Home > General > Rectification of a past injustice or an effort to make a fortune?

Rectification of a past injustice or an effort to make a fortune?

The thirteen years between 1932 and 1945 were not Germany’s finest. We all know what happened and there is no need to go into a detailed discussion about that. Part of the injustices done during this time include the forced purchases of priceless artwork for pittances by the Nazi State. Since 1948, the Federal Republic has done everything in its power to try to rectify these injustices. This includes making legal exemptions for the rightful owners and their heirs in terms of furnishing evidence that said treasures were taken using illegitimate means as there isn’t always much evidence left even in the most egregious of instances. Compare this to the Swiss who used their banking secrecy as a double-edged blade. Those who could furnish all other evidence that bank accounts were rightfully theirs, including records of death of the original holders, still could not access their inheritances because they did not have the right numbers.

At the same time, there has also been abuse of Germany’s policies by “heirs” who seek not a redress of injustice, but the acquisition of priceless pieces of art in order to enrich themselves. On occasion there has been some success in doing this, because of the delicate nature of these cases courts generally rule in favour of the heirs. At the same time, however, Germany is a country under the rule law and not whim or sentimentality alone. An infamously difficult case has surrounded the Welfenschatz or Guelph Treasure. A merry band of so-called heirs has fought to gain control over one of Germany’s greatest collections of religious art which was obtained by Prussia in 1935. The catch is that not all the owners were in Germany at the time and the collection itself was in the Netherlands which was not put under Nazi tyranny until 1940 — 5 years after the sale. German courts have ruled against the litigants based on this and the Berlin government has declared the collection a national cultural treasure. Not a single piece is allowed to leave Germany without the explicit permission of the federal minister of culture. Since the 1960s this collection has been on display in Berlin.

In most cases, the decision of the highest relevant court in the land would settle matters. In the case of Germany, the court system is among the best in the world and the country’s high courts have shown no reserve in over-turning unfair laws and putting politicians in their places. Naturally, they run to the Americans and demand that the Americans rule differently. Having dealt with the American legal system and being aware of the incompetence of America’s courts, one suspects that a manipulated outcome is desired which would put Germany on the spot. The Americans could not enforce their decision — Germany is a sovereign state and is not under the jurisdiction of the USA. (Thank g-d for that) In moments of clarity, US courts have also ruled that German legal matters cannot be put to a US court — sovereign immunity. In any case, this petulance is galling.

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Categories: General
  1. sheona
    February 25, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Another interesting post, Christopher. Some Swiss banks were actually demanding death certificates for account holders who died in the gas chambers. Even Nazi efficiency didn’t extend to this.

  2. February 25, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Sheona: in most cases the Nazis recorded when and where people were killed, but they did not issue death certificates. Things like this make the Swiss look really, really bad — but they don’t care. I’ve never understood why some like Switzerland so much. It isn’t any prettier than the surrounding countries and is infinitely more expensive.

  3. February 25, 2015 at 10:07 am

    I always found the Swiss impossible to do business with. A kind of superiority, a patronising approach to would-be traders.

  4. February 25, 2015 at 10:10 am

    My favourite is the child who wrote to Santa:
    ‘Father Krissmus, you are a mean bogger’

  5. February 25, 2015 at 10:15 am

    Janus: an uncle lives in southern Baden-Württemberg and frequently goes to Switzerland as his girlfriend works in Basel. He told me when he was last in Rheinland-Pfalz in November that he recently went to an electronics shop. The clerk, noticing that he spoke an in-eccentric standard German proceeded to speak to him in a nearly unintelligible Swiss German. When said clerk answered a telephone call, he switched into a clear standard German with only a light Swiss accent before proceeding to switch back into a thick Swiss German with my uncle. The Italians, French, Germans and Austrians at least attempt to communicate with potential customers, the Swiss make it clear that they are superior. Or at least they think they’re superior.

  6. February 25, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Janus: your second comment, did you mean to post that on James’ piece?

  7. February 25, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Oops, sorry! Quite right. I wonder whether jl will see it. 😕

  8. February 25, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I’m happy. He did. 😊

  9. christinaosborne
    February 25, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    I was under the impression that the Swiss had been gouged open by International efforts on this type of thing quite recently on WWII accounts.

