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Exclusive: Oberlin College’s 17-Year Refusal To Return Artwork Stolen By The Nazis From A Jewish Holocaust Victim

Exclusive: Oberlin College’s 17-Year Refusal To Return Artwork Stolen By The Nazis From A Jewish Holocaust Victim

The Manhattan D.A. recently issued a criminal seizure warrant for ‘Girl With Black Hair’ in the possession of Oberlin College’s Allen Museum. Court records in a civil case reveal that the college has been fighting at least since 2006 against return of the drawing. This is in contrast to the college’s repatriation of an item of Native American craft returned to the Nez Perce tribe in 2002. Are items stolen from Jews during the Holocaust less worthy of return than items obtained from Native American tribes?

Oberlin College was in the news recently after a drawing, Girl With Black Hair, by Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele, was the subject of a criminal seizure warrant out of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

The D.A. is attempting to recover that drawing and others located at other museums and private collections, which were stolen by the Nazis from Fritz Grünbaum, a prominent Jewish art collector and cabaret artist, who was forced under duress to sign over rights to his collection as part of the Nazi confiscation of Jewish property, while interned at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, where he died in 1941.

While the criminal warrant to Oberlin College and two other institutions put the dispute in the current headlines, the Grünbaum heirs have have been trying at least since 2006 to get Oberlin College to return the drawing, to no avail. We have not seen that long history reported before, and we learned of it while reviewing court filings in a civil case filed against Oberlin College and others in late 2022, which Oberlin College also is fighting. Among other things, Oberlin College disputes the constitutionality of applying the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016.

Oberlin College’s fight to avoid returning this stolen art is in contrast to the college’s repatriation of an item of Native American craft returned to the Nez Perce tribe in 2002. Are items stolen from Jews during the Holocaust less worthy of return than items obtained from Native American tribes?

Girl With Black Hair At Oberlin College’s Allen Museum

The Allen Museum is as woke as the rest of Oberlin College, recently featuring a show pushing back against ‘anti-woke’ pushback:

Hey America: If you’re tired of MAGA “anti-woke” culture war politics and you’d like to see a cultural response from the opposite side of the ideological spectrum, Ohio has an art museum for you: The Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College.

Special exhibitions on view now at the Allen explore everything from racism at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 to the question of how artworks communicate the idea of sexual consent — a big topic on college campuses, and in workplaces….

Since it opened in 1917, the Allen’s excellent collection has grown to encompass more than 15,000 objects spanning 6,000 years of art history….

But this summer [of 2023], especially, the museum seems eager to address the culture wars, although it’s not saying so overtly. The tone of the exhibitions on view is scholarly and above the fray, but there’s no mistaking the museum’s opposition to the current right-wing campaign against the teaching of Black history or the pursuit of rights for LGBTQ persons….

Still, it’s clear that the Allen is sympathetic to contemporary artists whose politics lean left.

The NY Times reported on September 13, 2023, about the dispute over the stolen artwork:

New York investigators on Wednesday seized three artworks from three out-of-state museums that they said had been stolen from a Jewish art collector killed during the Holocaust and rightly belonged to the Nazi victim’s heirs.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office issued warrants to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, and the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College in Ohio, for works by the 1900s Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele. According to the warrants, “there is reasonable cause to believe” that the works constitute stolen property.

Prosecutors say the artworks rightly belong to three living heirs of Fritz Grünbaum, a prominent Jewish art collector and cabaret artist killed at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany in 1941.

The Associated Press added more details, including Oberlin College’s assertion that its purchase was and its current possession is lawful:

The son of a Jewish art dealer in what was then Moravia, Grünbaum studied law but began performing in cabarets in Vienna in 1906.

A well-known performer in Vienna and Berlin by the time Adolf Hitler rose to power, Grünbaum challenged the Nazi authorities in his work. He once quipped from a darkened stage, “I can’t see a thing, not a single thing; I must have stumbled into National Socialist culture.”

Grünbaum was arrested and sent to Dachau in 1938. He gave his final performance for fellow inmates on New Year’s Eve 1940 while gravely ill, then died on Jan. 14, 1941.

