September 12, 2019
SUPERINTENDENT OF FINANCIAL SERVICES LINDA A. LACEWELL ANNOUNCES GERMAN ADVISORY COMMISSION RESTITUTION DECISION
Department of Financial Services’ Work Advocating on Behalf of Victims of Nazi Persecution Leads to Significant Restitution Recommendation from German Museum to Heirs of Dr. Max Stern
NEW YORK - Linda A. Lacewell, Superintendent of Financial Services, today announced that Germany’s Advisory Commission on the Return of Cultural Property Seized as a Result of Nazi Persecution, Especially Jewish Property recommended that Uhlans on the March by 19th century German Romantic Age painter Hans von Marées be returned to the Max and Iris Stern Foundation by Bavaria’s Neue Pinakothek art museum.
“We are pleased that DFS’s Holocaust Claims Processing Office could help facilitate the restoration of this important piece of art to its rightful owner,” Superintendent Lacewell said. “While the memories of families devastated by Nazi persecution and the war cannot be forgotten, we hope the successful restoration delivers a measure of justice for the heirs.”
This decision marks the DFS Holocaust Claims Processing Office’s (HCPO) second successful resolution of a claim through the Advisory Commission. A total of 21 works of art have been returned to the Stern estate since 2002 when the estate began pursuing restoration of artwork lost from the Stern collection. The Stern gallery had been established in 1913 and included many 19th century German paintings.
The Advisory Commission recognized that as a Jew in Germany, Dr. Max Stern was personally and professionally subjected to persecution by the Nazi regime, which resulted in the loss of this painting. Despite consensus from a majority of its members, the Commission took two unprecedented steps and noted conditions for the restitution, including that the Foundation will make reparations should a previous Nazi-era owner of the painting who was a victim of Nazi persecution be confirmed, as well as a dissenting opinion on the interpretation of the scope of Jewish persecution during the Nazi period. The two conflicting positions of the Commission members expose the complexity of addressing claims for looted art and emphasize the need for greater understanding of the history of Nazi persecution and the mechanics of dispossession.
In 1935, the German government notified Dr. Max Stern that he was legally prohibited from buying and selling art because he was Jewish. As a result, Dr. Stern was forced to sell more than 400 pieces from his gallery for a fraction of their market value. Dr. Stern later fled Germany. He eventually settled in Montreal, where he became one of Canada’s most influential and important art dealers. He died in 1987 after bequeathing his assets, including any potential recovery of lost works of art, to Hebrew University, Concordia University, and McGill University.
The Department’s HCPO was created in 1997 to help Holocaust victims and their heirs recover lost assets, such as dormant bank accounts, unpaid proceeds of insurance policies and artworks stolen or sold under duress. It is the only government entity in the world that provides such comprehensive services free of charge or commission. To date, HCPO has helped return over $178 million in assets to victims’ families while also recovering over 160 works of art.
A photo of the restored artwork can be found on the DFS website.