Home News


San Francisco Chronicle



Suit over Nazi looting heads to Supreme Court

Klimt paintings at heart of L.A. woman's action


Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer Wednesday, October 1, 2003



The U.S. Supreme Court said Tuesday it would decide whether an 87-year- old

Los Angeles woman can sue the Austrian government to recover six paintings

that were stolen from her family by the Nazis and are now worth $150



The U.S. Appeals Court in San Francisco ruled in December that Maria Altmann

could pursue her case in U.S. courts, rejecting arguments by Austria --


joined later by the Bush administration -- that foreign governments are

legally immune from such suits.


The high court granted review of Austria's appeal Tuesday and will hear the

case in January or February, with a ruling due by the end of June. The Bush

administration has not taken a position on the appeal.


The legal issue is whether a law allowing suits against foreign governments

for commercial activities, in limited situations, applies to Holocaust-era

and post-World War II events that took place before the law was passed. The

appeals court said in December that the suit could proceed because Austria

allegedly obtained the paintings in violation of international law -- a

circumstance in which immunity would not be granted -- and had used them

commercially in the United States to promote its Vienna art museum.


The Supreme Court considered a related issue earlier this year, when it

struck down a California law that required insurers to turn over information

on unpaid Holocaust-era insurance policies.


But in this case, legalities are overshadowed by the human story.


The paintings by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt include a shimmering gold

portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer that was commissioned in the early 1900s by

her husband, Ferdinand Bloch, a Czech sugar magnate and Maria Altmann's

uncle. Bloch-Bauer owned all six Klimt paintings, including a second

portrait of herself, when she died in 1925, leaving a will that asked her

husband to donate the works to the Austrian Gallery upon his death.


Bloch, who was Jewish, fled Austria when Germany occupied it in 1938. His

castle in Vienna was taken over by Gestapo chief Reinhard Heydrich and

Bloch's trove of paintings and porcelains was looted; some of the paintings

wound up in Adolph Hitler's private collection. A Nazi lawyer transferred

three of Bloch's Klimt paintings to the Austrian Gallery, which obtained the

other three after the war and still has them. The Austrian government says

it is the rightful owner under Bloch-Bauer's will, but Altmann contends the

will wasn't binding and the paintings were stolen from Bloch, their legal



Bloch died in 1945, leaving his estate to three heirs, of whom Altmann is

the only survivor. Altmann fled Austria for Holland with her husband, who

was held for a time in the Dachau concentration camp. They emigrated to the

United States in 1945.


According to her suit, Altmann and her family asked the postwar Austrian

government to return Bloch's artworks, but were told they could obtain the

rest of the works only if they agreed to "donate" the Klimt paintings to the

gallery. They complied, but a half-century later, new revelations about

Austria's acquisition of looted art cast doubt on the government's ownership

claims and prompted Altmann's suit, filed in 2000, according to her lawyer.


The case "is about Austria coming to terms with its history," said Altmann's

lawyer, E. Randol Schoenberg, himself an Austrian Jewish refugee and

grandson of the composer Arnold Schoenberg.


Altmann told the Associated Press, "The Supreme Court is here to do justice.


And in this case, justice would be that we would get returned what was taken

from us." She said she would like to see the paintings displayed in museums

in the United States and Canada.


Austria has contended that the lawsuit should be filed in its courts because

much of the evidence is in Austria, but Altmann balked because of a

substantial filing fee, the possibility of there being legal barriers and

her age.


In a Supreme Court filing, Scott Cooper of Los Angeles, Austria's lawyer,

said the appeals court ruling, if left intact, would affect foreign nations'

willingness "to engage in cultural and consular activities in the United

States, for fear of being hauled into court for events that occurred at

least a half-century ago." The case is Austria vs. Altmann, 03-13.


E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchronicle.com.


Los Angeles Daily Journal

OCTOBER 1, 2003  |  INTERNATIONAL Print  |  Email


Justices Take Nazi-Looted Art Case


By David F. Pike

Daily Journal Staff Writer         WASHINGTON - Maria V. Altmann's

determined quest to recover six Gustav Klimt paintings that she claims were

stolen from her family by the Nazis in the 1930s and early 1940s and

transferred to the Austrian government suffered a new setback Tuesday at the

Supreme Court.

