He Fled Germany in 1933. Now His Heirs Want His Paintings

Alfred Flechtheim's heirs claim 8 paintings were sold under duress after 1933
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2016 7:54 AM CST
He Fled Germany in 1933. Now His Heirs Want His Paintings
Alfred Flechtheim's heirs previously lost a claim regarding Juan Gris' "Violin and Ink Pot," seen here.   (AP Photo/dpa, Rolf Vennenbernd)

Renowned German art dealer Alfred Flechtheim had been named part of the "Jewish world conspiracy" in the Nazi press even before 1933, so when Adolf Hitler came to power, he chose to flee, and died 4 years later in London, reports Courthouse News. His art collection remained in Berlin and at least eight paintings are now part of the Bavarian State Paintings Collection, reports the Art Newspaper. They should instead be with Flechtheim's heirs in the US and England, per a lawsuit filed against the state of Bavaria in US District Court in Manhattan on Monday. The widow of Flechtheim's sole heir (his nephew) and the nephew's son cite "a presumption of international law" that sales of Jewish property after Jan. 30, 1933, aren't legitimate because they were made under duress.

And so in the case of the six paintings by Max Beckmann and two others by Juan Gris and Paul Klee, timing is the issue. The Bavarian State Paintings Collection argues the paintings, worth up to $20 million, were sold by Flechtheim in 1932. Penny Hulton of England and stepson Michael Hulton of San Francisco—who've been locked in a years-long battle with Bavaria over what Deutsche Welle calls "one of the world's most disputed estates"—say the paintings were sold after he left the country in May 1933. They "would have remained accessible to Flechtheim but for the climate at the time," their lawyer tells Reuters. "The state-level program of Aryanizing Jewish businesses made the confiscation possible." (These Jewish heirs want back their gold and jewels.)

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