The Guelph Treasure art dispute between a German museum and the heirs of Jewish art dealers has been dismissed by a U.S. court for a second time, over jurisdictional issues.
The Welfenschatz, or Guelph Treasure, is a 200 million euro hoard of silver and gold church relics, mostly from the Brunswick Cathedral in Braunschweig, Germany. In 1929, the 82-piece collection was sold by the former Duke of Brunswick to a consortium of Jewish art dealers. In 1935, they sold most of the set to none other than Hermann Göring, one of the leaders of the Nazi Party. After he allegedly gifted the articles to Adolf Hitler personally, the collection was set on display at the Bode Museum in Berlin. It is still there today.
In 2008, the heirs of the Jewish art dealers Saemy Rosenberg, Isaak Rosenbaum, Julius Falk Goldschmidt and Zacharias Hackenbroch filed a case for restitution of the artworks to their family, alleging that the sale to Göring had been forced. In 2014, the Limbach Commision, an advisory body to the German government, decided that the case did not meet the criteria for restitution as a forced sale, based on historical evidence. The damning piece was that in 1935, the Guelph Treasure was not in any German-occupied country, and therefore was voluntarily brought into the country to be sold to Göring. They also determined that the dealers had been paid fair market rates for the treasure.
Still in 2015, the heirs tried again, this time suing Germany and the Bode Museum via the U.S. courts. In February 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the U.S. had no jurisdiction, but sent it back to the lower courts in case any jurisdiction should appear.
On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Bode Museum’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, again for jurisdiction.
“SPK is pleased with the district court’s ruling, which affirms SPK’s long-held assessment that this lawsuit seeking the restitution of the Guelph Treasure should not be heard in a U.S. court,” said Hermann Pazinger president of the museum foundation (SPK). For now the Guelph Treasure will remain in Berlin.
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