Monday November 8 2010

Today the National Ombudsman issued his judgement regarding the complaint lodged by Christine Koenigs, who representing a number of heirs, is pursuing several procedures for restitution of the Koenigs collection (see, report 2010/315). The very valuable art collection was assembled in the first half of the last century by Franz Koenigs a prominent banker and art collector. Franz Koenigs, an opponent of the Nazi regime, lost his collection under the acute thread of a German invasion.

The Koenigs heirs claim the works in several procedures before the [Dutch] de Restitutiecommissie, a commission that was created to adjudicate these type of claims and that serves to ensure impartiality and consistency in government policy. Currently that policy is to be based on a lenient interpretation of restitution claims in regard to looted art, replacing the “rigid and cruel policy” used by the Netherlands in the post war days.

After the complaints lodged by Koenigs regarding partiality exhibited by the minister of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) and concerning the treatment of the claims in this case, the National Ombudsman reprimanded the minister on two major points:
(1) The minister was incorrect in forwarding a set of new facts (presented by the Koenigs heirs) with specific instructions to the Restitution Commission. He "had remained insufficiently neutral and therefore had not handled the procedural possibilities of the claimants with proper care. Accordingly, he acted against the principles of fair play"
(2) The minister was incorrect in refusing to give the Restitution Commission the assignment to research the disputed ownership of the paintingLandscape with Burning city” by Herrie met de Bles, that is in the possession of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The museum, as well as the Koenigs heirs, had requested that this be done. This refusal also goes against the principles of fair play.
The Koenigs heirs are very pleased with the judgment of the National Ombudsman. In their opinion the Restitution Committee neither conducted a full and proper investigation of the reasons for Franz Koenigs’ loss of his collection nor did they properly consider the research material supplied by the heirs in formulating their advice to the minister. The Ombudsman’s assessment opens the way to a properly careful re-examination by the Restitution Commission.

Furthermore, a special aspect of this case is that Franz Koenigs ceded his collection to the (Jewish) Lisser & Rosenkranz Bank, who sold it, under the duress of an immediate threat of invasion to D.G. van Beuningen, who sold a large part to Hitler immediately after the invasion of the Netherlands. According to the Koenigs heirs, the Restitution Committee already established earlier that the Lisser & Rosenkranz sale of the Koenigs collection to van Beuningen, was involuntary and related to the Nazi regime, therefore illegitimate, and for that reason alone the collection cannot be considered the property of the Dutch state.

Persbericht Nationale Ombudsman
Persbericht Nationale Ombudsman 8 Nov 2010 [pdf-document 265.33 Kb]
Rapport Nationale Ombudsman 2010/315 [pdf-document 506.78 Kb]



Koenigs Restitution Trust

For more information contact
C. F. Koenigs
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