Court Rules Survivor's Family Must Return Artifact to Berlin

A court ruled that the family of a Holocaust survivor must return a 3,200-year-old artifact to a German museum.

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Rachel Hirshfeld,

Holocaust Artwork
Holocaust Artwork

A New York state appellate court ruled that the family of a deceased Holocaust survivor must return a 3,200-year-old artifact to a German museum that he brought with him to the United States.

While it remains unclear as to how Riven Flamenbaum received the ancient gold Assyrian tablet after his liberation from Auschwitz in 1945, the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin has listed it as missing since the end of World War II, The New York Times reported.

Flamenbaum, a survivor of Auschwitz, brought the passport photo-sized artifact with him to the United States four years after the war and after spending time in a displaced persons camp.

His children only discovered the item after his death in 2003.

The museum subsequently sued for its return, and in 2010 a Nassau County Surrogate Court judge ruled in favor of the Flamenbaum family, citing the failure of the museum to report the tablet as stolen and the impossibility of discovering how Flamenbaum acquired it. The appellate ruling reverses that decision.

“The principle that property taken unlawfully should be returned is consistent with the rights of Holocaust victims,” Raymond J. Dowd, the attorney who represented the museum and has in the past advocated for families of Holocaust victims seeking to recover lost art, told the Times.

The Flamenbaum’s attorney, Seth A. Presser, said that the decision would be appealed.

“It was all he had left from ‘that bitter time,’ and he wished to hand it down to his children and future generations to serve as a reminder of the brutality and decimation of his family at the hands of the Nazis,” Presser stated.