Seventy years after the second World War, there are still attempts to restitution of looted art to their legitimate Owners. In the words of French Minister of Culture and Communication Christine Albanel…””What we expect from this exhibit is that a miracle will occur and someone will come here and say ‘that belongs to me,'”.
She speaks on Monday night (2/18/2008), in Jerusalem, at the opening of an Israel Museum exhibit called Looking For Owners: Custody, Research, and Restitution of Art Stolen in France during World War II, see here
In the exhibit of art from France, nearly every painting has a story. Some were seized by the Nazis for inclusion in a museum of European art that Hitler planned to build in Linz, Austria.
One story attired my attention. The story of “Landscape, the Pink Wall
,” an early Matisse.The painting was owned by SS officer Dr. Kurt Gerstein. In the “Jerusalem Post” is written..”The painting was found by Allied troops hidden in
n alcove behind a plaster wall in Gerstein’s house after the war. The Nazi officer killed himself in July 1945, see here
Henri Matisse, French, 1869–1954
Landscape, the Pink Wall, 1898
Oil on canvas
Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris.
We all know who was Henry Matisse, the painter of “Dance”, ” Pink Nude” and”Luxe, Calme et Volupte”. But who is SS officer Dr. Kurt Gerstein?. Well he was not an anonymous figure in the gigantic death machinery of the Nazi regime. He volunteered for the Waffen-SS, and in 1941 was assigned to its hygiene institute as a contamination expert. Early in 1942, Gerstein was appointed to head the Technical Disinfection “Department within the Health Technology section. In this capacity he worked with Zyklon B (Hydrogen Cyanide) and was responsible for transporting Zyklon B, the gas used for mass killing at the Nazi death camps, see here
The story of Kurt Gerstein is a special one in that after seeing what really was the use of Zyklon B he tried by all means to …”ascertain the facts of the machinery of destruction and then shout them to the whole world. Gerstein’s first contact was with Baron Goran von Otter, a Swedish diplomat, whom Gerstein met by chance on the Warsaw-Berlin express train while “, returning from Belzec. Gerstein was also in contact with Bishop Otto Dibelius, of the Confessing Church; Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, the Papal Nuncio in Berlin; and members of the Dutch underground. His efforts to make known the, facts of the mass murder had little success.”..see here, (search Kurt Gerstein).
The looted art exhibition in Museum Israel brings together Matisse’s painting “Landscape, the Pink Wall”, Waffen SS dr. Kurt Gerstein, the provider of the gas Zyklon B to the extermination camps, and the anonymous perhaps dead or living owner of Matisse’s painting.
Henri Matisse circa 150.