banks Diana Taylor said, “I am very pleased to announce the return of the fourth painting to the Littmann family. I want to recognize the directors of the Ernst Strassmann Stiftung and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung for their cooperation. As soon as they learned of the provenance of the painting, they withdrew it from the planned sale.

"This type of response is essential for successful art restitution to take place. As the Ernst Strassmann Stiftung graciously stated in its letter to the HCPO, 'whatever the circumstances, we are sure that the Strassmanns would have been sympathetic towards a return of the painting to the heirs of Dr. Littmann.' The continued commitment shown by the staff of the HCPO proves that Holocaust era claims can be resolved without litigation and financial cost to the claimant."

Dr. Willi Korte, speaking on behalf of the Littman heirs, said, "With the joy over the recovery of another Littmann painting, comes the appreciation for what truly distinguishes Governor Pataki's HCPO: Its willingness and ability to stay with the victims of the Holocaust on their long and difficult road to belated justice. The HCPO's dedication and critical assistance ensured its expeditious return. We are particularly pleased that the Ernst Strassmann Stiftung clearly recognized that the 1935 forced sale was unjust. Their willingness to return La Procession to the Littmann heirs in such a prompt manner is commendable."

Dr. Ismar Littmann was a prominent attorney, art collector and supporter of the arts in pre-war Breslau, Silesia, present-day Poland. With the Nazi's rise to power, Dr. Littmann faced overt persecution culminating in his suicide in 1934. La Procession was one of roughly 1,000 paintings sold in 1935 at the Max Perl auction house. La Procession subsequently entered the art market; it remains unclear when it came into the possession of Dr. Ernst Strassmann of Berlin.

Dr. Strassmann, a judge in Berlin, was a founding member of a resistance group in Nazi Germany. His activities culminated in his arrest late in 1942 and he remained incarcerated by the Gestapo until the end of WWII. During his lifetime, he amassed a considerable fortune, which included numerous artworks. His widow bequeathed part of his large fortune and paintings to the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in order to establish a special foundation with the name of "Ernst-Strassmann-Stiftung," for the purpose of civic education.

In the fall of 2002, La Procession was consigned to the auction house Villa Grisebach in Berlin for its November sale. The Art Loss Register identified the painting as part of the Littmann collection and notified the Littmann heirs' representative and the HCPO. The HCPO quickly contacted the Ernst Strassmann Stiftung, which promptly withdrew the painting from the sale.

In November 2001, the Governor presented two paintings to Ruth and Chaim Haller that were part of Dr. Littmann's collection entitled, Portrait of Charlotte Corinth by Lovis Corinth and Seated Nude on Blue Cushion by Karl Hofer. The paintings were exhibited at the Leo Baeck Institute for several months beginning in January 2002. In February 2001, the Governor announced the return of the Alexander Kanoldt painting, Olevano to the Littmann heirs, which was returned by the Berlin Nationalgalerie. The painting was displayed at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

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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