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2 more Egon Schiele works returned as Manhattan DA’s office turns its attention to works seized by Nazis

(JTA) — For decades, the heirs of Viennese Jewish cabaret performer Fritz Grünbaum have sought the restitution of his extensive art collection, which was pilfered by the Nazis.

This year, they have seen a spate of success. The return of two portraits by Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele was announced on Wednesday, two weeks after Grünbaum’s heirs repossessed seven other Schiele works from a number of prominent museums and collections in New York City.

The heirs credit this accomplishment to Matthew Bogdanos, who founded and leads the antiquities trafficking unit in the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. In addition to working on Holocaust-era art restitution, Bogdanos, an assistant district attorney, has repatriated more than 1,000 antiquities since he founded the unit in 2017.

“It takes courage to take on important American institutions,” Ray Dowd, the attorney for Grünbaum’s heirs, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “And a prosecutor who’s willing to do that is exceedingly rare.”

The two paintings whose return was announced this week — “Girl With Black Hair” and “Portrait of a Man” — were housed at Oberlin College and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, respectively. In September, the group of seven Schiele paintings and drawings were returned in an emotional ceremony at Bragg’s office. Another two pieces were returned to the family in 2018 via a civil ruling in the New York Court of Appeals and were put up for a charity auction through Christie’s in 2022.

“I am pleased these two pieces are being returned to the family of Fritz Grünbaum following a criminal investigation by my Office,” Bragg said in a statement this week. “The evidence makes clear the two drawings were stolen by the Nazis and subsequently transported into Manhattan, before landing in these museums. We are proud to have now returned nine Egon Schiele drawings to Mr. Grünbaum’s relatives and continue to reflect on his indelible legacy.”

Grünbaum and his wife Elisabeth were killed in the Holocaust, and the restitution of his art collection, which contained a total of 81 Schiele works, has been a decades-long process. Once the provenance of the works has been established — which is itself a challenge — lawyers must compel the institutions that hold the pieces to return them.

The co-executors of Grünbaum’s estate, Timothy Reif and David Frankel, are the second generation of heirs involved in the restitution of Grünbaum’s art collection. Reif’s mother, Rita Reif, who died in June, was a New York Times columnist on antiques and auctions, and she later took on the mission of reacquiring the artworks that were looted from Grünbaum. Her husband Paul Reif, who died in 1978, was a composer from Vienna who was Grünbaum’s cousin and co-wrote operettas with him.

At first, the restitution effort focused on civil litigation, but the recent string of success has come after a turn to criminal proceedings. Twenty-five years ago, the heirs had also found some success in criminal court, when the D.A.’s office issued a subpoena preventing the transfer of two Schiele works from the Museum of Modern Art to a museum in Austria. The office began a criminal investigation into the pieces’ provenance and they were both seized, but neither went back immediately to the Grünbaum heirs. One of the two was eventually returned in 2019.

Working on behalf of the family since 2005, Dowd said that the shift from civil to criminal cases has moved the restitution process along much quicker. But the judge’s order from the 2018 civil case also helped move the criminal investigation along.

Following the 2018 ruling, the D.A.’s office began investigating, “and then they dug deeper than we ever did,” Dowd said. “There’s only so much civil lawyers can do. So it’s not like I handed them a case tied up in a bow.”

At the head of that investigation was Bogdanos, a homicide prosecutor and retired Marine colonel whose office has recovered more than 4,500 items stolen from more than 30 countries, valued at over $410 million, according to the D.A. What started as a unit of one employee has since grown to a team of 18.

When it comes to the Schiele works, too, he has reached beyond Manhattan. While the seven pieces returned to Grünbaum’s heirs last month were all on display or held in New York City-based museums or galleries, the two drawings returned Wednesday came from institutions outside of the five boroughs. But the Manhattan district attorney’s office can still claim jurisdiction.

“If it passes through New York, we have jurisdiction no matter where it is now,” Bogdanos told CBS News in March. “If the wire transfer was made in New York, we have jurisdiction, no matter where it is now; if it was offered for sale, if it was shown at an auction. So, sure, my jurisdiction is limited to New York City. But to update a phrase, all roads lead to New York.”