        In December, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of

Appeals gave the 87-year-old Cheviot Hills woman the green light to pursue

her case against Austria in the U.S. District Court for the Central

District, in Los Angeles. The suit contends the paintings are worth $150


        But in May, the justices stayed the circuit's ruling.

        And Tuesday, the court announced that it will review the decision,

probably in February. Republic of Austria v. Altmann, 03-13.

        "The Supreme Court is here to do justice. And in this case, justice

would be that we would get returned what was taken from us," Altmann told

The Associated Press Tuesday. "This is the first time I've had anything to

do with the U.S. Supreme Court. It's a great honor, but on the other hand,

I'm a little scared."

        Her attorney, E. Randol Schoenberg of Los Angeles' Burris &

Schoenberg, said his client is disappointed at the delay.

        But, he added, "she has a lot of faith in the U.S. judicial system."

        "She has waited 60 years, and she says she can wait another seven or

eight months," Schoenberg said. "My client, fortunately, is in good health."

        Altmann plans to travel to Washington, D.C., for the arguments and

"will tour the sites," Schoenberg said.

        The case was among 10 granted review by the justices Monday at their

first conference of the 2003-04 term. (See grant highlights, Page 4.)

        The court has 48 cases on its docket for the term, which opens

officially Monday.

        The justices' decision to grant Austria's petition for review is

limited to one question: whether the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of

1976, which contains an exception cutting off immunity when possession of

stolen property violates international law, can be applied to conduct that

occurred before 1952, when the United States agreed to lower the sovereign

immunity shield.

        The Supreme Court declined to consider the questions of whether

Altmann's suit is barred because she has not pursued legal remedies in

Austria and lacks the required contacts with that country for a suit in the

United States, and whether her suit was filed in the wrong court.

        Austria's attorney, Scott P. Cooper of Proskauer Rose in Los

Angeles, said he was "very pleased the court decided to consider this


        "Although we think it certainly would be a positive thing if the

court could consider all of the questions, we understood [the granted issue]

was the likeliest question," Cooper said.

        As he did in his brief in arguing for review, Cooper said that the

9th Circuit's decision conflicts with rulings by other federal circuits.

        "There is no other case in which U.S. courts have allowed suits

against a sovereign foreign government for governmental acts that occurred

exclusively in that country," he said. "That was a new interpretation of the

[immunities act] by the 9th Circuit."

        The facts in the case go back to the early 1900s, when Altmann's

uncle, Czech sugar magnate Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, commissioned Klimt to

paint several portraits of his wife, Adele Block-Bauer. When she died in

1925, she left a will requesting that her husband leave the paintings to the

state-owned Austrian Gallery in Vienna.

        But in 1938, when the Nazis invaded Austria, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer,

who was Jewish, fled to Switzerland, leaving his possessions behind. The

Nazis seized the paintings.

        Before he died in exile in Switzerland in November 1945, Bloch-Bauer

wrote a new will leaving his entire estate to one nephew and two nieces, one

of them Altmann.

        When the Nazis invaded Austria, they moved Altmann to a guarded

apartment and imprisoned her husband, Fritz Altmann, in the labor camp at

Dachau. After the couple won release, they fled to Holland and then to

Hollywood, where Altmann became a U.S. citizen in 1945.

        The Klimt paintings ended up in the Austrian Gallery, and after her

attempts to retrieve them failed, Altmann filed suit in 2000. She argued

that the paintings were looted and that the Austrian government was keeping

them illegally.

        In May 2001, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of Los

Angeles rejected Austria's argument that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction

over a sovereign foreign state.

         Cooper held that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act's exception

for possession of stolen property allowed the suit to proceed.

        The 9th Circuit affirmed, in an opinion by Judge Kim M. Wardlaw, who

was joined by Circuit Judge William A. Fletcher and U.S. District Judge

Ronald M. Whyte of San Jose, sitting by designation.

        The decision sent Altmann's suit back to Cooper for trial.

        At the time of the decision, Altmann told the Daily Journal that she

would like to see the paintings hang in the United States or Canada, where

she has family.

        "I don't want them with private parties any longer," she said. "I

want them hung for everybody to see."

        Schoenberg said Tuesday he is confident his client will prevail at

the high court.

        "Austria has no defense on the merits, only procedural arguments,"

he said. "I'm still relatively confident that, when the justices consider

the merits, they will agree with the four judges below.