The three pieces seized by Bragg’s office are: “Russian War Prisoner,” a watercolor and pencil on paper piece valued at $1.25 million, which was seized from the Art Institute; “Portrait of a Man,” a pencil on paper drawing valued at $1 million and seized from the Carnegie Museum of Art; and “Girl With Black Hair,” a watercolor and pencil on paper work valued at $1.5 million and taken from Oberlin….

In a statement, Oberlin said it was cooperating with investigators and was “confident that Oberlin College legally acquired Egon Schiele’s Girl with Black Hair in 1958, and that we lawfully possess it.

“We believe that Oberlin is not the target of the Manhattan DA’s criminal investigation into this matter,” the statement added.

Before the warrants were issued Wednesday, the Grünbaum heirs had filed civil claims against the three museums and several other defendants seeking the return of artworks that they say were looted from Grünbaum.

They won a victory in 2018 when a New York judge ruled that two works by Schiele had to be turned over to Grünbaum’s heirs under the Holocaust Expropriated Recovery Act, passed by Congress in 2016.

The portrait is listed on the Allen Museum website, and apparently is being held by the college now for the benefit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, pending further proceedings regarding the warrant:

The Museum does not currently have the drawing on physical display, but has brought it for exhibition in other locations over the years, the local Chronicle reports:

The drawing has been exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe more than a dozen times since 1956, according to a list of exhibits on the Allen Museum’s website. The last 10 times were at the museum itself, between 1986 and 2014.The Allen Art Museum’s website lists “Girl with Black Hair,” in watercolor and graphite pencil on paper, as “not on view” at the museum. Created in 1911, the drawing is 17 11/16 by 12 7/16 inches.

“This arresting drawing by Austrian artist Egon Schiele is related to a lost oil painting of the same model, there fully clothed, executed in the same year. While it likely functioned as a preparatory work for that painting, the drawing is finished in its own right, rather than serving merely as a sketch. It is also closely related to at least four other drawings of the same year that depict the same model,” according to the page dedicated to “Girl with Black Hair” on the Allen Memorial Art Museum’s website.

“Unlike many of his other drawings of nudes, Schiele here pays great attention to the girl’s face. Her heavy-lidded, dark-smudged eyes with their distant gaze and the sharply angular contours of her nose and chin give her an air of intense tiredness, belying the red of her rosebud lips and cheek,” the museum’s description reads. “The extremely spare rendering of the sitter’s midsection and breasts contrasts with the heavy, dark watercolor masses of her hair and skirt. Her bare knees slightly protrude below the edge of her skirt, as she sits back, legs behind her and to the side, and add yet another note of vulnerability.”

“With such works by Schiele and Klimt, as well as Pechstein, Kokoschka, Schmidt-Rottluff, Jawlensky, Klee, and Kollwitz, the AMAM has a small but important collection of Expressionist art,” according to the Allen Museum’s website.

The Oberlin Review, the college’s student newspaper, noted that seven other pieces of artwork (not including the one in the possession of the college) were recently returned, as reported in The NY Times:

Seven works by the Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele will be handed over on Wednesday to the heirs of the Viennese cabaret artist who had owned them before he was murdered by the Nazis, according to Manhattan prosecutors, marking a major turning point in one of the art world’s longest-running Holocaust restitution cases.

The ceremony to return the artworks to the heirs of Fritz Grünbaum, who was killed in the Dachau concentration camp in 1941, was scheduled to be held at the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, which investigated the case.

“This is of huge importance in our world,” said one of the Grünbaum heirs, Timothy Reif, referring to the descendants of Holocaust victims seeking the return of looted property nearly 80 years after the end of World War II. “It sets the tone and the agenda for all future cases.”

The criminal warrant which has generated so much attention comes after several civil court lawsuits were filed in late 2022 against Oberlin College and other entities holding stolen artwork. Those civil case filings revealed even more than has been reported.

Fighting Return Since At Least 2006

The civil case against Oberlin College’s Allen Memorial Art Museum was filed in NY State court on December 15, 2022, then removed by Oberlin College in March 2023 to federal court.

Oberlin College has moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint, and the Grünbaum Heirs have cross-moved for summary judgment. You can read these pleadings, which set forth the parties’ asserted facts and legal positions. Those court filings reveal a dispute going back at least until 2006. You can see how hard Oberlin College has been fighting to hold onto the artwork:

Notice of Removal, and Exhibits A-1 (State Court Complaint and Exhibits) and A-2 (additional exhibits)

First Amended Complaint (without exhibits)

Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint and supporting Memorandum of Law

Opposition to Motion to Dismiss

Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment

Reply In Support of Motion to Dismiss

The court docket does not reflect any decision on the pending motions, and has no new entries since early August 2023.

While the civil court case only dates back to December 2022, Oberlin College has been on notice of the dispute at least since 2006, which is one of the reasons it asserts in its Motion to Dismiss the case should be dismissed as barred by the statute of limitations (emphasis added):

… the cases against Carnegie and Oberlin should alternatively be dismissed as time-barred. The record is conclusive that Plaintiffs had actual knowledge of Carnegie’s and Oberlin’s possession of their Schiele drawings back in 2006 – Plaintiffs made written demands for those drawings at that time, which were refused. Yet Plaintiffs made no claims against Carnegie or Oberlin until the end of 2022. As explained by AIC, under both New York law and the statute of limitations rules prescribed by the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (“HEAR”) Act of 2016, Pub. L. No. 114-308, 130 Stat. 1524 (2016), Plaintiffs’ claims against Carnegie and Oberlin are time-barred.

Oberlin College’s Motion to Dismiss makes clear that Oberlin College rejected demands for return of Girl With Black Hair in 2006 and again in 2009, providing this narrative history (emphasis added):

1. Plaintiffs’ Prior Demand To Oberlin Was Refused

On January 24, 2006, Fischer and Vavra (through the same counsel representing Plaintiffs herein) sent a demand letter to Oberlin “to formally demand the return of art works owned by Grunbaum” and “demand the return of the artworks held at your institution,” which was further identified in a chart submitted in the Bakalar case to include the Schiele drawing owned by Oberlin, Girl with the Black Hair (1911). (Declaration of Matthew Lahey dated June 7, 2023 (“Lahey Decl.”) at ¶ 2, Ex. A.) The demand letter additionally stated: “If you fail to notify us of your intention to return the works, it is our intention to assert claims against your institution for the return of the works in an amended pleading [in Bakalar] ….” (Lahey Decl. Ex. A.)

Oberlin did not accede to Fischer’s and Vavra’s demand and did not surrender its Schiele drawing to them. Accordingly, on February 6, 2006, Fischer and Vavra amended their pleading in Bakalar and named Oberlin as an additional counterclaim-defendant and putative class representative. (Bakalar ECF No. 35.) Fischer and Vavra alleged that they had “demanded the return of the Grunbaum artworks [sic] held by Oberlin College. Oberlin has refused to return the works or ignored such demand.” (Id. at ¶ 296.) Following the denial of Fischer’s and Vavra’s motion for class certification in 2006, they made an additional, correspondence-based demand upon Oberlin in or about early 2009, which was likewise refused. (Lahey Decl. at ¶ 3; Ex. B.)11 Fischer and Vavra did not re-assert a claim against Oberlin until bringing this action concerning the same Schiele work in December 2022, over 16 years after their initial demand had been refused.

The Oberlin College motion papers reference the Affidavit of Matthew Lahey, and the exhibits thereto, showing the dispute as of 2006 and 2009:


Merits In Dispute In Civil Court Proceeding

Of course, the plaintiffs have a different view not only of the statute of limitations, but also the merits of the case. From the Opposition to Oberlin College’s Motion to Dismiss:

The simple question that would resolve this entire controversy is whether or not the power of attorney Fritz Grünbaum executed on July 16, 1938 in the Dachau Concentration Camp (the “Dachau Power of Attorney”) is void as a product of duress and involuntary. If the Dachau Power of Attorney was involuntarily, this renders void any transfer of artworks that occurred after Grünbaum July 16, 1938 voiding any transaction that would divest any of Grünbaum’s heirs of title to the Artworks. Because that simple question has been “actually decided” by the Appellate Division, First Department and was not “actually decided” by the Second Circuit (which expressly stated in its opinion “we do not decide” that question), this controversy can be resolved. Because collateral estoppel requires deference to the Appellate Division’s decision, this Court should grant summary judgment in favor of the Grünbaum Heirs. The Grünbaum Heirs signaled their intention to ask the Court to convert the Museums’ motions to dismiss to summary judgment motions, anticipating that the Museums would submit voluminous materials to the Court. The Court granted permission for the application pursuant to Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Because there are no material issues of undisputed fact and because the Museums chose to lay bare all of their proof, it would be fair and just (and the Museums would suffer no prejudice) for the Court to award summary judgment granting replevin and declaring title in the Artworks to the Grünbaum Heirs, and awarding prejudgment interest for conversion.

Oberlin also asserted that applying the HEAR Act was unconstitutional, “application of the HEAR Act at this point to deprive Carnegie and Oberlin of their vested title in their respective drawings would cause an unconstitutional taking,” to which plaintiff’s responded:

The Museums’ constitutional attacks on the HEAR Act are frivolous. New York and other common law jurisdictions do not recognize adverse possession of or prescriptive rights in stolen chattels, and even if they did, the Museums cannot put forth admissible evidence sufficient to raise a triable issue of fact on whether they could satisfy the elements of common law adverse possession under the law of any state.

I can’t assess, at this point, the legal strengths or weaknesses. The return of stolen artwork is not an area of law with which I am familiar. The Courts will have to sort it all out. What is clear and undisputed is that Oberlin College steadfastly has refused to return the drawing at least since 2006 despite multiple demands and a civil lawsuit.

Why Not Just Return Girl With Black Hair?

Why such a long and hard fight – starting at least in 2006 – to hold onto Girl With Black Hair? It’s not like returning Girl With Black Hair would strike a serious financial blow to the college or cause a serious disruption to the Allen Museum. It’s just one drawing out of 15,000 in the museum that sits in storage and not even on display.

There is precedent for Oberlin College returning items wrongfully (but not necessarily illegally) acquired. In 2002, Oberlin College returned a twined root bag that had been taken from the Nez Perce tribe a century before, and even held a symposium celebrating the return:

On April 27, 2002, the Oberlin College Department of Anthropology returned to the Nez Perce Tribe a twined root bag that had been lost in their ethnographic collections for over a hundred years. This bag was collected by Henry Harmon Spalding, missionary to the Nez Perce, in the 1840’s, and is part of the Spalding-Allen Collection that is on display at the Nez Perce National Historic Park in Spalding, Idaho. The symposium consisted of lectures on the history of the collection and the development of flat twined weaving in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as panel discussions on museum collections and repatriation of Native American cultural patrimony.

The symposium was accompanied by an exhibition at the Allen Memorial Art Museum titled, QAQA’PE: FLAT TWINED BAGS OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER PLATEAU, and an exhibit in the Oberlin College Library about the early missionary movement in the Oregon Territory.

The purpose of this page is to provide a virtual version of the AMAM exhibition, as well as to provide historical background on the people and the events leading up to the return of this root bag to the Nez Perce Nation.

Oberlin College appears to have “lawfully” possessed the twined root bag, but returned it anyway.

Oberlin College also is reviewing its inventory of artifacts and human remains for possible repatriation to Native American tribes. Whether Oberlin College “lawfully” possessed those items did not seem to be a defense raised by the college.

I have not been able to find any reports that Oberlin College plans to or has contested the seizure warrant or finally will return the artwork stolen by the Nazis from Fritz Grünbaum without further fight. A report on September 27 does not include Oberlin College as one of the institutions cooperating in the return of the stoken artwork at issue.

An email to Oberlin College media relations yesterday morning asking why the college wouldn’t return the stolen drawing, even if it had a legal right to keep it, has not been returned:

I understand that the college believes it lawfully purchased the artwork. Assuming that is legally correct, why not give it back anyway? Why would the college want to hold onto a piece of artwork stolen during the Holocaust even if the college has a legal basis to keep it?

I have a feeling Oberlin College will end up returning the stolen artwork, rather than fight the seizure warrant. Perhaps that already is in process, but not publicly announced. It’s not as if the college needs more bad publicity, after the Gibson’s Bakery debacle.

Yet the question remains, why fight for so long the return of an item stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust? Why not treat it like the twined root bag returned to the Nez Perce tribe, where ethics and morality — not the law — led Oberlin College to give up its possession? Are items stolen from Jews during the Holocaust less worthy of non-legal ethical considerations than items obtained from Native American tribes?

Why wait until the legal and public pressure mounts? Why not have returned the artwork in 2006, or last year when a civil lawsuit seeking its return was filed. Will it really take a criminal seizure warrant to get back this stolen property?

