Swiss Town Returns Painting Looted during World War II
Mon, 09 Oct 2017
Following a lengthy legal battle, the town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel, has agreed to return a John Constable painting, “Dedham from Langham,” to the family of its original owners.
The painting was one of 60 works of art looted in 1942 by the collaborationist Pro-Nazi Vichy authorities from John and Anna Jaffe, British nationals of German Jewish heritage who were then living in France.
The painting was subsequently bought by a Swiss national and bequeathed to the La Chaux-de-Fonds' Fine Arts Museum upon his death in 1986.
The Jaffe heirs' legal claim was filed in 2006 and initially rejected by the museum in 2009. After an unsuccessful effort by the heirs to elicit public support, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder took up their cause in a. lecture delivered at the Kunsthaus Zürich on February 2, 2016.
Lauder sharply criticized the La Chaux-de-Fonds Museum for contending "that since the claims were against the Vichy government, the family should go to France for their money. This decision, I believe, shows a troubling lack of shame. . . . Remember the question of conscience? Do you think this is right?"
The return of the Constable painting to its rightful owners by the La Chaux-de-Fonds council is considered a major victory in the international efforts to champion the universal application of international laws that recognize the theft of cultural objects during genocide as a crime against humanity.
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