Dowd attributed Bogdanos’ record to his military background, interest in history and the classics, and his nonfiction book, “Thieves of Baghdad” — an account of his own experience recovering thousands of artifacts stolen from the Iraqi National Museum after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.

“It’s not just some lightweight chasing down pretty pictures because he likes to look at artworks,” Dowd added. “There’s a real unique and deep dedication that goes into this.”

The post 2 more Egon Schiele works returned as Manhattan DA’s office turns its attention to works seized by Nazis appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis

Drones are seen at a site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on April 20, 2023. Photo: Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

i24 NewsA senior Israeli security official spoke to i24NEWS on Saturday on condition of the retaliatory strike carried out by the Israel Air Force against the Houthi jihadists in Yemen.

“This is an important operation which signals that there’s room for further escalation, and sends a very strong message to the entire Shiite axis.”

“We understood there is a high probability of counter attacks, but if we do not respond, the meaning is even worse. Israel has updated the US prior to the operation.”

The strike on Hodeida came after long-range Iranian-made drone hit a building in central Tel Aviv, killing one man and wounded several others.

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IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida

Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi addresses followers via a video link at the al-Shaab Mosque, formerly al-Saleh Mosque, in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 6, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

i24 NewsThe Israeli military on Saturday confirmed striking a port in Yemen controlled by the Houthi jihadists, a day after the Iranian proxy group perpetrated a deadly drone attack on Tel Aviv.

“A short while ago, IDF fighter jets struck military targets of the Houthi terrorist regime in the area of the Al Hudaydah Port in Yemen in response to the hundreds of attacks carried out against the State of Israel in recent months.”

After Houthi drone attack on Tel Aviv, reports and footage out of Yemen of air strikes hitting Hodeida

— Video used in accordance with clause 27A of Israeli copyright law

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, issued a statement saying “The fire that is currently burning in Hodeidah, is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear. The Houthis attacked us over 200 times. The first time that they harmed an Israeli citizen, we struck them. And we will do this in any place where it may be required.”

“The blood of Israeli citizens has a price,” Gallant added. “This has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen, and in other places – if they will dare to attack us, the result will be identical.”

Gallant: ‘The fire currently burning in Hodeida is seen across the region and the significance is clear… The blood of Israeli citizens has a price, as has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen and in other places – if they dare attack us, the result will be identical.’

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

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One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after attending a military parade to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever.

The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues.

Their differences were laid bare on Saturday, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they call a “peace operation.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due later on Saturday to attend an event in the south of the Nicosia to commemorate what Greeks commonly refer to as the “barbaric Turkish invasion.” Air raid sirens sounded across the area at dawn.

Mitsotakis posted an image of a blood-stained map of Cyprus on his LinkedIn page with the words “Half a century since the national tragedy of Cyprus.”

There was jubilation in the north.

“The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told crowds who gathered to watch the parade despite stifling midday heat, criticizing the south for having a “spoiled mentality” and seeing itself as the sole ruler of Cyprus.

Peace talks are stalled at two seemingly irreconcilable concepts – Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement.

Erdogan left open a window to dialogue although he said a federal solution, advocated by Greek Cypriots and backed by most in the international community, was “not possible.”

“We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decades-long aspirations of joining the bloc.

It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years.


Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for reflection and for remembering the dead.

“Our mission is liberation, reunification and solving the Cyprus problem,” he said. “If we really want to send a message on this tragic anniversary … it is to do anything possible to reunite Cyprus.”

Turkey, he said, continued to be responsible for violating human rights and international law over Cyprus.

Across the south, church services were held to remember the more than 3,000 people who died in the Turkish invasion.

“It was a betrayal of Cyprus and so many kids were lost. It wasn’t just my son, it was many,” said Loukas Alexandrou, 90, as he tended the grave of his son at a military cemetery.

In Turkey, state television focused on violence against Turkish Cypriots prior to the invasion, particularly on bloodshed in 1963-64 and in 1967.

Turkey’s invasion took more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Reunification talks collapsed in 2017 and have been at a stalemate since. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, and its Turkish Cypriot leadership wants international recognition.

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