Legal battle launched over work stolen by Nazis

LAST UPDATED: 23 Oct, 2010 @ 16:21
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Legal battle launched over work stolen by Nazis

By Nicola Cowell

A JEWISH man who has spent years trying to reclaim a multi-million euro painting stolen by the Nazis has finally got the goahead to sue Spain.

American Claude Cassirer, 89, found out ten years ago that the painting by French artist Camille Pissarro was being displayed at the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum, in Madrid.

He insisted he could prove that it was stolen from his grandmother in 1939.

But, after attempting to sue Spain to force its return, he discovered the case would be dismissed because of a law which made Spain immune from legal action in the US.

But, now American judges have ruled that the painting – valued at 15 million euros – was taken “in violation of international law”.

He has been told he can take legal action under “an exception to the rule of Sovereign Immunity”.

His grandmother Lilly Cassirer owned the work in Germany after inheriting it from her father who bought it in 1898.

But the wealthy woman was forced to hand over the painting to the Nazis at the start of the Second World War.

It was eventually sold to dealers before coming into the hands of Swiss collector Thyssen- Bornemisza in 1976.

The Impressionist painting, called Rue Saint- Honore – Apres-Midi – Effet de Pluie, was then sold to the Spanish nation in 1988 along with his entire collection for 250 million euros.

Some of this collection, along with his former wife Baroness Thyssen’s, is to go on display in a new museum in Malaga next year.

“My grandmother never knew what happened to the painting,” said Cassirer.

“But we never lost faith that it would be found.”

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