Art looted by Nazis returned to heirs after 60 years..
The Neumeister auction house in Munich sold a painting by romantic artist Carl Spitzweg titled "The Eye of Justice" (1857), which belonged to the Polish Jewish collector Leo Bendel who died in the Buchenwald camp in 1940 after having sold the painting under duress to the Nazis.
Returned to his heirs in 2019, the painting estimated at between 500,000 and 750,000 euros had remained hanging in the offices of eight German presidents after it was intended for the museum that Adolf Hitler planned to build in Linz, Austria.
Seeking to flee Germany to take refuge in Austria, Bendel had sold the painting in 1937 to Munich's Heinemann Gallery. He was arrested in Vienna in 1939, while in 1938, art dealer Maria Almas had acquired it for the Führer Museum in Linz, Hitler's hometown.
Seized by the allies in October 1945, the Spitzweg painting had been transferred to the collection center for looted works in Munich. It then was entrusted in 1961 to the Federal Republic's presidency in Bonn, the Hammerschmidt villa, the president's official residence.
It was not until 2007 to get it when they learned that it had been looted. In the fall of 2019, another painting by Spitzweg that belonged to Bendel, "der Hexenmeister" ( sold $ 1Million) that he had also had to sell to finance his flight to Austria was returned to the heirs from the Oetker family who had acquired it without suspecting its questionable provenance.
Five other paintings by Spitzweg from a "clean" collection on loan to the German National Museum in Nuremberg are to be sold by the Neumeister house, which in 2000 set a record of 2.4 million DM (1.2 million euros) for its canvas titled "der Eige Hochzeiler". Ultimately, the Eye of Justice was sold for the equivalent of $ 773,000, more than its low estimate. © Adrian Darmon