Guelph Treasure: Court Decision

News from 04/01/2017

U.S. District Court Issues Decision on Guelph Treasure Art Restitution Lawsuit Against SPK and Federal Republic of Germany. Several components of the Motion to Dismiss were granted, others denied.

The Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, or SPK) and the Federal Republic of Germany were named in a lawsuit (Philipp and Stiebel vs. Federal Republic of Germany and Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz) on February 23, 2015 filed before the United States District Court in Washington, D.C., seeking restitution of a collection of medieval relics known as the “Welfenschatz” or “Guelph Treasure”. SPK believes the case should not be heard in U.S. court and therefore filed a Motion to Dismiss. On March 31 2017, the judge issued a decision granting several components of SPK’s motion and denying others.

“It is SPK’s long-held belief that this case should not be heard in U.S. court,” said Prof. Dr. Hermann Parzinger, President of SPK. “SPK is now analyzing the ruling and considering its options. Having researched all of the facts and historical background carefully, SPK is also convinced that this case has no merit, as the Guelph Treasure’s sale more than 80 years ago was not a forced sale due to Nazi persecution.”

SPK continues to be committed to the fair and just resolution of legitimate claims to Nazi-confiscated art, consistent with the Washington Conference Principles. Since 1999, claimants alleging Nazi-looted art have submitted more than 50 restitution claims to SPK, which has responded by returning more than 350 works of art and more than 1,000 books from its collections. Those restituted objects include a van Gogh drawing, a work by Munch, and “Der Watzmann” by Caspar David Friedrich. Along with SPK, other German museums and institutions have returned more than 14,300 Nazi-looted items.

The merits of the Welfenschatz case have already been discussed before the German “Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property”, which concluded in 2014 that restitution was not appropriate.

SPK is represented in this matter in the United States by the law firm of Wiggin and Dana.

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