Today’s must read restitution story is Bloomberg’s tale of a Pissarro–up for auction in London’s June Impressionist sale at Christie’s for $1.5m or more–stolen by the Nazi’s from the family of a prominent German publisher. Each of these restitution stories is compelling for the details that emerge from both sides–the families whose possessions and persons were scattered across Europe and American as well as the actions of the Nazi looters during and after the war. Here we’re quoting the family’s story. But click through to Catherine Hickley‘s tale to learn more about Bruno Lohse who continued to traffic in the stolen art for almost 60 years after the war.
“The painting had been in the family since 1907,” Bermann-Fischer said in a telephone interview from Zurich, where she lives. “It was restituted to me 100 years later. I have invested such a tremendous amount over the past 13 years, so much energy and so much of my finances, that it would be frivolous to keep it.”
The Nazis stole about 650,000 artworks altogether, the New York-based Jewish Claims Conference estimates. The Art Loss Register, a database of stolen art, lists 70,000 works lost in World War II that are still being sought by the owners.
“Recovering the painting, I found out much about what happened to my family, having to flee, being persecuted, losing everything,” Gisela Bermann-Fischer said. […]
She was nine when her family fled Vienna on the night before Hitler’s army marched into Austria. They left all their possessions behind, including paintings and her father’s private library. Gestapo agents came after they had fled to loot the art: a Lovis Corinth painting of flowers, an El Greco, a Paul Gauguin and the Pissarro.
“I was born into a family which had a central place in the cultural and literary life in Berlin,” said Bermann-Fischer. “And yet I experienced this family while I was growing up as uprooted, as outsiders. Overall there was an atmosphere of loss, a feeling of not being part of a society. My parents were always about to pack up our house and flee.
“Getting a looted painting back into the family was about putting things in order,” she said. “Nothing else could ever be returned or repaired.”