Woman trying to win Nazi-looted paintings from Norton Simon Museum loses appeal
In a setback for a Connecticut woman trying to recover two prized paintings from the Norton Simon Museum looted during the Holocaust, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused today to rehear an appeal it had denied in August.
The nearly 500-year-old paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder are on separate wooden panels and depict Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, moments before the Fall.
Marei Von Saher had asked that the full appeals court revisit the case, which had been decided last August by a three-judge panel.
A California law enacted in 2002 had given special treatment to suits to recoup Nazi-looted art. Instead of having to sue within the usual three-year statute of limitations, victims and their heirs were given through the end of 2010 to bring claims, even if the statute of limitations had run out. But in a 2-1 ruling, appellate judges decided that the state law was an unconstitutional intrusion on the federal government’s prerogative to wage war and set foreign policy. Now, with the appeal's final rejection, it also has likely sounded the death knell for two other state laws that gave Holocaust survivors and heirs extra time to make legal claims for restitution for slave labor and unpaid insurance policies.
Von Saher still has legal options to pursue, her lawyer says, including a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Cranach paintings turned into history's pingpong balls nearly 100 years ago, changing hands first because of the Russian Revolution, then during lean times in the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin, and again during the Holocaust, when Von Saher's father-in-law, a leading Dutch-Jewish art dealer, fled the invading Germans in 1940 and his firm sold the paintings to the Nazis under duress.
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-- Mike Boehm
Photo: Lucas Cranac, Adam and Eve. Credit: Norton Simon Museum