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Superintendent Elizabeth McCaul Presents Returned Olevano to Littmann Heir At Museum of Jewish Heritage

February 1, 2001

Thank you Dr. Gottschalk for that introduction, for your participation in today’s events, and for having the Museum of Jewish Heritage exhibit Olevano.

I want to thank all of today’s participants, Dr. Korte, Monica Dugot and Catherine Lillie from the Holocaust Claims Processing Office, the National Gallery in Berlin, and Sotheby’s, for each of your efforts on behalf of Holocaust victims and their heirs.

I want to especially thank Jane Lerner, the granddaughter of Dr. Littman, for being here today.

I am very pleased to present you with this painting and want to commend you and your family for your commitment to finding your grandfather’s art collection.

I know filing a claim can be very painful and difficult and it has been a privilege for the Banking Department to assist you in this endeavor.

In 1997 Governor Pataki authorized the creation of the Holocaust Claims Processing Office, (HCPO) a very important division of the New York State Banking Department.

The HCPO serves as an advocate for Holocaust victims and their heirs who seek to recover assets wrongfully taken during the Nazi regime.

Since the Holocaust Claims Processing Office opened in 1997, it has received a total of 4,615 claims from 33 countries and 44 states referencing nearly 7,000 individual bank account and insurance policy holders.

In addition, the HCPO has received 66 looted art claims from 7 countries and 17 states referencing more than 16,000 lost, looted, and stolen items.

Today is especially important because Olevano was one of the first art claims filed with the HCPO in the spring of 1998.

The recovery today is a culmination of the hard work and dedication of the HCPO, which has worked closely with a variety of organizations in order to secure the return of this painting.

I am very proud of the HCPO’s work to retrieve this painting, their efforts along with the Littmann heirs’ generous loan of Olevano to the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and Sotheby’s effort to transfer the painting to the U.S. has helped to ensure that we can now appreciate this wonderful painting and Dr. Littmann’s collection once again.

The successful return of Olevano is a joyous and momentous occasion worth celebrating, but it is also a bittersweet moment, reinforcing the painful loss sustained by Dr. Littmann’s family almost 67 years ago.

It serves as a reminder of the catastrophic consequences of the Nazi regime.

In recognizing that link to the past, today I wish to assure Dr. Littman’s heirs that we will not rest until we have determined the fate of every last piece of their family’s collection.

Unlike many of the injustices committed by the Nazis, theft is a wrong that we can and must put right.

Failure to act upon obtaining the full knowledge of the facts only compounds the original crime.

Today’s return demonstrates clearly that the National Gallery in Berlin shares this view and has not failed to act— they have done something museums usually don’t do—release a treasured item.

I want to commend them for their cooperation with the HCPO.

The returning of Olevano to the Littmann heirs is but a small symbol of justice to those who suffered through the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust.

It has taken a very long time, a span of three generations, to reunite this painting to its rightful owners— but it is never too late for us to bear witness to future generations,  in that spirit I am very proud to present Jane Lerner with her grandfather’s painting, Olevano, in honor and memory of her grandfather, Dr. Ismar Littmann.

On behalf of the Governor of the State of New York, George E. Pataki, I am very proud to present you with Olevano.

Closing Remarks:

Thank you all for coming. I want everyone here to know that the Governor and I are committed to the work the HCPO will continue to perform not only for the Littmann family but for other Holocaust survivors and their heirs who have claims

Thank you all for participating in this important, historic event.