SudOuest: A Kandinsky painting looted by the Nazis has been returned to the Jewish heirs

By with AFP

Published on 02/28/2022 at 4:50 p.m.

Updated on 02/28/2022 at 4:52 p.m.

The works of the Russian painter Kandinsky are highly prized by collectors. © Photo credit: Illustration Wikipedia CC-BY

It took nine years of proceedings for the heirs of Emmanuel Lewenstein to recover a work by the painter Vassily Kandinsky sold during the Second World War to a museum in Amsterdam

The descendants of businessman Emmanuel Lewenstein took legal action for the first time in 2013, seeking the return of “Bild mit Häusern” (“Painting with houses”), a painting by Vladimir Kandinsky dated 1909.

According to them, the painting was sold at auction at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam under duress by Robert Lewenstein, the son of Emmanuel Lewenstein, and his wife Irma Klein, in October 1940, five months after the invasion of the Netherlands by Germany.

“The heirs and the municipality have reached […] an amicable agreement,” the City of Amsterdam said in a statement, adding that the painting had been handed over to the heirs on Monday.

The National Restitution Committee – responsible for ruling on cases of art objects looted during the German occupation of the Netherlands – in 2013 rejected the first request of the heirs.

The case was sent back to the Amsterdam court in 2020, which in turn dismissed the claim, ruling that the committee had not made a mistake in its investigation. The heirs appealed. A second committee set up by the Dutch government in 2020 decided that the matter needed to be reassessed.

The two parties have now reached an agreement.

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“Part of the agreement with the heirs is that there is no further litigation in this case,” said Marit van Kooij, spokesperson for Touria Meliani, deputy mayor of Amsterdam.

“As a city, we bear a great responsibility in dealing with the untold suffering and injustice inflicted on the Jewish population during World War II,” Ms. Meliani said, speaking of “moral duty.”

More than 100,000 Jews were deported from the Netherlands to Nazi death camps during World War II, the majority of them living in Amsterdam.

{This is an English translation of the French article “Une toile de Kandinsky spoliée par les nazis a été restituée aux héritiers d’un collectionneur juif” from SudOuest on February 28, 2022.}