Heirs of German Jewish Art Dealers Await Hearing on Looted Treasure

Collection Stolen During Holocaust Is Estimated at $200 Million

By JTA

Published September 11, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Heirs of four German-Jewish art dealers are gearing for a fight over a treasure they say was forced from their families’ hands on orders of Hitler’s deputy Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering.

But lawyers for the heirs hope a Sept. 17 hearing in Berlin will obviate any legal battles over the fortune in medieval gold artifacts - known as the “Guelph Collection,” or “Welfenschatz.”

The treasures originally were purchased in the 1920s by German Jewish art dealers Zacharias Max Hackenbroch, Isaac Rosenbaum, Saemy Rosenberg and Julius Falk Goldschmidt. Goering himself orchestrated the “sale” of the artifacts to the Prussian state in 1935 for 4.1 million Reichsmarks - way below the market value, said an attorney for the heirs, Mel Urbach of New York.

The collection is estimated to be worth more than $200 million today.

Next week’s hearing on the fate of the collection – currently held by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation – will be conducted by the Limbach Commission, a German advisory board for Holocaust-related claims.

Urbach told JTA he was confident that the commission under Judge Jutta Limbach would “reach a just decision in the Guelph saga,” based on its “good understanding of history.”

After World War II, the Allied Forces discovered the objects hidden with other looted art in the salt mines of Altaussee in Austria. They were turned over to Germany to be held in trust for the owners. But it was not until 2008 that descendants of the art dealers discovered the collection. Urbach’s Germany-based colleague, Markus Stoetzel, submitted a claim at the time.

“Since then the foundation has stonewalled all attempts to discuss an amicable resolution of this historically important case of looted art,” the attorneys said in a statement on behalf of heirs Jed Leiber of Los Angeles, Gerald Stiebel of New York, and Alan Philipp of the United Kingdom.

By ”ignor[ing] the moral obligation,” the Prussian foundation was acting against ”German law, policy and responsibility,” the attorneys added.

Urbach said he is confident a decades-old wrong will be set right. “I believe the world has come to view the Limbach Commission as the best way to deal with these issues,” he said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.