Berlin museums, Jewish heirs in dispute over medieval art

medieval crossIt’s a medieval treasure trove worth an estimated quarter of a billion dollars, filled with gold crosses studded with gems and intricate silverwork. For years, it’s been at the center of a dispute between a Berlin museum foundation and the heirs of Holocaust-era Jewish art dealers.

On Wednesday, a German government-created commission convened to make a recommendation on who should rightfully own the Welfenschatz — or Guelph Treasure. However, it did not make a final decision.

A German government official said Wednesday afternoon that consultations were continuing. “A recommendation can be expected in the coming weeks,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

The heirs claim that their ancestors had no choice but to sell the Christian artifacts in 1935 to the Nazi government for less than their value. The foundation that oversees Berlin’s museums says that the collectors were not forced to sell the pieces, arguing among other things that the collection was not even in Germany at the time of its sale.

The collection, which has been on display in Berlin museums since the early 1960s, is considered the largest collection of German church treasure in public hands. Some experts have estimated the value of the collection of silver and gold crucifixes, altars and other relics at between 180 -200 million euros ($246-$273 million).

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