        "The justices probably were concerned with the other cases in the

2nd Circuit and the D.C. Circuit; that muddled the issue somewhat."

        The court's precedents on retroactivity, the U.S. Constitution and

the understanding of sovereign immunity before 1952 all favor Altmann's

position, Schoenberg said.

        "No one relied on immunity, neither the Nazis nor Austria," he said.

        Schoenberg said Altmann has not pursued the case in Austria "because

of statute-of-limitations problems" and because that country has set "a $2

million fee" to file such a claim.

        Scott Cooper said he, too, is confident of prevailing in the Supreme


        "We are right on the law," he said. "All of the Supreme Court

precedents regarding retrospective application of statutes are consistent

with our interpretation."


Justices Take Nazi-Looted Art Case




© 2003 Daily Journal Corporation. All rights reserved.



Metropolitan News

Wednesday, October 1, 2003


Page 1


Supreme Court to Decide Whether Suit Against Austria Over Art Stolen by

Nazis Can Go Forward


By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts


The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether sovereign immunity laws bar a Los

Angeles trial against Austria over the Nazi-era theft of priceless artwork,

the court said yesterday.

In a one-sentence order, the court said that it had granted the republic’s

petition for review of a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision

allowing Maria V. Altmann of Cheviot Hills to press her suit. Altmann’s

attorney, E. Randol Schoenberg, and Scott P. Cooper of Proskauer Rose, who

represents Austria in the case, said they were told that the case is likely

to be argued in January or February.

Schoenberg said in an e-mail he was disappointed that his client, who will

turn 88 in February, will have to wait even longer to obtain a decision.

Cooper declined to predict how the case would be decided but said the grant

of review "gives us an opportunity to show that the Ninth Circuit got the

analysis wrong."

Altmann seeks to recover–or be compensated for–six Gustav Klimt paintings

owned by her uncle, Czech banker and sugar magnate Ferdinand Bloch. The

paintings, with an estimated value of $150 million, are now part of the

collection of the Austrian Gallery in Vienna.

A three-judge panel ruled last December that Austria could not possibly have

expected sovereign immunity to apply to artworks that were stolen by Nazis

and were allegedly retained illegally by the government after the war.

That, and the fact that the paintings have been reproduced and sold numerous

times in the United States in the form of posters and catalogs, is enough to

overcome protections of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Judge Kim

Wardlaw wrote for the panel.

In fact, some of the Klimt works apparently have become part of American

commercial and popular culture. It is possible to purchase reproductions of

the most famous of the paintings–the golden, Byzantine-influenced "Adele

Bloch-Bauer I," a portrait of Altmann’s aunt–on wristwatches and other


There are Klimt computer games, playing cards and stationery.

Klimt was already famous in the early 1900s as co-founder of the Vienna

Secessionists when Bloch commissioned him to paint Adele Bloch-Bauer. The

painting is often grouped with Art Nouveau works and signals a departure

from the classical development of European painting.

Bloch displayed the work, a second portrait of his wife and four Klimt

landscapes in his Vienna home, but lost them to Nazi looters in Germany’s

1938 invasion of Austria. Bloch fled to Switzerland and died soon after the

war’s end.

Bloch was Jewish. Altmann said his property was taken as part of an

"Aryanization" program.

Austria claims that Bloch’s wife wanted the gallery to have them on her

death and that an attorney for Altmann’s brother concluded an agreement to

"donate" the works in 1948.

Altmann sued soon after a scandal over other allegedly stolen Austrian

paintings rocked the art world.

In 1998, the City of New York seized two Egon Sciele paintings, claiming

Nazis expropriated them illegally. The Austrian government responded by

opening the culture ministry’s archives to permit research, in the process

uncovering documents that showed the Austrian Gallery’s claim to the

paintings was based on the will of Bloch-Bauer.

The will included a "request" that the paintings be left to the museum–an

insufficient instruction under Austrian law to constitute a bequest,

Altmann’s Austrian and American lawyers insist.

Altmann, herself an immigrant from Austria who moved to Los Angeles in the

1940s, first brought suit in Austria, but laws there requiring her to pay

fees amounting to a percentage of the property in question would have

resulted in a $1.6 million payment just to prosecute the case, her attorneys

told the Ninth Circuit.

