How Ex-Nazis Re-Stole Stolen Jewish Art

July 25 2016

By 1949, the U.S. government had placed over 10,000 works of art that had been looted by the Nazis in the hands of the government of Bavaria, which had been given the task of returning the items to their rightful owners. Now an investigation has concluded that a significant number of these works found their way back into the hands of former high-ranking members of the Nazi party. Abigail Cain writes:

As the investigation details, the government officials responsible for returning the looted work were, in fact, a series of men with ties to the Nazi party. The Bavarian state secretary transferred the authority to distribute the art to the director of the Bavarian State Paintings Collections, Eberhard Hanfstaengl, a cousin of Hitler’s secretary of foreign affairs, Ernst Hanfstaengl.

Later, Ernst Buchner—the curator of the Bavarian State Paintings Collections between 1932 and 1945—took the reins. This went against the express orders of [U.S. officials], who said to “deny him any position in any art-collection point in Germany at any point.” Buchner staffed his department with men of similar Nazi-era backgrounds. . . .

[T]he Bormanns, Görings, von Schirachs, Franks, and Streichers—all former high-ranking Nazi families—successfully negotiated for the return of looted art they had obtained at the peak of the Reich, often directly with state officials. Jewish families, on the other hand, struggled against “impossible hurdles” that kept them from recovering their property.

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More about: Art, Germany, History & Ideas, Holocaust restitution, Nazis, World War II

By Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan, the U.S. Has Freed Israel from “Land for Peace”

March 25 2019

In the 52 years since Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria, there have been multiple efforts to negotiate their return in exchange for Damascus ending its continuous war against the Jewish state. Shmuel Rosner argues that, with his announcement on Thursday acknowledging the legitimacy of Jerusalem’s claim to the Golan, Donald Trump has finally decoupled territorial concessions from peacemaking:

[With] the takeover of much of Syria by Iran and its proxies, . . . Israel had no choice but to give up on the idea of withdrawing from the Golan Heights. But this reality involves a complete overhaul of the way the international community thinks not just about the Golan Heights but also about all of the lands Israel occupied in 1967. . . .

Withdrawal worked for Israel once, in 1979, when it signed a peace agreement with Egypt and left the Sinai Peninsula, which had also been occupied in 1967. But that also set a problematic precedent. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt insisted that Israel hand back the entire peninsula to the last inch. Israel decided that the reward was worth the price, as a major Arab country agreed to break with other Arab states and accept Israel’s legitimacy.

But there was a hidden, unanticipated cost: Israel’s adversaries, in future negotiations, would demand the same kind of compensation. The 1967 line—what Israel controlled before the war—became the starting point for all Arab countries, including Syria. It became a sacred formula, worshiped by the international community.

What President Trump is doing extends far beyond the ability of Israel to control the Golan Heights, to settle it, and to invest in it. The American president is setting the clock back to before the peace deal with Egypt, to a time when Israel could argue that the reward for peace is peace—not land. Syria, of course, is unlikely to accept this. At least not in the short term. But maybe someday, a Syrian leader will come along who doesn’t entertain the thought that Israel might agree to return to the pre-1967 line and who will accept a different formula for achieving peace.

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More about: Donald Trump, Golan Heights, Israel & Zionis, Peace Process, Sinai Peninsula, Syria