At a press conference held late this afternoon, the Netherlands State Secretary for Culture Medy van der Laan announced that the government, in accordance with a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War, will return to the heirs of Jacques Goudstikker most of the works of art they claim.
From the website of the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science:
List of works to be returned
A dossier on the case is to be found on the ministry website.
From the website of the Restitutions Committee:
a press release and the complete text of the recommendation.
PREDOMINANTLY POSITIVE RECOMMENDATION IN GOUDSTIKKER CLAIM
THE HAGUE – The Restitutions Committee advises State Secretary for Culture, Education and Science Van der Laan to return 202 of the 267 claimed works of art to Amsterdamse Negotiatie Compagnie N.V. in liquidation. The works of art from the trading stock of the pre-war Amsterdam Kunsthandel J. Goudstikker N.V. currently belong to the Dutch National Art Collection.
In May 1940, the trading stock of the Goudstikker gallery, perhaps the most important art dealership in the Netherlands in the period between the two World Wars, amounted to at least 1,113 works of art. After the Jewish gallery owner Jacques Goudstikker had fled the country in 1940 together with his family, staff sold nearly the entire trading stock and immovable property to the Germans Alois Miedl and Hermann Göring. Miedl continued to operate the gallery on his own account during the war.
In its recommendation of 19 December 2005, the Restitutions Committee addresses the claim the gallery’s legal successor (Amsterdamse Negotiatie Compagnie NV in liq.) had filed with the State Secretary in April 2004, which was increased by several works of art in July 2005. In its claim, the applicant requested the restitution of 267 works of art from the National Art Collection, among which a large number of paintings by 17th-century Masters. Following this claim, the Restitutions Committee conducted an investigation of the facts that was to last eighteen months.
The Committee concludes that 227 of the claimed works of art were part of the Goudstikker trading stock in 1940. As regards the remaining 40 works of art, the Committee finds it plausible that they did not belong to the Goudstikker gallery at the time and its recommendation therefore does not extend to restitution of these paintings.
First and foremost in the Committee’s recommendation is that Goudstikker’s loss of possession during the war must be considered involuntary. One of the considerations leading to this conclusion is that the widow of Jacques Goudstikker – who himself died while fleeing from the Nazis – refused to grant permission for sales of the works of art to Nazi Field Marshal Göring and Miedl, a friend of his. Moreover, the Committee has its doubts about the course of affairs surrounding the sale of the dealership to Miedl.
The grounds of the recommendation are based primarily on the allowance of the current claim. The Goudstikker heirs had previously instigated restoration of rights proceedings, as a result of which the Committee first had to answer the question of whether the application to return the artworks should be regarded as a matter that has been conclusively settled. A 1952 settlement ended the matter as far as the ‘Miedl transaction’ was concerned. Under the terms of that settlement, more than 300 paintings were bought back from the State of the Netherlands, but the heirs also relinquished their ownership rights to the other artworks acquired by Miedl during the war. The Committee considers itself bound by this settlement and consequently regards the application for restitution of the works of art acquired by Miedl during the war as conclusively settled. Its recommendation therefore does not extend to the restitution of the 21 works of art of this claim.
The works of art involved in the Göring transaction, however, are a different matter. Although, after the war, the Goudstikker heirs decided not to file an application for restoration of rights, they never, at any time, waived their ownership rights to these works. Despite the fact that, in 1999, the court in The Hague dismissed a previous claim to these works of art because the period of prescription had lapsed, the Committee believes that the current application for restitution is allowable under today’s extended restitution policy. Also in view of the involuntary nature of the loss of possession, the Committee therefore recommends restitution of the 192 works of art belonging to this category.
The Committee also recommends restitution of ten paintings that were not part of the Miedl and Göring transactions, establishing involuntary loss of possession for this third category as well.
In addition, the Committee recommends not imposing an obligation to pay in exchange for restitution of the works of art. While it is true that Goudstikker received money from the sale in 1940, it also sustained heavy losses. After all, World War II put an end to the existence of what was, in all likelihood, the most important art dealership in the Netherlands. The Committee also considers the fact that, in the 1950s, the Dutch State sold at least 63 works of art from Goudstikker’s trading stock, the proceeds of which were channelled into state coffers. Moreover, the Dutch State enjoyed the right of usufruct to these works for nearly six decades.
The Committee also investigated whether public interest could preclude restitution, and concluded this is not the case.
Since its establishment in January 2002, a total of 41 cases have been presented to the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War (Restitutions Committee), and the Committee has issued advice in 22 of those cases.
For more information, please contact Ms E. Campfens, secretary/reporter of the Restitutions Committee by phone on +31 (0)70 376 59 93 or mobile +31 (0)6 24 565 228.