It’s often said that “integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” No one was watching Oberlin College as relates to Girl With Black Hair for most of the 17 years Oberlin College has been fighting its return. Oberlin College had almost two decades to do the right thing as to the stolen drawing, when no one was watching. Now people are watching, so no virtue signaling is warranted if Oberlin College finally gives up possession of the drawing.

Oberlin College, which professes its social justice bona fides, apparently didn’t consider the return of a stolen drawing taken by the Nazis from a Jewish Holocaust victim to be social justice.


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I had never heard of this dispute. Thank you for drawing attention to this case, Professor Jacobson.

Why am I not surprised to see that, yet again, Oberlin’s noxious and arrogant administrators refuse to act with moral probity and to show common sense decency? The college is run by utterly vile reprobates, and, one can only assume that the same moral bankruptcy and stupidity are being instilled in its students.

    fscarn in reply to guyjones. | October 1, 2023 at 9:36 pm

    This Obelin place really seems to be a stinker in all sorts of places and in all sorts of ways.

    henrybowman in reply to guyjones. | October 1, 2023 at 9:39 pm

    Oberlin is quickly becoming the Chris-Chan of educational institutions.

    Aussie Pat in reply to guyjones. | October 3, 2023 at 10:41 am

    Down here in Australia, although we don’t have the close perception of this that you guys have, my first thought on seeing the headlines was “Isn’t this the same place which went after the bakers?”
    Now it has been confirmed I can only think that the management at Oberlin have no decency or honour.

Simple answer… personal responsibility… who can be expected to pay out of their own pocket….

Sue them individually and personally…

Back to the pound of flesh….

    JohnSmith100 in reply to rabid wombat. | October 2, 2023 at 9:16 am

    It would be Oberlin have to pay another $30+ million in addition to returning the property. It seems obvious that their reason is race.

Dare I say it…. Anti-Semitism on display.

    Anacleto Mitraglia in reply to alaskabob. | October 2, 2023 at 7:12 am

    Or, one may say… greed? This drawing is valued at 1.5 mil, the native bag is probably worth less than a Vuitton (if genuine and before the lootings).

So, if integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching, what is doing the wrong, indefensible thing every time known as?

It’s a dispute over money. Oberlin should offer to sell it to him.

I’m sure the student body is learning oodles about “consent” from this affair.

“stolen by the Nazis from Fritz Grünbaum, a prominent Jewish art collector and cabaret artist, who was forced under duress to sign over rights to his collection as part of the Nazi confiscation of Jewish property”

So, just hold a knife to her throat and force her to sign an affidavit of consent! Genius, why didn’t I think of that?

Oberlin’s student body is “learning?” LOL

ThePrimordialOrderedPair | October 1, 2023 at 10:02 pm

Are items stolen from Jews during the Holocaust less worthy of return than items obtained from Native American tribes?

Generally, they’re much more valuable. Much, much, much more valuable.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair | October 1, 2023 at 10:10 pm

and “Girl With Black Hair,” a watercolor and pencil on paper work valued at $1.5 million and taken from Oberlin….

In 2002, Oberlin College returned a twined root bag that had been taken from the Nez Perce tribe a century before

Valued at around … $25.83

It would make me laugh if the judge decided the oberlin owed the family $5 million dollars for each of the 17 years for loss of appreciation of their painting.
85 million would help make the family a bit better off for the loss of their painting for all those years.

Nothing in this excellent summary of the issues notes the one thing I really want to know:

How did the Allen Art Museum obtain the drawing? Under what terms? From who? From 1938 to the time of acquisition by the Museum, what is the history of transfers?

I rather wonder whether, if we knew that part of the history of the drawing, we’d then understand why the Museum is being so obstinate.

    If the acquisition history was impeccable, you would think the college/museum would give it some publicity. Therefore, it is hard to give Oberlin any benefit of the doubt.

    My guess is that it made its way into the hands of some not so scrupulous dealer who turned around and sold it –I think I’ve seen a number of art objects that the Nazis seized which were essentially laundered before being sent back out onto the market and into the hands of museums who didn’t look too carefully at the history or provenance

I also might ask if the Allen Art Museum is being difficult about returning the stolen artwork to the heirs is because the Museum (and lots of other museums) have any number of other objects of art that have similarly clouded titles. The return of this drawing may be just the opening act.

