California Family Fights for Painting Taken by Nazis - NBC Southern California

California Family Fights for Painting Taken by Nazis

"These paintings, wherever they are, are the last prisoners of war of World War II," said one of the family members tied to the art pieces

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    Family Fights for Painting Taken by Nazis

    A Jewish family in La Mesa has appealed a federal judge’s ruling allowing a Spanish museum to keep a painting taken from their ancestors as a result of Nazi persecution. NBC 7's Candice Nguyen shares their story on June 19, 2015. (Published Saturday, June 20, 2015)

    A Jewish family in east San Diego has appealed a federal judge’s ruling allowing a museum to keep a painting taken from their ancestors as a result of Nazi persecution.

    The California judge’s ruling declared a museum in Spain is the rightful owner of the Pissarro masterpiece even though the owner was forced to sell it to Nazis in 1939.

    That owner was Lilly Cassirer, the great grandmother of David Cassirer. David spoke exclusively with NBC 7 about the court’s decision from the family’s La Mesa home.

    “I think Ronald Lauder in New York put it best when he said these paintings, wherever they are, are the last prisoners of war of World War II,” he said.

    David’s great-grandmother, Lilly, was forced to sell the painting for a few hundred dollars to Nazis. Today, the masterpiece is worth tens of millions of dollars. David said his great-grandmother had no choice but to give up the art piece.

    The painting was sold to Nazis for a few hundred dollars, the family said.
    Photo credit: NBC 7 San Diego

    “My father assures me she would've gone to one of the worst concentration camps,” David explained.

    An attorney for the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Spain has said the institution acquired the painting in good faith and has had it on public display for more than 20 years.

    U.S. District Judge John Walters ruled earlier this month that the museum owns the masterpiece under Spanish law, however he urged the institution to think about what would be fair to victims of Nazi persecution like the Cassirer family.

    The Jewish Federation of San Diego County has agreed to be a co-plaintiff on the appeals case with the Cassirer family.