A German Foundation Discovered That a Rare Violin Once Belonged to a Jewish Merchant, but It Refuses to Compensate His Heirs

While Germany had done more than most of the nations it conquered during World War II to ensure the return of plundered Jewish property, the story of Holocaust-era restitution in that country is hardly over. The tale of a 300-year-old violin, recently identified as having belonged to Felix Hildesheimer, makes this clear, writes Catherine Hickley:

No one knows why Felix Hildesheimer, a Jewish dealer in music supplies, purchased a precious violin built by the Cremonese master Giuseppe Guarneri at a shop in Stuttgart, Germany, in January 1938. His own store had lost its non-Jewish customers because of Nazi boycotts, and his two daughters fled the country shortly afterward. His grandsons say it’s possible that Hildesheimer was hoping he could sell the violin in Australia, where he and his wife, Helene, planned to build a new life with their younger daughter.

But the couple’s efforts to get an Australian visa failed and Hildesheimer killed himself in August 1939. More than 80 years later, his . . . violin—valued at around $185,000—is at the center of a dispute that is threatening to undermine Germany’s commitment to return objects looted by the Nazis.

The government’s Advisory Commission on the return of Nazi-looted cultural property determined in 2016 that the violin was almost certainly either sold by Hildesheimer under duress, or seized by the Nazis after his death. In its first case concerning a musical instrument, the panel recommended that the current holder, the Franz Hofmann and Sophie Hagemann Foundation, a music education organization, should pay the dealer’s grandsons compensation of 100,000 euros, around $121,000; in return, the foundation could keep the instrument, which it planned to lend to talented violin students.

But the foundation is refusing to pay.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Germany, Holocaust, Holocaust restitution, Music

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship