U.S. Courts Lack Jurisdiction for Guelph Treasure Lawsuit, Appeals Court Confirms

News from 07/17/2023

The Guelph Treasure has been the subject of an action for restitution in the United States since 2015. In 2022, the SPK's motion to dismiss the lawsuit was granted. The appellate court has now confirmed this decision.

Photograph of an ornate, golden object
@ SPK / Foto: Janine Schmitz/ photothek.de

The Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin) holds the Guelph Treasure, one of the most important collections of medieval German religious artifacts. Since 2008, 42 pieces of the Guelph Treasure have been the subject of a request for restitution. Several heirs of the Jewish art dealers who sold a large portion of the treasure in 1935 maintain that the sale was due to Nazi persecution.

In 2015, they filed a lawsuit at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington D.C. in order to have it returned (Philipp and Stiebel vs. Federal Republic of Germany and Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today confirmed the decision reached by the district court in 2022, in which it granted the SPK's motion to dismiss the action for restitution. This decision follows a unanimous decision rendered by the Supreme Court in 2021, which vacated an earlier rejection of the SPK's motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' suit and remanded the case to the district court.

The SPK has long held the view that the suit for restitution is without foundation, because the sale of the Guelph Treasure in 1935 was not a coerced sale resulting from Nazi persecution. It arrived at this view following years of thorough research, and this position was confirmed by the Advisory Commission in 2014.

SPK President Hermann Parzinger commented: "The SPK has been conducting professional provenance research on its collections for years, and these efforts are guided by the Washington Principles, the international standard for restitution matters. We have already returned more than 350 works of art and over 2000 books in the interest of achieving justice for Jewish families. The SPK will continue to seek fair and just solutions for all of its restitution cases."

Links for Additional Information

To overview