“why fight for so long the return of an item stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust? Why not treat it like the twined root bag returned to the Nez Perce tribe”

The obvious answer is that they returned the thing they considered to be worth a tiny amount of money and are fighting to hang on to the thing that they believe is worth a lot of money.

The folks at Oberlin are liberals and with liberals it’s ALWAYS about money.

Alternative explanation: They never really iked the Perce Nez artifact, and only added it to their collection in the first place to signal their virtue. When they found that they could signal even greater virtue by giving it away, they jumped at the chance.

Broken record here, again: Look to Oberlin’s trustees. Do it with colleges and universities, do it with corporations, do it with ‘charitable’ trusts, do it with NGOs, do it with religious organizations – yes, there too. This is where the genuine rot in this country comes from.

    rhhardin in reply to Owego. | October 2, 2023 at 6:28 am

    Trustees are just recent alumni and older alumni who can stand to be with them.

      artichoke in reply to rhhardin. | October 2, 2023 at 5:21 pm

      About 10 years I looked at my alma mater MIT’s board, the MIT Corporation. Lots of people there who were not even possible students there as undergraduates. The one thing they had in common was a wokish tendency, and sure enough it’s been a woke 10 years at the Institute. Fortunately they’ve got a new president who seems quite a bit better than the old one.

      As alums, we get a periodic mailing that allows us to affect one seat on that board with about 3 levels of indirection; we are totally powerless. Nerds after all, we’re supposed to stick to our labs, not to meddle in matters of power and money and influence. So no, college trustees are not like the college student government.

    MajorWood in reply to Owego. | October 4, 2023 at 12:24 pm

    One of the trustees used to be Brandon’s lawyer. Yeah, that’s a solid group to seek assistance from.

I’m rather curious about the route the artwork took from Dachau in 1938 to Oberlin in 1956.

While I doubt Oberlin will win in any case their case would seem to boil down to proving the legitimacy of those specific transactions.

    JohnSmith100 in reply to Gosport. | October 2, 2023 at 10:30 am

    I don’t see how any of the transactions can be legit for stolen property. Those who handle stolen property forfeit it, lose their money, and are often subject to prosecution if they knowingly new it was hot. So how about prosecution of Oberlin?

      artichoke in reply to JohnSmith100. | October 2, 2023 at 5:23 pm

      It does start to smell like a hate crime.

      MajorWood in reply to JohnSmith100. | October 4, 2023 at 12:21 pm

      Oberlin can’t be prosecuted. They have a black person in charge and no black person can be held accountable these days due to slavery or reparations or affirmative action or “new things to be made up as an excuse.” Remember, we’re looking at a college whose recent legal defense was based on some people having “a feeling.”

If you buy a watch from a pawn shop that the shop bought from the thief, you may not be guilty of receiving stolen property but it will be confiscated and returned to the rightful owner.
In this case, if Oberlin will not return the artwork promptly, they should be found criminally liable for aiding and abetting stolen property after the fact (much like a pawn shop would) and prosecuted for that.

    AF_Chief_Master_Sgt in reply to Ralph Gizzip. | October 2, 2023 at 7:27 am

    But, but, but… how can it be stolen property? Didn’t the owner sign over rights* to the art collection to the nice man in the uniform at the state-owned hotel?

    *forced under duress to sign over rights to his collection as part of the Nazi confiscation of Jewish property, while interned at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany

    kelly_3406 in reply to Ralph Gizzip. | October 2, 2023 at 8:46 am

    I once visited Dachau while on military duty in Germany. It was the most depressing place that I have ever witnessed. Reading about it is one thing, but actually seeing it is quite another.

    Oberlin casts itself as an institution of higher learning and social justice. If it were really so, the Oberlin Administration would understand the nature of true evil and injustice that occurred in Germany and would seek to redress the family’s grievances. It would immediately return the drawing, and invite a family member to visit Oberlin as an honored guest and perhaps discuss what social injustice really looks like.

      AF_Chief_Master_Sgt in reply to kelly_3406. | October 2, 2023 at 10:23 am

      To Democrats in general and Oberlin specifically, these people aren’t humans and don’t deserve any level of respect. .

