On Friday, January 29, 2010, a German court denied an American man's request for the restitution of a collection of 4,300 posters that were taken from his father by the Nazis in 1938. The posters have been in the German Historical Museum's collection since 1990. The court acknowledged that Peter Sachs, son of art collector (and dentist to Einstein!) Hans Sachs, is the owner of the posters, but that the Museum was not required to return the collection.
This decision overturns a ruling made last year by a lower court in Germany, which granted the restitution of one poster in the German Historical Museum's collection to Peter Sachs.
The court has not submitted an explanation of its decision at this time. However, it is speculated that a compensation payment given to Hans Sachs in 1961 by the West German government has contributed to the decision. The 1961 compensation was 225,000 German marks (then worth $50,000). The 4,300 posters which survive an original collection of 12,500 posters are now valued at $6.3 million. It includes works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Jules Cheret, and Lucian Bernhard.
Peter Sachs has argued that the original compensation was made when it appeared that the collection had been destroyed in World War II. However, his father learned that part of it survived, but was in the communist East Germany. Hans Sachs attempted to obtain the collection from the East German Museum, where it was housed from WWII to 1990.
My hunch is that we have not heard the last of this case. We'll stay tuned to see what next steps will be taken by Peter Sachs and his attorney. [The Washington Post]