She qualified for a vastly reduced fee but abandoned the case anyway because

it still would have required too much money to bring the suit, Schoenberg

said. Instead, she brought suit in 2000 in the U.S. District Court for the

Central District of California.

Austria challenged jurisdiction, but Judge Florence-Marie Cooper said the

suit could go forward. Wardlaw, joined by Judge William Fletcher and U.S.

District Judge Ronald M. Whyte of the Northern District of California,

sitting by designation, agreed.

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act–which includes an exception for

improperly expropriated works–applies retroactively to cover the six

paintings because Austria could not reasonably expect "to receive immunity

from the executive branch of the United States for its complicity in and

perpetuation of the discriminatory expropriation of the Klimt paintings,"

Wardlaw said.

Under the act, Altmann satisfied a requirement of showing a nexus to an

agency engaged in commercial activity in the United States–the sale of Klimt

reproductions here by the Austrian Gallery, the judge said. She cited an

earlier Ninth Circuit ruling that allowed an Argentine expatriate to sue for

the misappropriation of his properties, including a resort hotel, by the

government of his former country.

The required nexus existed, the Ninth Circuit held, because the hotel had,

under the government’s ownership, solicited guests in the United States and

taken payment through U.S. credit cards.


Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company




New York Times


Justices Take Case on Nazi-Looted Art



Published: October 1, 2003


WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 – A closely watched legal dispute over the ownership of

works of art once looted by the Nazis reached the Supreme Court on Tuesday

as the justices accepted an appeal by Austria and one of its state art

museums on whether American courts have jurisdiction to resolve such cases.


An 87-year-old California woman, the niece and heir of a prominent art

collector, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, who fled Vienna in 1938 and died shortly

after the end of World War II, has spent decades trying to get back the

remains of the collection he left behind. At issue are six paintings by

Gustav Klimt, including two portraits of Mr. Bloch-Bauer's wife, Adele. The

six paintings, now in the Austrian Gallery in Vienna, are worth more than

$100 million.


Austria maintains that the paintings were left to the state and its museums

under the will of Adele Bloch-Bauer, who died in 1925, and that the Nazis

had illegitimate possession of them during the war does not change the fact

that they properly belong to Austria now.


The niece, Maria V. Altmann, disputes that interpretation, maintaining that

her aunt's preferences about the eventual disposition of the paintings never

achieved the status of a formal bequest to the government. Ms. Altmann filed

a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Los Angeles three years ago.


There has not yet been a trial to sort out the competing interpretations,

and the Supreme Court will not decide the merits of the case. Rather, the

question for the justices is whether the case can proceed at all under the

Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a 27-year-old federal law that defines the

terms for suing foreign governments in the federal courts. Although the

issue is a technical one, it could be decisive in resolving a variety of

cases involving the behavior of foreign governments and their agencies in

World War II.


Such cases have been proliferating. In June, for example, the federal

appeals court in New York reinstated a suit by Holocaust survivors and their

heirs against the French national railroad, which transported tens of

thousands of Jews and others to the Nazi death camps. That decision was

appealed to the Supreme Court last month. Also in June, the federal appeals

court here dismissed a suit against Japan, brought on behalf of 15 women

from other Asian countries who had been subjected to torture and sexual

slavery in World War II.


The status of two paintings by another Austrian painter, Egon Schiele,

remains in dispute in New York, where they were claimed by two American

families after they were lent by an Austrian foundation to the Museum of

Modern Art in 1997.


The Nazis are believed to have seized 600,000 important works of art, with

100,000 still missing.


The location of the Klimt paintings has not been in doubt. Only their

ownership has been disputed since the late 1940's, when Ms. Altmann and the

other heirs tried and failed to get export permits to take them out of

Austria. Several years ago, the Austrian government returned $1 million

worth of porcelain and Klimt drawings to the family, but refused to yield on

the paintings.


Ms. Altmann, an Austrian native who settled in California after the war and

became an American citizen, turned to the federal courts after learning that

a suit in the Austrian courts, where filing fees are based on a percentage

of the amount in controversy, would cost nearly $2 million.


The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act provides exceptions to the general rule

that foreign governments are immune from suit. One exception authorizes

suits "in which rights in property taken in violation of international law

are in issue" in connection with "commercial activity." The question for the

Supreme Court is whether that exception, which became official United States

policy in 1952 and was not codified until 1976, can be applied retroactively

to conduct that took place before 1952. So the issue in this case, Republic

of Austria v. Altmann, No. 03-13, obviously encompasses foreign governments'

immunity from suit for the entire World War II era.


