A Canadian Art Dealer’s Legacy Is Helping to Locate Works Looted by the Nazis

Max Stern, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, established himself as a successful art dealer in Montreal and went on to revolutionize the Canadian art world. He never spoke of his experiences as a refugee, or mentioned that he and his father had been prominent art dealers in prewar Düsseldorf. Nor did he make public the fact that the Nazis looted his father’s collection. Now, twenty years after his death, researchers are trying to track down 200 paintings the Nazis forced him to sell in 1937, and to return other looted works to their rightful owners as well. A typical story:

The project’s first big break came in January 2005, when the Art Loss Register (ALR) contacted [Clarence] Epstein [the overseer of Stern’s cultural property] about a 19th-century work by Franz Xaver Winterhalter called Girl from the Sabine Mountains. Off the art market for 68 years, the painting of a peasant woman resting languidly by a tree had been consigned to Estates Unlimited, a small Rhode Island auction house, by Maria-Louise Bissonnette, an octogenarian German baroness who lived in Providence. On behalf of the Stern estate, the ALR’s historic-claims department requested the auction house withdraw the painting from the sale, and the Holocaust Claims Processing Office sent Bissonnette a letter asking her to return it to the Stern estate.

The baroness refused, claiming she had inherited the work from her mother, whose second husband, Karl Wilharm, purchased it at the 1937 Lempertz sale. Disputing—or ignoring—the fact that her stepfather was a high-ranking member of Hitler’s storm troopers, she offered his bill of sale as evidence that the work was hers. “Why should I give the painting back,” she asked, “when there is no proof that it was a forced sale?”

Read more at Walrus

More about: Art, Canada, German Jewry, Holocaust restitution

The Diplomatic Goals of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Visit to the U.S.

Yesterday, the Israeli prime minister arrived in the U.S., and he plans to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, but it remains uncertain whether he will meet with President Biden. Nonetheless, Amit Yagur urges Benjamin Netanyahu to use the trip for ordinary as well as public diplomacy—“assuming,” Yagur writes, “there is someone to talk to in the politically turbulent U.S.” He argues that the first priority should be discussing how to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons. But there are other issues to tackle as well:

From the American perspective, as long as Hamas is not the official ruler in the Gaza Strip, any solution agreed upon is good. For Israel, however, it is quite clear that if Hamas remains a legitimate power factor, even if it does not head the leadership in Gaza, sooner or later, Gaza will reach the Hizballah model in Lebanon. To clarify, this means that Hamas is the actual ruler of the Strip, and sooner or later, we will see a [return] of its military capabilities as well as its actual control over the population. . . .

The UN aid organization UNRWA . . . served as a platform for Hamas terrorist elements to establish, disguise, and use UN infrastructure for terrorism. This is beside the fact that UNRWA essentially perpetuates the conflict rather than helps resolve it. How do we remove the UN and UNRWA from the “day after” equation? Can the American aid organization USAID step into UNRWA’s shoes, and what assistance can the U.S. provide to Israel in re-freezing donor-country contributions to UNRWA?

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Gaza War 2023, U.S.-Israel relationship