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Heirs of German-Jewish banker sue for restitution of one of van Gogh’s most famous paintings



(JTA) — Heirs of a German-Jewish banker are suing a Japanese insurance company for the return of one of Vincent van Gogh’s famed “Sunflowers” paintings or at least $750 million in punitive damages.

In December, Julius H. Schoeps, Britt-Marie Enhoerning and Florence Von Kesselstatt, heirs of Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, filed a 98-page complaint with an Illinois federal court alleging that Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was forced to sell the painting in 1934 as the result of “racially exclusionary Nazi policies and concomitant coercion calculated to evict Jews from the economy and society of Germany.” They argue that the painting should be returned to his heirs as stipulated in his will.

A Sompo Holdings representative Courthouse News Service that the company “categorically rejects any allegation of wrongdoing and intends to vigorously defend its ownership rights in ‘Sunflowers.’” It displays the painting in a museum housed in its Tokyo headquarters building.

“It is a matter of public record that Yasuda Fire & Marine Insurance Company [Sompo’s predecessor] purchased the Vincent van Gogh ‘Sunflowers’ work at public auction from Christie’s in London in 1987. For over 35 years, the Sompo Museum of Fine Art in Tokyo, Japan has proudly displayed ‘Sunflowers,’” the statement reads.

Sompo International did not return a request for comment in time for publication.

The complaint alleges that Yasuo Goto, president of the Yasuda Fire & Marine Insurance Co. — which was incorporated into Sompo Holdings in 2002 — was aware of the painting’s previous owner when he purchased it at the Christie’s auction in 1987. It was sold for $39.9 million, at the time a record high price for a painting sold at an auction.

In 2001, a Yasuda representative wrote to the Art Institute of Chicago ahead of an exhibition including the painting that the company was “deeply concerned” and that its provenance had not been further investigated. The company displayed the “Sunflowers” work at the Art Institute anyway, and, according to the complaint, concealed the story behind its original sale from U.S. authorities, in violation of the National Stolen Property Act of 1934.

“By knowingly and fraudulently exploiting a Nazi-tainted painting in the U.S. for commercial gain, Sompo Holdings has violated multiple U.S. domestic and foreign policies,” the complaint states.

Representatives for the heirs declined to speak on the record.

Some art experts have argued the painting, the most famous in van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” series, is a forgery.

Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was a member of the prolific German-Jewish Mendelssohn family, whose members included composer Felix Mendelssohn and Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. In the late 1700s, family members founded the Mendelssohn & Co. banking house, which became the largest private bank in Berlin. Facing Nazi persecution, they were forced to close Mendelssohn & Co. in 1938.

According to the complaint, Nazi laws that targeted Jewish banks crippled Mendelssohn-Bartholdy financially, forcing him to sell some works in his art collection — which included pieces by Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Georges Braque. He died in Germany in 1935 of a heart attack.

Other members of the family were forced into exile, committed suicide while under arrest by the Gestapo or went into hiding and abandoned their Jewish names.

The complaint is only the latest in an ongoing saga as Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s heirs seek restitution of his collection. Thus far, they have filed lawsuits against the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the German state of Bavaria for the restitution of five paintings by Pablo Picasso.

Settlements were reached on three of the cases while one — against the National Gallery of Art — resulted in the return of Picasso’s “Head of a Woman” to the family. The case against Bavaria is ongoing, as the Bavarian State Painting Collections refuses to refer the case to the German commission established to address disputed ownership over Nazi-era looted art.

The post Heirs of German-Jewish banker sue for restitution of one of van Gogh’s most famous paintings 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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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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