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A German museum curator is personally returning art looted by the Nazis to the descendants of Holocaust victims



(JTA) — For descendants of Jews persecuted by the Nazis, reclaiming art that was allegedly looted from their families can involve years-long court battles or negotiations with European officials.

But one museum curator in Germany, Matthias Weniger, is devoting his energy to restituting stolen art at his institution. Weniger is making it his personal business to return 111 silver objects at the Bavarian National Museum in Munich to the descendants of the Jewish families who owned the pieces before the Holocaust.

The pieces include ritual objects such as kiddush cups and Shabbat candlesticks that wound up in Nazi hands as the result of a 1939 law ordering Jews to surrender their precious metals and stones, often in exchange for just a fraction of their price. The law was one of a series of acts designed to strip Jews of their political and civil rights before the Nazi campaign of mass extermination began.

Most of the confiscated silver went to pawn shops, and much of it was ultimately melted down and used to aid the Nazi war effort. Some of the items that were not melted were returned to Holocaust survivors in the decades after the war, but only if they came forward to retrieve their stolen possessions.

“These silver objects handed in at the pawn shops are often the only material things that remain from an existence wiped out in the Holocaust,” Weniger told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “Therefore it’s really important to try to find the families and give back the objects to them.”

So far, Weniger has managed to return about 50 objects to relatives of their original owners, and he expects that he will be able to return the rest by the end of the year. His campaign comes amid attempts to speed up the process of restitution in Europe and the United States. The Netherlands recently decided to return multiple artworks to Jewish families, and a 2022 law in New York state compels museums to identify art in their possession that was looted during the Nazi era.

Weniger makes an effort to personally deliver the pieces to their owners’ descendants. Last week, he returned 19 silver pieces to families in Israel, including a goblet that was likely used as a kiddush cup, to Hila Gutmann, 53, and her father Benjamin Gutmann, 86, who reside near Tel Aviv.

The original owners of the cup were Bavarian cattle dealer Salomon Gutmann and his wife, Karolina, who were Benjamin Guttman’s grandparents. They were murdered by the Nazis in the Treblinka extermination camp. Their son Max, Benjamin’s father, survived because he fled to British Mandatory Palestine.

“It was a mixed feeling for us to get back the cup,” Hila Gutmann told the AP. “Because you understand it’s the only thing that’s left of them.”

Weniger is able to identify the objects’ provenance due to yellow stickers that the pawn shops affixed to the bottom of each piece in 1939. Those stickers have numbers that correspond to documents naming the original owners. Weniger also looks into the genealogies of the owners’ descendants, using databases, obituaries, phone books, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and email addresses.

Last July, Weniger returned a partially gilded 300-year-old silver baptismal cup that had been stolen from a Jewish woman named Hermine Bernheimer in 1939. Bernheimer died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943. After her cup was returned to her descendants, they donated it to the Jewish Museum in Göppingen, the city in Germany where Bernheimer was born.

Weniger provides families with his genealogical research as well as the restituted silver. Along with the cup, relatives of Hermine Bernheimer from around the world learned of each other’s existence for the first time.

“Hermine was my great-aunt,” Naomi Karp, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., told The New York Times. “After I was told that the cup had been found, I learned I had about 30 relatives in the United States, Australia and Germany. I also learned that the cup was a baptismal cup. I have no idea how a Jewish family got a baptismal cup, but maybe it was a gift to them.”

Most of the descendants of the owners, Weniger said, live in the United States and Israel, but the museum is also in the process of returning silver pieces to France, the United Kingdom, Australia and Mexico.

“He’s really dedicated to it,” Hila Gutmann said of Weniger’s work to return the silver. “He treats these little objects with so much care — like they are holy.”

The post A German museum curator is personally returning art looted by the Nazis to the descendants of Holocaust victims appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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