Restitution? No thanks

May 31 2011

Image of Restitution? No thanks

Picture: Armin Kuhne

Here's a curious restitution case: a Jewish heir is fighting to stop the restitution of his ancestor's collections. 

In 1937 Georg Steindorff (above) sold his collection of antiquities to Leipzig University, where he worked, for 8,000 Reichsmarks. But because before the sale Steindorff valued his collection at 10,260 Reichsmarks, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany has ruled that the sale was forced, and the collections be returned to Steindorff's heirs. The heir in this case, Steindorff's grandson Thomas Hemer, says the collection should stay in the collection of Leipzig University's Egyptology Institute, about which his grandfather was passionate. Full details on Bloomberg here.

The case highlights once again the varying standards across Europe when it comes to restitution. The Conference has authority in Germany and Austria, and evidently takes a very favourable line towards restitution cases (rightly, I think). But in Britain the threshold for restitution is set much higher, as shown by the recent Herbert Gutmann case.

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