30 July 2010
Heirs of the late Hungarian Jewish banker and art collector Baron Mor Lipot Herzog are suing the Hungarian government for the return of more than 40 paintings seized during World War II and estimated to be worth more than US$ 100 million. The case, filed in Washington DC, follows a failed battle in Hungarian courts.
Family members, who are also suing state-owned museums, say Hungary currently holds about 40 works, including paintings by El Greco. Herzog left the collection to his children when he died in 1934 before it was plundered by the Nazis. "What happened in the Holocaust was reprehensible," Herzog's great grandson, David de Csepel, said. "But what Hungary is doing is also egregious, knowing that this art belonged to our family."
The family's lawyer, Michael Shuster, told the ‘Los Angeles Times’ the legal action was "one of the largest – if not the largest – restitution claims ever filed in US courts by a single family against another nation".
The heirs won a small victory in 2000, when Budapest's municipal court ruled that ten looted paintings, which were part of the Herzog collection, legally belonged to his grand-daughter Martha Nierenberg. However, in 2008, an appeals court overturned this ruling.
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