Both the Federal District Court in Los Angeles and the United States Court

of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, refused Austria's

request to dismiss the suit, both on retroactivity grounds and on other

grounds that the justices chose not to review. The federal government

entered the case late in the lower court proceedings, unsuccessfully urging

the Ninth Circuit to reconsider letting the case proceed.


Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson has not yet filed a brief presenting the

government's views to the Supreme Court, but undoubtedly will do so now that

the justices have accepted the case. The federal government's general

position is that diplomacy, not litigation, should be used to resolve

disputes growing out of the Holocaust.






Los Angeles Times


October 1, 2003


High Court to Hear Miranda, Art Cases

Justices agree to decide issues about juvenile rights and Austria's claim

of immunity in a suit over Nazi-era theft of Klimt paintings.


By David G. Savage, Times Staff Writer


WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to review the issue, raised in

a Los Angeles-area murder case, of whether juveniles must be warned of their

Miranda rights before they are questioned at a police station.

The court also dealt a setback to a West Los Angeles woman who is suing the

Austrian government seeking to recover six paintings of Gustav Klimt, which

she says were seized from her uncle by the Nazis in 1939.   

 In all, the justices agreed to hear 10 new cases. However, they took no

action on several of the most closely watched appeals, including the dispute

from California's U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals over the language in the

Pledge of Allegiance.

In the case of the paintings by Klimt, an Austrian artist who died in 1918,

judges in California had cleared Maria Altmann's suit to go forward in Los

Angeles. But the high court said it would hear the Austrian government's

claim that it has a "sovereign immunity" that shields it from foreign


The paintings, estimated to be worth $150 million, are on display in the

government-run Austrian Gallery in Vienna. Klimt's works are considered

significant examples of the Art Nouveau style, which was popular in the late

19th and early 20th centuries.

In their appeal, Austrian authorities refer to the paintings as "national

treasures and part of the cultural heritage of the Austrian people" that

were left to the gallery by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a sugar magnate who fled

the Nazis and died in Zurich in 1945.

"Stripped to its essentials, this case concerns [the Austrians'] complicity

in the looting of the artworks," responded Altmann's lawyers.

They say Bloch-Bauer left his entire estate to two nieces and a nephew, only

one of whom – Altmann, age 87 – is still alive.

The case of Republic of Austria vs. Altmann will not be heard until early

next year, and it will not resolve ownership of the paintings. Instead, it

will decide only where Altmann's claim may be heard – Vienna or Los Angeles.





High Court to Hear Appeal Involving Art

Ruling May Affect Other Nazi-Era Cases


By Charles Lane

Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, October 1, 2003; Page A03


The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will decide whether the

federal courts should be open to suits against foreign governments for

abuses suffered before the second half of the 20th century, in a case that

could determine the fate of efforts to win redress for Holocaust-related

human rights abuses through the U.S. courts.


In a brief order summarizing its actions on cases that have accumulated over

the summer recess, the court said it will hear Austria's appeal of a ruling

last year by the San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th

Circuit, which said Austria and its national art museum can be sued in U.S.

courts by Maria Altmann, an 87-year-old Jewish resident of California.


Altmann seeks to recover six Gustav Klimt paintings, worth $135 million,

that she says were unlawfully expropriated from her family by Austria during

the Nazi era and retained by the postwar Austrian authorities through legal



Austria argues that foreign governments are immune from suit in the United

States for their actions before 1952, because it was not until that year

that the U.S. government recognized exceptions to the immunity of foreign

sovereign entities in U.S. courts.


Altmann says that the absolute immunity of foreign states had begun to erode

before 1952, and was not even recognized by Austria.


The implications of the case, Austria v. Altmann, No. 03-13, are broad,

because the same legal issue is at the heart of three other cases pending in

New York federal courts: a case brought by Jews who say that the postwar

government of Poland illegally seized their land as part of an effort to

keep survivors of the Holocaust from remaining in the country; a case

brought by former Jewish citizens and residents of Austria who lost property

between 1938 and 1945, including works of art recently auctioned in the

United States; and a case brought by Jews against the French state-owned

railroad over its role in helping the German occupation authorities

transport Jews to death camps.


