US Court Rules Jewish Family Can’t Have Painting Nazis Looted From Their Ancestor During WWII, Court Documents Say

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An appellate court in California ruled that a painting Nazis looted from a Jewish family will remain in a Spanish museum rather than be returned to the family, court documents said Tuesday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena applied California’s choice-of-law test in its ruling that the 1897 oil painting Rue Saint Honoré, dans l’après midi, effet de pluie (Rue Saint-Honoré, in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain) by French Impressionist Camille Pissarro should remain in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, Spain, and not be returned to the California-based family of the plaintiff, Claude Cassirer, according to the documents.

The court decided the applicable laws of California and Spain differed, as Californian laws would favor the plaintiff while Spanish laws would favor the museum, the documents revealed. The court then decided California’s law would impair Spain’s “governmental interests” more than Spain’s law would California’s “governmental interests,” and therefore Spanish law must apply, the documents said.

Cassirer was the sole heir of the German-Jewish owner of the painting, Lilly Neubauer, the documents revealed. German Nazis forced Neubauer in 1939 to sell the painting to obtain an exit visa to England, according to the documents. The Nazis then paid the price to an account Neubauer was prevented from accessing, the documents said.

The painting changed hands until on October 10, 1992, when the Spanish government-owned museum began to display the painting following a loan agreement between Spain and Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, according to the documents. The Spanish government eventually bought the painting as part of a collection in 1993, the documents said.

Cassirer, upon learning the painting was in the museum in 2000, sued for repossession in Spain in May 2001 but lost, and then sued in California in 2005, the documents said. He died in 2010 and his children inherited the case, according to the documents. The case progressed to the Supreme Court in 2022, but the high court remanded it to the appellate court. (RELATED: Elderly Woman Discovers She Had $26 Million Painting In Her Kitchen)

Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, one of the judges, agreed with the ruling by Judge Carlos T. Bea but said it opposed her moral compass and Spain should have given up the painting voluntarily, the documents showed.

The Cassirers’ lawyers intend to challenge the ruling, Reuters reported. “The Cassirers believe that, especially in light of the explosion of antisemitism in this country and around the world today, they must challenge Spain’s continuing insistence on harboring Nazi looted art,” they reportedly said.