2 Nazi-looted drawings must be returned to heirs of Austrian Holocaust victim, NY court rules


(JTA) — A New York court ruled that two Nazi-looted drawings by Austrian painter Egon Schiele must be returned to the heirs of an Austrian Holocaust victim.

“Woman in a Black Pinafore” and “Woman Hiding her Face” should be handed over to the heirs of Franz Friedrich “Fritz” Grunbaum, an Austrian-Jewish entertainer who died in 1941 in the Dachau concentration camp, Justice Charles Ramos of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled late last week.

Grunbaum owned some 450 artworks, including more than 80 by Schiele. The collection was seized by the Nazis after he was arrested in 1938 and sent to Dachau.

The judge cited the 2016 Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, or HEAR, in ruling against the London-based dealer Richard Nagy, who claimed that he had legally acquired the two drawings in a 1956 sale of about 50 Schiele works by Grunbaum’s sister-in-law to a gallery in Switzerland, Reuters reported.


The law extends the statute of limitations for the stolen artwork to six years from the date that the art in question is identified and located, and from when the claimant has shown evidence of possession of the art.

The two drawings were identified in 2015 at an art and design show in New York City in a booth operated by Nagy.

Nagy’s lawyers argued that the HEAR Act did not apply, which the judge called “absurd.” He said, according to Reuters, that the statute was “intended to apply to cases precisely like this one.”

The Grunbaum heirs were named in the case as Timothy Reif, David Frankel and Milos Vavra.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a sponsor of the HEAR legislation, said in a tweet that he was proud to see the law “is helping to facilitate the return of artwork stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust to their rightful heirs.”