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Heirs Fight for Artwork They Say Was Stolen by Nazis

Most people who seek possession of a loved one’s assets after a death are dealing with homes, furniture, jewelry and other valuables. However, for two men, one of whom lives in Pennsylvania, the assets in question are paintings that they say were stolen by the Nazis.

The man who originally owned the artwork, valued at $5 million, had been a cabaret performer in Vienna, Austria. He died in 1941 in the Dachau concentration camp where he was a prisoner.

The two co-heirs of the man’s estate are suing an art dealer for the right to obtain the paintings. They say that the Holocaust victim, who was a distant relative, was forced to sign over all of his assets, including his art collection, to the Nazis during the Holocaust. Two of the paintings in the collection were the work of Egon Schiele, an Austrian expressionist.

The heirs to the estate are attempting to prevent the art dealer from “transferring, selling…or otherwise disposing of” the two Shiele paintings. The dealer, however, claims that the works were sold by a member of the deceased man’s family back in 1956. He claims, “There have been two separate independent adjudication boards in Vienna stating there is no evidence of looting.”

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The heirs’ attorney asserts otherwise. He calls this an “ironclad case.” He adds, “The evidence of Nazi looting is overwhelming.”

When heirs and beneficiaries are disputing the disposition of assets transferred long ago, there may not be definitive documentation of just what was meant to happen to those assets. An experienced Pennsylvania estate planning attorney can provide advice and help you fight for what you believe is yours.

Source: The Jewish Voice, “Heirs File Suit in Manhattan for Return of a Deceased Relative’s Art Looted by Nazis,” Mark Snyder, Nov. 25, 2015

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