Family of Jewish art collector sues Hungary in US court for art seized during Holocaust

By Jennifer C. Kerr, AP
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hungary sued over art looted during Holocaust

WASHINGTON — Heirs of a renowned Jewish art collector are suing the government of Hungary for the return of more than $100 million worth of paintings seized during World War II.

The family of Baron Mor Lipot Herzog has tried for more than 10 years to recapture the paintings through Hungarian courts, to no avail. This week, the heirs filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington. They also are suing several state-owned museums.

The Herzog family alleges that the museums have about 40 pieces of the massive Herzog collection — paintings and other works that were plundered by Hungary, a wartime ally of Nazi Germany.

“What happened in the Holocaust was reprehensible,” said Herzog’s great grandson, David de Csepel. “But what Hungary is doing is also egregious — knowing that this art belonged to our family.”

Csepel resides in Los Angeles and says the family is hopeful about the case it filed Tuesday in the U.S. court.

“We’d just like to see our art come back to the family,” he said.

Experts say the Herzog family could see the return of some of its art, which includes pieces by El Greco and Francisco de Zurbaran.

“Part of the purpose of bringing these Holocaust art lawsuits in the United States is to publicize the lack of regard exhibited by the foreign governments and their museums to the needs and claims of the families from whom this art has been taken,” said Judah Best, a Washington lawyer and a commissioner of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

“The history of these kinds of actions is that some form of settlement takes place in the battle between heirs of an owner of such precious art and the governments and their museums,” Best added.

Associated Press writer Pete Yost contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS that David de Csepel is Herzog’s great grandson, not grandson.)

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