      And, if they really wanted to make it a Big Deal, they would agree to return possession of the painting and the family would agree to show up for a big handover event and then announce they will let Oberlin continue to display it until 20xx when the family will decide what to do with it.

      Then the family gets to look hugely magnanimous and Oberlin gets to keep it on their walls for a bit. And it looks all ’round like a big kumbaya and the press would praise them all for being so wonderful.

    rhhardin in reply to Ralph Gizzip. | October 2, 2023 at 8:56 am

    Ebay takes on the stolen goods role today. But this isn’t exactly stolen. A sovereign state is involved so it’s their law not yours.

    The particular case is just somebody wanting money using the Holocaust as a hook for favorable publicity. A sort of Holocaust industry move.

      Stuytown in reply to rhhardin. | October 2, 2023 at 9:37 am

      So the heirs are using the Holocaust as a hook?

      I recommend everyone look up rhardin’s blog. Easy to find under rhardin. You’ll be surprised. But then you’ll understand him.

        Stuytown in reply to Stuytown. | October 2, 2023 at 9:37 am

        Sorry, rhhardin.

        rhhardin in reply to Stuytown. | October 2, 2023 at 9:39 am

        Right. It’s about money.

          Stuytown in reply to rhhardin. | October 2, 2023 at 10:36 am

          You’re just a bad human being. But your obsession about downplaying the Holocaust is truly despicable. You are in the grips of a pathological, self-hating obsession. Here’s a thought for rhhardin:

          “Any man ain’t sure where he belong, gotta’ be in a whole lotta pain.”

          rhhardin in reply to rhhardin. | October 2, 2023 at 12:39 pm

          It’s about upplaying the Holocaust for advantage, as blacks do with slavery. It’s not good for blacks and it’s not good for Jews either.

          They could inquire if they could buy the painting as it was done by a beloved grandparent etc, like a normal person and probably would be surprised.

          venril in reply to rhhardin. | October 5, 2023 at 12:46 pm

          They could inquire if they would return the painting as it was stolen from a beloved grandparent etc, like a normal person and probably would be surprised.


        ahad haamoratsim in reply to Stuytown. | October 2, 2023 at 10:02 am

        Not sure I want to give him the traffic, or disinfect my screen afterwards. But his comments consistently show us who he is. I’m not a big fan of Maya Angelou, but I took her advice & believed him the first time.

      SeiteiSouther in reply to rhhardin. | October 2, 2023 at 10:39 am

      Just put down the crack pipe, please.

      Actually, the painting is in the US now, as is the family, I believe. So US law applies.
      Also, there is international law covering this (to which I believe we have assented).

      Stuytown in reply to rhhardin. | October 2, 2023 at 3:47 pm

      You have a broken moral compass. You want the relatives and descendants of a man whose art work was essentially stolen and who was then murdered to pay the people who have possession of the this stolen work of art. And you don’t see a moral issue. Even worse, you see a cynic monetary issue alone.

      When I look at your blog I see a lonely man living on the fringes of society. The pieces fit.

    JohnSmith100 in reply to Ralph Gizzip. | October 2, 2023 at 10:31 am

    I should have read one more message before commenting.

E Howard Hunt | October 2, 2023 at 7:37 am

Might this not be an opportunity for the Whitehouse to intercede and burnish the Biden name? Joe could broker a deal (think Brittney Griner) in which the Girl with Black Hair is returned and exchanged for an original Hunter Biden painting.

I find myself in the uncomfortable position of being somewhat sympathetic to Oberlin on this one. First, there is no indication Oberlin acted in bad faith however it acquired the property.

Second, it is clear that the Nazis did not acquire the property in an arm’s length transaction. They relied on coercion. Tantamount to theft. There is no question that Grunbaum suffered a terrible wrong that cost him his freedom, his life, and his property.

However, the plaintiffs were not wronged. They are likely second or third generation removed from Grunbaum. Had Grunbaum lived his life as a free man and disposed of his property how he saw fit, there is no reason to believe his distant heirs asserting this claim today would have ended up with the drawing.

If the heirs are allowed to assert a claim to a wrong from 80 years ago, why won’t it open the floodgates to claims going back 100 years, 200 years, 1000 years, etc?

