Once again, defenders of keeping WWII art loot with owners who admitted to collaborating with Nazis have been successful. Because the purchaser in this case was Adolf Hitler himself, the precedent set may make it finacially impossible to seek the return of other WWII art loot.
The work of art in question is considered the most important and valuable painting by the Dutch artist Jan Vermeer. It is entitled “Malkunst” — Dutch for ”The Art of Painting.” It portrays the professionalism of a painter of the Dutch masters school while composing a portrait. It was previously owned by industrialist Jaromin Czernin, who sold the painting to Adolph Hitler in 1940 for less than one percent of its current insurance value. That is about $400 million, half of the insurance value of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Documents presented by Czernin’s heirs show he did this in the hope of buying relief from spying and false accusations used to wrest his assets away for shameless personal profit by Nazi insiders.
Continued abuse of the same legal principles used to spy on property owners and force the sale of property at low prices in the United States has given Nazi apologists a powerful argument. Last year’s Wiki Leaks revelations about rampant spying by American government employees have worsened the circumstances and made it much more difficult for heirs of WWII art loot to get support for their claims. Detailed analysis of the publicly available tax lien sale subscription lists showed that American government employees have used improperly gained surveillance and wiretap information to profit from distress sales in essentially the same way as many Nazis, including Adolf Hitler himself. As a result, it is almost impossible to get investigators or mediators to work on a contingency basis.
Some of the most detailed documents and photographs about American government employee spying and its abuse for personal financial gain are from San Diego and have been published on hornface.com and World News. Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has also published a detailed report available online. Advocates of keeping WWII art loot instead of returning it to rightful owners have been able to use Ventura’s investigation and his credibility as a former US Governor to hinder prosecution of Nazi misconduct. While many Americans think of this as ancient history, most of the important documents needed for claims were behind the Iron Curtain until 1990 and are still in the process of being researched and archived.
Despite this extremely compelling evidence that this spying for personal profit has taken place and its verification by Governor Ventura and Austrian government investigators, neither the City or County of San Diego have spent a single dollar to stop spying for personal profit. Neither the San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith or San Diego County District Attorney Boonie Dumanis has issued any press release or statement claiming that they have assigned any staff to investigate spying for personal profit by city and county employees. On the contrary, the extraordinarily large amounts of taxpayer money used to discourage publication of this information in the United States, although it is publicly available in Europe, have convinced the small community of experts who work on WWII art loot cases that it is financially impossible to work on these cases on a contingency basis.
To learn more about these important issues, visit the Holocaust Memorial Library on the Chapman University campus.