    Not actually quite sure I have a great deal of sympathy for any of the protagonists though.
    One wonders how the Jews acquired quite such an amount of art in the first place without some pretty dubious dealing and gouging.
    I find them so very grubby/grabby.

    My 2nd father in law lost a ship when WWII broke out. He owned it for his business, a timber importer and manufacturer in Chelsea.. It had a German captain and was in the middle of the North Sea when war was declared, bastard turned it round and sailed back to Germany complete with cargo, he lost both. After the war he attempted to get reparation, but no dice, well he was white Anglo Saxon and protestant!
    To cap that, his wharves and plant were compulsorily purchased by the council to build public housing. The Flood Street housing project off the Kings Road was built on his land, he was given peanuts.
    So a very successful business was wiped out with very little recompense, he knew better than to throw good money after bad pursuing either!!
    Plenty of people lost rather a lot in WWII but it is only the bloody Jews that keep whining 80 years later, others just suck it up.
    Actually one has rather a lot of sympathy for those who are strongly antisemitic. Just to shut them up! Their constant whining, mewling and perpetual victimhood becomes absolutely repulsive after a while.

  10. February 25, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    CO: generally the art collections were acquired legitimately. Jews have traditionally been great supporters of the arts. Hence, my undying respect for them as a people and my desire to travel with friends to Israel in the near future.

    This particular collection has a particular irony to it. It was purchased by a consortium of largely Jewish art collectors and investors after the start of the Great Depression from a German nobleman who found himself in a financial predicament. However, they found that they could not sell the collection as quickly or profitably as they had hoped and were holding onto just over half of it in the Netherlands.

  11. christinaosborne
    February 25, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    In other words they took advantage of the nobleman in financial distress to get it at a knockdown price, couldn’t find a buyer in a depressed market to make the profit they wanted.
    Sorry, typically grubby/grabby, served them right!
    Note they did the initial dirty on a gentile, as usual! Would they have done the same to another Jew? I doubt it!
    Your tale epitomises my para two.

  12. February 25, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    By way of balance, CO, the acquisition of great art has hardly been the exclusive preserve of Jews anywhere in the West, even in Germany, I suspect. We only ever hear about smart deals by Jews because such stories feed the hunger for antisemitic fodder. I’m afraid your grubby/grabby images depend on a thick layer of anecdotal selectivity.

  13. February 25, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    CO: most Jews are not wealthy enough. People forget that most European Jews were poor and today most are only middle class. As Janus rightly pointed out, Jews were hardly the only ones who did grubby deals. My grandmother said it very well. When German farmers were done a grubby deal by Jewish merchants, they blamed their Jewishness. When German farmers were done a grubby deal by German merchants — just as likely — they were to embarrassed to say anything. And yes, Jews do each other grubby deals as well. They’re people and they’re as prone to good and bad as anyone else.

  14. February 25, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    christinaosborne

    Plenty of people lost rather a lot in WWII but it is only the bloody Jews that keep whining 80 years later, others just suck it up.
    Actually one has rather a lot of sympathy for those who are strongly antisemitic. Just to shut them up! Their constant whining, mewling and perpetual victimhood becomes absolutely repulsive after a while.

    I agree. They do themselves no favours.

  15. February 25, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    I should add that English-speakers keep banging on about the Second World War, as if that was the only time Germany existed in history. To accuse the Jews of trying to capitalise out of the Holocaust is selective disgust. It’s within living memory. The Chinese and Koreans also like to bash the Japanese over the head because of the Second World War — again, selective disgust.

  16. christinaosborne
    February 25, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    janus, bugger anecdotal selectivity.
    I personally have had three very bad brushes with Jews in my life. One act highly criminal which would have got him 15 years behind bars had I chosen to open my mouth. I chose not to.
    Were I able to put that one in a gas chamber, I would do so, and good and slow!!!
    I grew up having never seen a Jew, black or muslim until I was 18 and went to Uni, I genuinely thought they were the same as us, just looked a bit different. Learned the hard way! It just isn’t so. I think a lot of people that have had limited or no contact with various group are extremely naive, fortunately for them most of them are never elucidated as I was!
    They swallow liberal bullshit because they have no other experience, simple as that. Jolly good if you can get away with it. Others may vary.
    Try living through race riots, they really are great fun, nothing like a few tanks on the streets!

