(June 3, 2020 / JNS) The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on hearing a case about a German art museum and whether or not a treasure trove, known as the “Guelph Treasure,” should be returned to the heirs of four Jewish art dealers in Germany. The dealers have argued that they were forced to sell it to the Nazi-controlled Prussian government in 1935 in what they called a “genocidal taking.”
The collection, worth around $225 million, consists of medieval church relics and was owned by the House of Guelph in 1671 until it was sold to a group of art dealers in 1929. The items currently sit in the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Applied Arts Museum) in Berlin.
In a May 26 filing, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued that the heirs have failed make the case, in accordance with the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, that the collection was confiscated “in violation of international law” in that the Nazi seizure was domestic. That law includes limitations as to whether a foreign sovereign nation may be sued in U.S. courts—state or federal.
Francisco also noted that although the 2016 Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act “demonstrate Congress’s concern with art seizures that occurred as part of the Holocaust,” that law doesn’t “create a cause of action in U.S. courts” for the heirs’ case.
The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on the last day of the court’s term, June 29, or in early October, following its summer recess.
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