Swiss museum takes down paintings allegedly stolen by Nazis

The Kunsthaus Zurich art museum has announced the removal of five paintings, due to potential links between these artworks and Nazi-era looting during World War II.


Claude Monet’s “Meules à Giverny,” one of the paintings in the collection under investigation

Zurich’s prestigious Kunsthaus Zurich art museum has announced the temporary removal of five paintings from its ongoing exhibition showcasing the Emil Bührle Collection. The decision comes as the institution investigates potential links between these artworks and Nazi-era looting.

The collection, named after German-born Swiss industrialist Emil Bührle, has long faced scrutiny regarding the provenance of its holdings. Bührle amassed a vast collection of approximately 600 artworks, many of which were acquired during the war years when the Nazis systematically plundered cultural treasures across Europe.

The artworks under investigation include renowned masterpieces such as Claude Monet’s “Meules à Giverny,” Gustave Courbet’s “Portrait of the Sculptor Louis-Joseph,” Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s “Georges-Henri Manuel,” Vincent van Gogh’s “The Old Tower” and Paul Gauguin’s “La route montante.”

In a statement, the foundation board overseeing the Emil Bührle Collection expressed its commitment to “seeking a fair and equitable solution for these works with the legal successors of the former owners, following best practices.”

According to Stuart Eizenstat, the U.S. Secretary of State’s special adviser on Holocaust issues, it is estimated that over 100,000 paintings and countless other cultural objects stolen during the Nazi era have yet to be returned to their rightful owners or their heirs.

The decision to temporarily remove the paintings follows the publication of new guidelines aimed at addressing the persistent issue of unreturned cultural property stolen during the Nazi regime. These guidelines were developed by the U.S. State Department to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1998 Washington Conference Principles, which outlined a framework for the restitution of Nazi-confiscated art.

The foundation expressed willingness to offer financial compensation to the estate of Max Silberberg, a German Jewish industrialist whose extensive art collection was forcibly auctioned by the Nazis before his murder at the Auschwitz death camp.

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