The orignal owner, Jewish-Dutch Art Dealer Jacques Goudstikker fled Holland, just prior to the Nazi invasion. He died in an accident on the ship that carried his family to safety in South America. He had turned over his business, including an art gallery, to his associate who then turned around and sold the lot, at fire sale prices, to Hermann Goring.
The works, which were stolen from Dutch art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, had been recovered following the war but returned to the Dutch Government which then claimed that the Goudstikker heirs failed to meet the deadline (through a technality) to claim them back. The Dutch then put them in a Dutch museum and sold them off to anybody but the original Jewish heirs.
The Dutch government later sold them to a Russian, George Stroganoff-Sherbatoff, who claimed they were his, looted by the Soviets in 1931 but later sold at auction by the Soviets. He then sold them to Norton Simon who brought the paintings to America. This week’s ruling concludes a more than decade-long legal battle initiated by Marei von Saher, Goudstikker’s daughter-in-law, seeking to claim ownership of the Cranachs, recently valued at $24m.
I went to a talk on this issue years ago. The representative, from Christie's, was neutral but it was clear from his presentation that the Dutch, along with every other European government, was refusing, in every way possible, to return looted art to the original heirs or, since most of them didn't survive the war, to the heirs.
In which a Dutch journalist exposes the bad dealing of the Dutch Government: Following World War II, the Allied forces recovered these treasures from Germany and gave them to the Dutch government as part of 'amicable restitution of rights', with the intention of returning them to their rightful owners; however, instead of returning them to Goudstikker's wife Desi, who sought their recovery from 1946 to 1952, they were retained as part of the Netherlands' National Collection. Between 1996 and 1998, Dutch investigative journalist Pieter den Hollander attracted international attention with his exposé of how the post-war restitution of stolen art often ignored the rights of the legal owners, eventually documenting it in his book De zaak Goudstikker (The Goudstikker Case), published by Meulenhoff in 1998. At that time, Goudstikker's heirs sued for possession of these works, but their claim was rejected by the State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science. Official investigations, however, confirmed the mishandling of postwar restitutions, and as a result, the Dutch government created the Restitutions Committee to review claims to art treasures in the government's possession. On the recommendations of the Herkomst Gezocht (Origins Unknown) Committee chaired by R. E. O. Ekkart, after eight years of legal battles, in 2006 the Dutch government restored 202 paintings to Goudstikker's sole remaining heir, his daughter-in-law Marei von Saher, Goudstikker's wife Desi and only son Edo both having died in 1996; many of them were sold at auction in 2007 for almost $10 million.
......“a misguided effort to keep [the works] in the museum, despite the clear fact that they were looted from this Jewish family.”