Jewish Heirs Battle Berlin Museums for Nazi Treasure


Once again, a hefty treasure trove with suspected Nazi ties is in dispute. This time it’s the Welfenschatz, or Guelph Treasure, the largest collection of German church artifacts currently held by a public entity and valued at a quarter of a billion dollars. The hoard of gilded medieval goods is caught in the midst of a heated legal battle that has dragged on for years between the Berlin museum foundation and the descendants of Holocaust-era Jewish art dealers.

Now it looks like a decision could finally be reached. On January 15 a commission formed by the German government to evaluate the case was set to deliver their recommendation for the Guelph’s owner, but was unable to deliver a verdict — though a final ruling is still promised within the next several weeks.

The dealers’ ownership claim stems from contested reports that their families sold the collection to the Nazis under duress in 1935. The Berlin museum foundation, which has acted as custodian for the artifacts since the 1960s, has disputed the heirs’ story. The Nazis who may have had their hands on the Guelph Treasure at one point allegedly weren’t just your low-level SS officers. Evidence presented by the heirs’ lawyers suggests that Hermann Goering, who governed Prussia in the 1930s when the treasure was sold to the state, planned to give it as a gift to Adolf Hitler.

Recently, another Nazi-era art cache made headlines when over 1,400 works of looted art were discovered in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of art dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt. Recent developments in the Gurlitt case suggest he may have legal title to a portion of the works. The fate of the Guelph Treasure remains similarly uncertain.

— Alanna Martinez (@lanna_martinez)

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons.)