Appeals court revives case for art seized in WWII

A federal appeals court has revived a New York woman’s lawsuit against a Southern California museum to return two 16th century paintings seized by Nazis during World War II. A court of appeals ruled on Friday to reverse a 2012 decision to dismiss Marei Von Saher’s claims that the paintings belonged to her late father-in-law, a Dutch Jewish art dealer who was forced to give them up during the Holocaust. U.S. District Judge John Walter had initially ruled that Von Saher’s claims against the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena were untimely and the remedies she sought in her lawsuit against the institution conflicted with United States foreign policy on the restitution of Nazi-looted art.

Ms. Von Saher is very happy with the decision. She believes that after all this time and all this litigation, the museum should, as many museums are, finally do the right thing.

Ms Von Saher’s lawyer Lawrence Kaye

The case concerns two life-size panels from a diptych titled ‘Adam and Eve’ by German Renaissance artist Lucas Cranach the Elder. The panels were left behind when Von Saher’s father-in-law, Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, fled the Netherlands in 1940 as Germany invaded. Several hundred works in his gallery, including the Cranachs, were later sold to Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann. The Norton Simon museum acquired the panels in 1971. Von Saher learned of their whereabouts three decades later, and sued in 2007 after six years of talks failed to resolve the case.