Austria has been supported in the Altmann case by the Bush administration,

which submitted a legal brief unsuccessfully urging the full 9th Circuit to

reconsider the case, partly because of what it said were the adverse

diplomatic ramifications of permitting the suit to go forward.


The administration advanced similar arguments, with success, in a different

Holocaust-related case last term at the Supreme Court. In that case, the

court ruled 5 to 4 that the executive branch's foreign policy authority

trumped a California law that required insurance firms with links to

European companies to divulge detailed information about their Holocaust-era

policies so that survivors could more easily recover their assets.


© 2003 The Washington Post Company



Supreme Court to Hear Stolen Art Suit

Tue Sep 30, 4:20 PM ET

By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer


WASHINGTON - An elderly woman who fled the Nazis is asking the Supreme Court

to help her get back $150 million worth of paintings stolen from her family

65 years ago in Austria.



The court announced Tuesday that it would decide if Maria Altmann can sue

the Austrian government in U.S. courts. It is one of a group of appeals the

court added to cases to be heard in the new term that begins next week.



The Austrian case raises a technical issue about when foreign governments

can be sued in U.S. courts over old disputes. The details of the case,

however, are striking: a wealthy Austrian family whose belongings were

pillaged by the Nazis, their flight to safety and their long-distance effort

to reclaim their property.



Altmann, an 87-year-old widow who lives in Los Angeles, wants the return of

six Gustav Klimt (news - web sites) paintings, including two colorful,

impressionistic portraits of her aunt.



"The Supreme Court is here to do justice. And in this case justice would be

that we would get returned what was taken from us," she said in a telephone

interview Tuesday. "This is the first time I've had anything to do with the

U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites). It's a great honor, but on the other

hand I'm a little scared."



Courts in California have said she can sue the Austrian Gallery and the

Austrian government in the United States. Austria appealed to the high court

to stop the suit.



At issue is what to do with disputes predating a 1952 U.S. government policy

that shielded some countries from lawsuits while allowing suits against some

foreign government commercial ventures.



Scott P. Cooper of Los Angeles, one of Austria's lawyers, had told justices

the case was important for U.S. foreign relations.



"The diplomatic ramifications of a United States court holding that Austria,

a nation friendly to the United States, must appear in a United States court

to answer charges that it is actively advancing Nazi war crimes in

connection with a matter of extreme domestic importance to Austria, cannot

be understated," Cooper wrote.



He said pending cases involving France, Japan and Poland would be affected.



Cooper said it only made sense for the dispute to be settled in Austria,

where the art is. Historical documents, written in German, are also there.



Altmann's aunt, who died in 1925, had asked that the art be donated to the

state gallery, but her uncle, who died in exile in Switzerland in 1945,

specified that his possessions should go to Altmann and two other family

members. Altmann is the only one of the three still living.



The paintings by Klimt, founder of the Vienna Secession art movement,

include two of Altmann's aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, a portrait of the aunt's

close friend and three landscapes.



Altmann said she would like them to hang in museums in America and Canada.

She plans to attend the Supreme Court's argument in the case, likely in

February or March.



"If I'm alive and well I will come," said Altmann, who turns 88 in February.

"I just certainly hope that the court will decide what is right."



The case is Austria v. Altmann, 03-13.




On the Net:


Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/


History of the case: http://www.adele.at



ORF 1.10.2003

Klimt-Bilder: Österr. Argumente ernst genommen





Die Bereitschaft des US Supreme Court, über die Zuständigkeit von

US-Gerichten im Rechtsstreit um das Eigentum an sechs wertvollen

Klimt-Bildern zu entscheiden, zeige, dass die bisherige Argumentationslinie

der Republik Österreich richtig gewesen sei, kommentierte Gottfried Toman

von der Finanzprokuratur heute, Mittwoch (1. Oktober), gegenüber der APA die

gestern verkündete Zulassung der Revision der Republik Österreich durch das



"Der Supreme Court nimmt generell nur zwei bis fünf Prozent der Fälle an.

