The Guelph Treasure: US court tosses out bid by Jewish heirs for Germany’s Guelph trove (2022)

1 min read
A bust reliquary of Saint Blaise of the so-called "Welfenschatz" (Guelph Treasure) is pictured at the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) in Berlin, on February 24, 2015. US and British heirs of Nazi-era Jewish art dealers have sued Germany for the return of a mediaeval art treasure worth $250-300 million (220-260 million euros), their lawyers said. Credit line: TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP / Profimedia

The Guelph Treasure. A US court has handed a major German cultural institution a victory in a long-running fight with the heirs of Jewish art dealers over a trove of medieval ecclesiastical artwork.

The US District Court for the District of Columbia determined that US courts do not have jurisdiction in the question of ownership of the collection, called the Guelph Treasure, all sides said on Tuesday.

The plaintiffs, who believe the trove was sold under Nazi duress for far less than it was worth, said they were still examining whether to appeal the decision, which was released last week.

The collection composed of mostly gold, gem-encrusted crosses and reliquaries, along with other altarpieces and shrines, was originally housed at Germany’s Brunswick Cathedral.

The works date from the 11th to 15th centuries and came into the possession of the the royal house of Guelph in 1671. The family decided to sell 82 items in 1929 when it was in financial difficulty.

Forty-four of the objects are in possession of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, one of the world’s major art foundations and the operator of Berlin’s museums.

The legal proceedings in the US, which were launched in 2015, concern 42 of those relics.

the Guelph Treasure
(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 24, 2015, The cupola reliquary (Kuppelreliquar) of the so-called “Welfenschatz” (Guelph Treasure) is pictured at the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) in Berlin. The US Supreme court will navigate on December 7, 2020 between the Middle Ages and the 1930s during a hearing on the Guelph Treasure, a collection of art acquired by the Nazi regime from Jewish art dealers. Credit line: Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP / Profimedia

Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation president Hermann Parzinger said that the institution strives for just and fair solutions in all Nazi-era restitution cases, but that this claim was unfounded.

“We have already restituted several hundred works of art and over 2,000 books,” Parzinger said in a statement. The Guelph Treasure is displayed at Berlin’s Museum of Decorative Arts. © dpa

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