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Governor Pataki Announces Holocaust Era Art Settlement
-  Valuable Painting Seized by Nazis in 1940 is Returned to New Jersey Man -

July 12, 1999

Governor George E. Pataki today announced a major Holocaust-era art settlement by the Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO) of the New York State Banking Department. "The Seamstress," painted by famed German artist Lesser Ury and subjected to a forced-sale by the Nazis in 1940, will be returned to its rightful owner, Michael Loewenthal of New Jersey.

The settlement completes protracted negotiations with officials of Linz, Austria, who purchased the painting from a dealer in 1956. The painting was linked to "tainted art" obtained by Nazi officials through forced-sales from Jewish residents.

"Today’s settlement is an important victory in our campaign to provide justice for Holocaust survivors and their heirs," Governor Pataki said. "We’re not just restoring an important piece of artwork to the family that has long sought its return, we’re setting straight the moral balance sheet that defines our efforts and our society.

"New York State will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to help survivors and their heirs recover what was stolen and looted from them during one of history’s darkest times," the Governor said.

"The Seamstress" was created in 1883 by painter and printmaker Lesser Ury (1861 – 1931). Along with Lovis Corinth and Max Liebermann, Ury is considered to be one of the most important German painters of the first part of the century. He is noted for powerful urban street scenes.

At the time of the forced sale in 1940, the painting was in the collection of Louis Loewenthal, the grandfather of Michael Loewenthal. It was purchased by Berlin art dealer Wolfgang Gurlitt, and eventually sold to the City of Linz. The Loewenthal family has attempted to recover the painting, along with others, since 1947.

The HCPO, created by Governor Pataki in June 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 before or during World War II. Since opening, the office has received 6,328 inquiries from individuals in 38 countries and 3,680 claims have been filed. The office charges no fees to claimants.

Acting Superintendent of Banks Elizabeth McCaul said, "The staff of the HCPO are providing vital services to Holocaust survivors and their families. Today’s settlement demonstrates that serving this group of people is one of our top priorities, both within the Banking Department and New York State. It is not often that we as regulators have the opportunity to participate in a quest for justice on behalf of a group of people to whom it is so long overdue. The officials of Linz are to be commended for their decision to return the painting to its rightful owner. Hopefully, this can serve as an example for other holders of art looted during the World War II era."

Superintendent of Insurance Neil Levin, who helped organize the HCPO and who serves on the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, said, "Today, we are returning a piece of artwork to its rightful owner and marking a significant milestone in New York’s effort to restore moral justice to Holocaust survivors and their heirs. We are also continuing to make progress with European insurers on our efforts to process insurance claims for New York’s survivors and their heirs, and are putting as many of these claims as possible on the fast track for payment."


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