de Volkskrant: Amsterdam returns the Kandinsky painting to heirs to Jewish owners

[THIS IS AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE ORIGINAL DUTCH ARTICLE “Amsterdam geeft schilderij Kandinsky toch terug aan erfgenamen Joodse eigenaren” PUBLISHED ON THE DE VOLKSKRANT ON AUGUST 26, 2021. (]

The City of Amsterdam returns the painting Bild mit Häusern by Wassily Kandinsky to the heirs of the Jewish owners. They would have sold it in World War II under pressure from the Germans.

Dylan van Bekkum August 26 2021, 21:14

Kandinsky – Bild mit Häusern Image Municipal Museum

The work will be returned promptly, without further intervention by the Restitutions Committee. Mayor Halsema and alderman Meliani (Culture) announced this in a letter to the city council on Thursday. The painting now hangs in the Stedelijk Museum, which bought the painting in 1940 at an auction.

Three heirs of the original Jewish owners have claimed the painting since 2012. According to them, Robert Lewenstein and Irma Klein – the original owners – were pressured by the German occupiers to sell the painting. It would therefore fall under the broad definition of looted art. In 2018, the Restitutions Committee ruled that there is too little ground for this assertion. In addition, the judge ruled in 2020 that the Stedelijk Museum was entitled to leave the painting in the museum.

Correction of injustice

Now the City of Amsterdam voluntarily returns the painting to the heirs. ‘As a city, we have a history and therefore a great responsibility for dealing with the injustice and irreparable suffering inflicted on the Jewish population during the Second World War’, write Halsema and Meliani in the council letter. ‘The Municipality of Amsterdam has a moral obligation to act accordingly.’

According to the ministers, the fact that the municipality is now proceeding with restitution and not before, has to do with the fact that in 2018 a weighing up of interests between the heirs and the municipality was central and now ‘the recovery of injustice for victims’.

Halsema and Meliani let it be known in the letter to the council that in the ‘interest of rectifying injustice’ and the fact that the issue has been going on for so long, the Restitutions Committee will no longer intervene in returning the painting. The municipality is in consultation with the heirs to return the painting ‘immediately’.