It seems like the whole system of private property could collapse. The purpose of a statute of limitations is, in part, to bar plaintiffs from bringing stale claims so the judicial system can function and not be overwhelmed with claims going back ages.

MoeHowardwasright | October 2, 2023 at 7:57 am

Interesting article. Could the Oberlin fight be because they have other items known to have been looted by the Nazis? There are many many works of art that disappeared during the Nazis looting of Europe and Russia. How many of these works are hidden in plain sight in storage? Maybe all these museums should be forced to open their dusty basements for discovery. It’s been well documented that there is a very seamy side to art collection.

    Sheboygan Schnoid in reply to MoeHowardwasright. | October 3, 2023 at 3:24 am

    That’s an interesting take on this matter, Moe, and it got me to wondering:

    Various entities — Oberlin College among them — have often fought the repatriation of KNOWN stolen artwork to the heirs of the owner-victims. In light of that, would it be unreasonable for a responsible entity (i.e., one that has legitimate legal authority) to raid the storehouses of these institutions, specifically to look for other stolen artwork that might be in storage? After all, if ONE piece of stolen art is in the possession of such institutions, it would be reasonable to conclude that OTHER pieces, similarly acquired, might also be there?

      See the U.S. Constitution. I think the answer to your question can be found in the fourth amendment.

      I love this take. Fear of having to do the right in the future as an excuse for not doing the right thing in the present.

      I am not suggesting you agree. It’s just an interesting thought.

      So Oberlin has now reduced itself to a “fencing” operation. Makes one wonder if the Building and Ground’s warehouse is full of catalytic converters (for future inorganic chemistry research, of course).

        Sheboygan Schnoid in reply to MajorWood. | October 7, 2023 at 8:24 pm

        Given Oberlin’s behavior of recent vintage, one has to wonder.
        No, I’m not suggesting that Oberlin is engaged in a “fencing” operation. I was likening it to, say, a shady pawn shop operator who has dealt in stolen merchandise. If an entity has a history of certain behavior, it’s not unreasonable to assume that same entity might still be engaged in that same behavior. If Oberlin knowingly had that piece of artwork in its possession — and fought so hard to retain it — why should people not think that there is maybe just a *slight* possibility of other stolen artwork in its vaults?

The public has historically perceived non-profits and universities as altruistic and noble. In today’s environment, those perceptions now seem quaint and callow at best. Oberlin makes it clear that whatever pedestal remains for universities/colleges is largely undeserved.

SeekingRationalThought | October 2, 2023 at 8:33 am

Oberlin’s decision makers clearly have no morals or ethics beyond their need to further their political agenda. Whether that need is merely a pathetic urge for peer “approval” or to secure their own inflated self-images and wealth is immaterial. Trash is trash whatever.

Allen art Museuem board members think

Native Americans are noble and deserve their patrimony returned.

Jews are horrible and should never be given anything.

    Unless it’s the ADL attacking the right in some way. Then they celebrate it. Or when a crazed gunman attacks a synagogue, they use the opportunity to push their anti-freedom agenda. It’s very situational for the left.

the Grünbaum heirs have have been trying at least since 2006 to get Oberlin College to return the drawing, to no avail.
Well, Professor, the college administration has been kinda busy slandering people and refusing to pay damages the last few years….

Bragg ? Alvin?

Friends don’t let friends have anything to do with Oberlin.

Our world is full of new words and old words have new meanings like “Sick” “Bad” which used to mean unhealthy and not good. Now they mean “Really great” and “I want it”. I suspect that the word Oberlin will take on a new meaning “Do the wrong thing”. ie, DA Bragg Oberlined with his charge of Trump. Joe Biden Oberlined in office.

So, repatriations for Native Americans is good, but repatriations for Jews victimized by the Nazis is not good? Is that Oberlin’s position?

    artichoke in reply to rochf. | October 2, 2023 at 5:49 pm

    Here’s a sneaky plan. Treat us the same. Give us a reservation, not a really big one, but this one happens to lie at the eastern end of the Mediterranean sea until at least the Jordan River. Clear out the place for us — there are some nasties there that don’t need to be terminated but they do need to be moved elsewhere.

The Oberlin I know and love would have made the painting part of the Gibsons settlement, sort of like the two guys who are getting held up, and one says to the other, “here is that $100 I owe you.”