Dass er bereits in der ersten informellen Sitzung der Richter nach der

Sommerpause sofort entschieden hat, unseren Fall anzunehmen, zeigt, wie

wichtig und ernst unsere Argumente offenbar genommen werden. Es geht

immerhin um die unmittelbare völkerrechtliche Souveränität der Republik



Auch die Aufnahme des Verfahrens im Jänner oder Februar sei die kürzeste

Frist, in der dies möglich sei. Eine Entscheidung im Juni hält Toman für

realistisch, es könne auch früher sein. "Es kann sein, dass die dort jetzt

ein bisschen aufs Gas treten." Immerhin prozessiere man nun bereits im

vierten Jahr, und es gehe immer noch um die Zuständigkeit der Gerichte. "Vom

inhaltlichen Verfahren sind wir noch weit entfernt."


45 Tage Zeit


Die Republik Österreich habe nun 45 Tage Zeit, um die Revision inhaltlich

noch einmal aufzubereiten. Anschließend habe Randol Schoenberg, der Anwalt

der Klägerin Maria Altmann, 45 Tage Zeit, darauf zu replizieren. Darauf habe

wiederum Österreich 15 bis 20 Tage Zeit für eine Replik, erläuterte Toman

die weitere Vorgangsweise.


Sollte der Supreme Court die US-Gerichte für zuständig befinden, rechnet

Toman damit, dass das inhaltliche Verfahren sofort nach der Entscheidung

aufgenommen würde. Der Fall ginge dann entweder zurück an das Gericht von

Los Angeles oder nach Washington, wo der Gerichtsstand für ausländische

Staaten sei. Allein für die erste Instanz sei dann mit einer Verfahrensdauer

von einem Jahr zu rechnen, danach könne man noch in die zweite und dritte

Instanz gehen.


Möglicherweise neue Klage


Sollte der Supreme Court im Sinne Österreichs entscheiden, müsste in

Österreich erneut Klage eingebracht werden, damit würde ein normaler

Zivilprozess eingeleitet. "Das Verfahren würde damit neu beginnen." Hätte

man den Fall gleich in Österreich verhandelt, wäre das inhaltliche Verfahren

längst abgeschlossen, glaubt Toman. "Ich kann mir nicht vorstellen, dass man

in Österreich vier Jahre gebraucht hätte, um allein die Zuständigkeit zu



Streitobjekt: Klimt-Bilder


In dem Prozess geht es um Rückgabeansprüche betreffend die Bilder von Gustav

Klimt "Adele Bloch-Bauer I", "Adele Bloch-Bauer II", "Apfelbaum I",

"Buchenwald (Birkenwald)" und "Häuser in Unterach am Attersee" sowie "Amalie

Zuckerkandl". Die ersten fünf davon sind im Testament von Adele Bloch-Bauer

erwähnt, in dem sie ihren Mann Ferdinand bat, nach seinem Tode die Bilder

der Republik Österreich bzw. der Österreichischen Galerie zu schenken.


Der jüdische Industrielle und Gegner der Nationalsozialisten, Ferdinand

Bloch-Bauer, wurde aber in der NS-Zeit enteignet und musste in die Schweiz

flüchten, die Bilder wurden noch zu seinen Lebzeiten von einem von den Nazis

eingesetzten "kommissarischen Verwalter" an das Museum übergeben bzw.

verkauft. Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer hatte in seinem Testament seinen Neffen und

seine zwei Nichten als Alleinerben eingesetzt.


Das Gerichtsverfahren soll klären, wer rechtmäßiger Eigentümer der Bilder

ist: die Republik Österreich oder Bloch-Bauer-Nichte und

-Erbin Altmann. Die heute 87-Jährige hatte im August 2000 vor einem Gericht

in Los Angeles ihre Klage gegen die Republik Österreich eingebracht. Im

Verfahren wurde bisher um die Zuständigkeit der Gerichte gerungen.



Streit Um Klimt:

Supreme Court wird entscheiden

(Die Presse) 02.10.2003

Österreich in Washington mit seiner Beschwerde erfolgreich.


Der Supreme Court in Washington wird demnächst die Grundsatzfrage klären, ob

eine von Erben der mehrmals von Gustav Klimt gemalten, 1925 verstorbenen

Adele Bloch-Bauer in Los Angeles eingebrachte Klage gegen die Republik

Österreich vor einem US-Gericht verhandelt werden darf. Damit wurde einem

österreichischen Antrag stattgegeben, der auf eine völkerrechtliche Norm

pocht: Kein Staat darf über einen anderen Recht sprechen. Nichten und Neffen

erhoben Anspruch auf fünf Klimt-Gemälde, die die wohlhabende, kinderlos

gebliebene Bankierstochter Bloch-Bauer testamentarisch der Österreichischen

Galerie Belvedere vermachte. Seit vier Jahren wird nun über die Frage der

Zuständigkeit eines amerikanischen Gerichts prozessiert.


