JUSTICE - No. 68

36 No. 68 JUSTICE of the issues raised by the spoliations of cultural property that took place between 1933 and 1945, and by the presence of spoliated property in public institutions. C. French Court Decisions Favorable to Restitutions On the judicial side, several decisions have been rendered in France authorizing restitutions of looted art. Two landmark cases illustrate this progress: La Cueillette des pois, by Camille Pissarro This artwork was taken in October 1943 from an art collector, Simon Bauer, interned at the Drancy camp, in accordance with the laws establishing the status of Jews, which permitted the confiscation of Jewish-owned assets and possessions.11 The work circulated, before being sold in 1995 by Christie's in New York to Mr. and Ms. Tolls, an American couple who lent it to the Museum Marmottan in Paris in the spring of 2017, as part of an exhibition devoted to Pissarro. The collector's heirs discovered this exhibition and filed legal action against the Tolls. The Tolls argued that since Bauer ’s heirs had been compensated by the CIVS for this work, they were no longer entitled to rely on the provisions of the Ordinance of April 21, 1945. They also argued that the presumption of bad faith infringed not only on the right to property but also on the right to defense and a fair and equitable procedure (equivalent due process) as is stipulated in the 1789 Declaration of Human and Citizen Rights (Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen de 1789) and the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights (Convention européenne des droits de l’homme de 1950). The Paris Court of Appeal, in its decision of October 2, 2018,12 made a comprehensive application of the Ordinance of April 21, 1945, and considered that the spirit of this exceptional legislation, in line with the objectives defined by the Allies in their 1943 declaration, was clearly to make it easier for the victims of spoliation measures to recover the works that had been confiscated and stolen from them, regardless of where they were located, as the sale of such property was automatically null and void, whereas the sub-purchasers could not usefully argue that they were acting in good faith with regard to the persons who had been stripped of their possessions or their heirs who were continuing in the same capacity. The French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation), on July 1, 2020, upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision, and based on the Ordinance of April 21, 1945, ruled that (i) the initial sale was null and void and (ii) the “subsequent purchasers,” even in good faith, could not claim to have become the legal owners. The Court stressed, however, that the Tolls had recourse against the auction house that had sold them the painting. Paintings by André Derain (Gimpel case) Another case led the Paris Court of Appeal to render a decision on September 30, 2020.13 In this case, René Gimpel, a renowned Jewish art collector and dealer, was pressured to sell three claimed works between 1942 and 1944 via intermediaries. Gimpel was arrested and imprisoned in France in 1942, and deported on July 5, 1944, to the Neuengamme camp in Germany. As a Jewish resistance fighter and a refugee in the southern zone, he had been pressured by the requirements imposed on him at the time to part with his artworks. The Paris Court of Appeal declared in 2020 that René Gimpel was clearly a victim of derogatory measures, having been, as a Jew, deprived of his legal identity and of any means of earning his living. He was forced to flee and was obliged to sell his possessions to finance his flight and his survival. The Court held that, having regard to the conditions under which René Gimpel had been forced to sell these paintings, all the transactions into which he entered during the Occupation were to be regarded as forced sales within the meaning of Article 1 of the Ordinance of April 21, 1945.14 The Court also stressed, for the first time, that one cannot request impossible evidence to prove the spoliation. The Paris Court of Appeal therefore ordered the three paintings by André Derain to be returned to the heirs of René Gimpel. These recent decisions rendered in France should open the door to more restitutions because they have established a more favorable legal framework for them. However, there are still avenues for improvement. II. Perspectives for Improvements Several avenues for improvements must be explored: 11. Law of October 3, 1940, on the status of Jews, OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC, Oct. 18, 1940. 12. Paris Court of Appeal, Oct. 2, 2018, no. 17/20580. 13. Paris Court of Appeal, Sept. 30, 2020, no. 19/18087. 14. Ibid.

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