  17. February 25, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    CO: I have had good and bad experiences with Jews. Generally, I like them. We base our opinions on our experiences at all it takes is being burnt a few times before we start holding negative views of groups as a whole — hence my general hostility to Americans and my preference to avoid the lot whenever possible.

  18. christinaosborne
    February 25, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Christopher, I have practised my ‘selective disgust’ all my life with my wallet, I have a whole list of countries from which I do not purchase products as a matter of my personal distaste for things they have done, as is my right.
    Germany is not on that list.

  19. February 25, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    CO: as do I. I tend to avoid buying anything American, Belgian or Argentine for that reason, although I make exceptions for Argentina dulce de leche. You have your opinions and the right to them, as do I.

  20. christinaosborne
    February 25, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    I agree Christopher, we all make our opinions based on our experiences, for better or worse! In a so called democratic world we should be free to express our negative opinions. It should not be a crime as it seemingly is in Germany to express antisemitic feelings, anymore than it should be a hate crime in the UK to actually want the muslims removed to their ancestral homes.
    But seemingly these days these are ‘hate’ crimes for which the government wishes to hold their indigenous citizenry to account!

  21. February 25, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    CO: but we don’t live in democratic societies which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Since the end of the Second World War societies have grown so utterly stilted, so afraid of holding any black-or-white views, so relativistic that latent hostilities — while no longer as freely uttered — grow more insidious, more vicious. There is also a growing paranoia as PC controls, formal and informal, prevent honest and frank discussion of social problems and the evolution of societies. It is changing, but I fear that the backlash will be nastier than if people had accepted unpleasantness as a fact of life in the past.

  22. christinaosborne
    February 25, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    True.

  23. February 26, 2015 at 7:19 am

    It is human nature to ensure that social circles follow codes of behaviour to avoid friction and injury. It has often led to religious ideas that give such codes strength and legitimacy. Some people prefer not to sign up – perhaps including you, C and CO , from different viewpoints – just like the celebrated Marx bother.

    Hardly surprising that unpleasantness wasn’t the eleventh commandment or cited in the sermon on the mount!

  24. February 26, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Janus: I’m not the type to stand out too much and I also do not cause problems. That said, I also live life on my own terms and take my blows on the chin for it. What does bother me is that some groups are protected while other groups are not. Some groups have to fight for their very survival and are told to shut up and stop whingeing while other groups are coddled and given free-passes for even the most egregious behaviour of some of their members. What also troubles me is that some countries are vilified — Russia and China worst of all, while others which will remain nameless cause far, far more damage and get away with it. They also get away with demands to be treated like fearless heroes.

  25. February 26, 2015 at 9:57 am

    Good article in today’s Spectator by Zac Goldsmith about how his father James Goldsmith kept us out of the €uro, whatever Ed Balls thinks. His argument persuaded me. So that’s definitely one to the Jews many of whom seem to value British sovereignty more than most.

  26. February 26, 2015 at 10:05 am

    C, ’twas ever thus! Power people always victimised powerless folk! 😒

  27. February 26, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Jazz: more ambitious people tend to be more cut-throat, more willing to sell their souls for profit and success. Because Jews as a group tend to be more ambitious than most, there is a disproportionately high number of slime from that religious group. That doesn’t apply to the majority, however. Because many Jews are well-travelled and have connexions in many different countries, they tend to value good things that are taken for granted by others more.

  28. February 26, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Janus: and the jealous took advantage of weaknesses in those they envied. It is sickening and it seems as if we will never learn. In my next life, I want to be re-incarnated as a kangaroo. If being a human is the peak of evolution and the karmic cycle, I’d rather be demoted.

  29. February 26, 2015 at 10:52 am

    christophertrier

    …..more ambitious people tend to be more cut-throat, more willing to sell their souls for profit and success…..

    I think you’ve just described the Scots.

  30. February 26, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Steady on, jazz! Can’ help where you’re born, can help how you behave! 😕

  31. February 26, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    My father was Scots as is my wife. I’ve been to school in Scotland and worked for Scots companies. I know what I’m talking about. No doubt there are (proportionally) as many good Scots as there are Jews.

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