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Germany returns formerly Jewish-owned paintings to the Netherlands

03.03.2012

The Museum of Fine Arts Leipzig will return six paintings to the Netherlands this Sunday (4 March), thus marking the end of a restitution procedure that spans more than 60 years. The paintings now being returned to the Netherlands after the partial conclusion of the restitution procedure form part of the Kummerlé Collection. Alfred Kummerlé acquired the six paintings from Jewish owners in the German-occupied Netherlands between 1940 and 1944.

Commenting on the restitution, which is being carried out with Federal Foreign Office support, Minister of State Cornelia Pieper issued the following statement today (3 March):

The restitution is not only an expression of our good and trust-based relations with the Netherlands, it also bears witness to Germany’s commitment to the 1998 Washington Principles.

The Washington Principles, to which Germany agreed in 1998, commit countries to making every effort to restore Nazi-confiscated cultural assets to the heirs of their rightful owners.

The Netherlands claimed restitution of the Kummerlé paintings as early as 1945. Later on, the heirs of Kummerlé’s wife, to whom Alfred Kummerlé had transferred his collection, also made property claims. Johanna Kummerlé had the paintings stored in a Leipzig bank in 1949. When she did not return to the GDR from a trip to the West in 1953, she was considered a “defector”. The stored paintings were thereupon transferred into public property and offered for sale to the Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts, where they have been kept ever since.

After thorough legal checks and meticulous research into the provenance of the paintings, the Federal Office of Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues decided in July 2011 that the six paintings were to be returned.

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