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Jewish Heirs Won’t Get Back Art Treasure, German Panel Rules

A collection of medieval religious art worth an estimated $275 million will not be returned to the heirs of four German-Jewish art dealers.

The descendants of another heir said, however, that they will not give up the fight for the Guelph Collection now held by the Berlin-based Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

In a ruling last week, the Limbach Commission — a German advisory board for Holocaust-related claims — said the collection sold in 1935 was not bought from the German-Jewish art dealers under duress and thus did not have to be returned to the heirs.

The collectors — Zacharias Max Hackenbroch, Isaac Rosenbaum, Saemy Rosenberg and Julius Falk Goldschmidt — had purchased the treasures in the 1920s.

The claimants and their attorneys, as well as other advocates, have argued since 2008 that virtually all purchases of valuable property from Jews under the Nazis were made under duress. They noted that the sale was orchestrated by Hitler’s chief deputy, Hermann Goering.

In its argument, the foundation, which oversees the museums of Berlin, pointed out that the collection was not even in Germany at the time of its sale, the Times of Israel reported.

Meanwhile, an additional claimant — the heirs of the Jewish jeweler Hermann Netter, who reportedly owned 25 percent of the treasure at the time of its sale — said they would continue their fight for restitution of the treasure. Dresden-based attorney Sabine Rudolph told the German news agency dpa that since the Netter heirs had been excluded from the previous deliberation, they would not recognize the commission’s decision.

A spokesperson for the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation told the online Sudkurier newspaper that Netter’s descendants had declined to make a claim together with the other heirs, and noted that the Limbach Commission’s rejection of the claim expressly included the descendants of other previous owners. But Rudolph said her clients had only just learned about the case in December.

Speaking to the Times of Israel, Markus Stoetzel and Mel Urbach, attorneys for the original claimants, said they were analyzing the recommendations and would discuss them with their clients. They said they were shocked and disappointed by the findings.

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