Hungarian government sued over Nazi art theft

By Jennifer Lipman, July 28, 2010

The family of a Jewish banker whose art collection, valued at more than £60 million, was allegedly looted by the Nazis during the Holocaust has filed a lawsuit against the Hungarian government.

The heirs of Baron Mor Lipot Herzog are demanding the return of more than 40 valuable paintings and sculptures by artists including Monet and Velasquez.

After it was stolen the collection came into the possession of the Hungarian government and much of it is now on display in the country’s art galleries.

The Herzog heirs have spent 20 years asking for its return, but in 2008 a Hungarian court rejected the request and several other appeals have also made no progress.

The family has now taken legal action in the United States and is calling for a complete accounting and the return of all the work the Hungarian government possesses.

Baron Herzog’s great-grandson said the subject of the stolen art was “very emotional” and that he was frustrated by the failure to retrieve it.

David de Csepel told the New York Times: "I want to see justice done. My great-grandfather was one of the most famous collectors in all of Europe.”

His lawyer Michael Shuster said Hungary has been "one of the countries that has been the most recalcitrant" about returning looted art.

Earlier in July an Austrian museum agreed to pay more than £12 million for a painting stolen from its Jewish owner by the Nazis.

The dispute over the expressionist painting by Egon Schiele was settled out of court after a decade-long struggle.

Last updated: 3:19pm, November 8 2010