Die Hauptklägerin, Maria Altmann, ist nun 88 Jahre alt. "Das Verfahren wird

aber auch nach einem hoffentlich noch lange nicht eintretenden Ableben von

Altmann weitergeführt", kündigte ihr Anwalt Randol Schoenberg an. Erben

werden die Klägerstellung übernehmen.


Nach Auskunft der Finanzprokuratur ist mit einer Anhörung der Parteien durch

das Höchstgericht im Jänner/Februar 2004 zu rechnen. Davor werden

Schriftsätze ausgetauscht. Hofrat Gottfried Toman erinnert im Gespräch mit

der "Presse", dass der Supreme Court weniger als fünf Prozent der dort

vorgebrachten Revisionsanträge nach der üblichen Vorprüfung zur Verhandlung

zulässt. "Wir werten das für's erste als Bestätigung, dass die Republik mit

ihrer grundsätzlichen Rechtsüberlegung auf dem richtigen Weg ist." Was heißt

das konkret? - "Dass die Causa vor ein österreichisches Gericht gehört." hai



Der Standard

30. September 2003

20:23 MEZ   Neues zu Klimt-Bilder

Revision über Zuständigkeit von US-Gerichten zugelassen


Washington - Der US Supreme Court hat heute, Dienstag, bekannt gegeben,

über die Zuständigkeit von US-Gerichten im Rechtsstreit um das Eigentum an

sechs wertvollen Klimt-Bildern zu entscheiden. Das Verfahren soll Anfang

kommenden Jahres stattfinden, mit einer Entscheidung sei bis Ende Juni zu

rechnen. Kalifornische Gerichte hatten zuvor eine Zuständigkeit von

US-Gerichten bejaht. Mit der Zulassung der Revision der Republik Österreich

dagegen verlängert sich der vorläufige Verfahrensstopp im in Los Angeles

anhängigen Beweisverfahren um den rechtmäßigen Eigentümer der Gemälde.


Im Prozess geht es um einen Rückgabeanspruch der Bilder von Gustav Klimt

"Adele Bloch-Bauer I", "Adele Bloch-Bauer II", "Apfelbaum I", "Buchenwald

(Birkenwald)" und "Häuser in Unterach am Attersee" sowie "Amalie

Zuckerkandl". Die ersten fünf davon sind im Testament von Adele Bloch-Bauer

erwähnt, in dem sie ihren Mann Ferdinand bat, nach seinem Tode die Bilder

der Republik Österreich bzw. der Österreichischen Galerie zu schenken. Der

jüdische Industrielle und Gegner der Nationalsozialisten, Ferdinand

Bloch-Bauer, wurde aber in der NS-Zeit enteignet und musste in die Schweiz

flüchten, die Bilder wurden noch zu seinen Lebzeiten von einem von den Nazis

eingesetzten "kommissarischen Verwalter" an das Museum übergeben bzw.

verkauft. Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer hatte in seinem Testament seinen Neffen und

seine zwei Nichten als Alleinerben eingesetzt. Das Gerichtsverfahren soll

klären, wer rechtmäßiger Eigentümer der Bilder ist: Die Republik Österreich

oder Bloch-Bauer-Nichte und -Erbin Maria Altmann.


Die heute 87-jährige Maria Altmann hatte im August 2000 vor einem Gericht in

Los Angeles ihre Klage gegen die Republik Österreich eingebracht. Im

Verfahren wurde bisher um die Zuständigkeit gerungen. Die Klägerin will

ihren Anspruch vor einem US-Gericht einklagen, die Republik Österreich

bestreitet diese Zuständigkeit. Die Haltung Österreichs wird durch eine

Stellungnahme der US-Regierung unterstützt, die aber für die Gerichte nicht

bindend ist. Die Anwälte der Klägerin hatten das US-Höchstgericht dazu

aufgefordert die Revision abzuweisen um das Verfahren noch zu Altmanns

Lebzeiten zu Ende zu bringen. (APA)