Holocaust victim’s paintings stolen by Nazis are returned to heirs

Fritz Grünbaum

Two artworks belonging to an Austrian-Jewish songwriter that were confiscated by the Nazis have been returned to his heirs, CNN reports.

Franz Friedrich “Fritz” Grünbaum, who had a collection numbering 450 pieces, including 81 by expressionist master Egon Schiele, would mock Hitler in his cabaret performances.

His collection was taken by the Nazis in 1938 and he was sent to Dachau concentration camp, where he died in 1941.

Now Justice Charles E. Ramos of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan, has ruled that Woman in a Black Pinafore and Woman Hiding her Face should be retuned to Timothy Reif and David Fraenkel.

The pair sued after they found the two paintings in 2015 in a booth at the Salon Art + Design Showin New York, operated by London-based art dealer Richard Nagy.

Mr Nagy said his title to the paintings was good as they were among 45 given by Mr Grünbaum’s sister-in-law, Mathilde Lukacs, to a gallery in Switzerland in 1956.

However, Judge Ramos cited the 2016 Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, under which claims are competent up to six years from the time the claimant discovers the artwork.

He stated: ”Although defendants argue that the HEAR Act is inapplicable, this argument is absurd, as the act is intended to apply to cases precisely like this one, where Nazi-looted art is at issue.

“Since plaintiffs discovered the Artworks in November of 2015, their action is timely under the HEAR Act.”

He added: “New York protects the rightful owner’s property where that property had been stolen, even if the property is in the possession of a good faith purchaser.”

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