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Holocaust survivor's son demands University of Oklahoma return painting stolen by Nazis

Raphael Meyer, the son of a Holocaust survivor told the Oklahoma Legislature that the University of Oklahoma should return to his family the “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,” painting stolen by Nazis.
by Rick Green Modified: May 13, 2014 at 1:00 pm •  Published: May 13, 2014

“The University will continue with an examination of the painting’s history in order to determine whether any facts or law support Plaintiff’s claim.”

She said the university is seeking a fair resolution to the claim and has offered to meet with Leone Meyer in Paris. Bishop also said the painting is owned by the university foundation, not the university itself.

The 1886 work is by French impressionist artist Camille Pissarro.

Pierre Ciric, an attorney for Leone Meyer, made a presentation to legislators Monday showing how the painting changed hands, including its theft by Nazis on Feb. 22, 1941, from a bank safe where it had been placed by her father, Raoul Meyer.

After the war, Raoul Meyer worked for years to try to find the painting. After he ultimately located it, a Swiss court rejected his claim to recover it, finding he failed to prove that its then-owner purchased it in bad faith.

Ciric said the requirements of the Swiss court are different from those of a U.S. court.

“In the U.S., a thief cannot convey good title,” he said. “The original owner retains title to the stolen object. It does not matter if a subsequent purchaser did not know the object was previously stolen.”

Ciric said Raoul Meyer was given the opportunity to buy the painting from its then-owner but “refused to pay for a painting that was his rightful property.”

The family then lost track of the painting until it surfaced at the OU museum.

Leone Meyer is the sole heir to the painting, Ciric said. During World War II, her family was captured in a Nazi roundup of Jewish people and was murdered at Auschwitz. She was able to survive by hiding with neighbors.

After the war, she was adopted from an orphanage by Raoul Meyer and Yvonne Bader, and was their only child.

by Rick Green
Capitol Bureau Chief
Rick Green is the Capitol Bureau Chief of The Oklahoman. A graduate of Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., he worked as news editor for The Associated Press in Oklahoma City before joining The Oklahoman.
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Timeline

March 1940 — Meyer family places art collection, including “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,” in bank safe at Credit Commerical de France.

May 1940 — Nazis invade France.

February 1941 — Nazi forces seize painting from bank.

July 1942 — Painting is inventoried at Jeu de Paume, a station for French art stolen by Nazis, and set aside for possible exchange.

August 1944 — Paris is liberated from Nazi occupation.

1944-46 — Painting ends up in Switzerland.

1945 — Raoul Meyer registers painting as looted artwork.

1946 — Christopher Bernoulli acquires painting and sells it to Audre Maus.

1951 — Raoul Meyer discovers Maus with painting in Switzerland, painting is returned to Bernoulli.

1952 — Raoul Meyer sues Bernoulli in Switzerland.

1953 — Swiss court sides with Bernoulli, finding Raoul Meyer failed to prove it was acquired in bad faith.

1956 — Aaron and Clara Weitzenhoffer purchase painting from David Findlay Galleries in New York.

2000 — Clara Weitzenhoffer’s estate bequests painting to OU’s art museum.

March 2012 — Leone Meyer’s family discovers painting at museum.

December 2012 — Leone Meyer demands return of painting.

May 2013 — Leone Meyer files legal complaint seeking painting.

Events according to Pierre Ciric, attorney for Leone Meyer.

In the U.S., a thief cannot convey good title. The original owner retains title to the stolen object. It does not matter if a subsequent purchaser did not know the object was previously stolen.”

Pierre Ciric,
an attorney for Leone Meyer

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