Legal Translators’ Work Can Help Get Back the Art Stolen by the Nazis
There is a growing need for legal document translation services for cases involving looted art and the recovery of property stolen by the Nazi authorities during the Holocaust. And here’s a story ready-made for the big screen. A Jewish patron of the arts who, during World War II and the Holocaust, was forced to flee his home in Austria. In so doing, he left behind priceless works of art that the Nazis looted and kept for themselves. It is also about the legal battle, over a half a century later, pitching the country of Austria against the Jewish patron’s ancestors, who struggled to get the artwork that was rightfully theirs back.
The screenplay practically writes itself. In fact, this very case actually became a popular 2015 Hollywood movie called “Woman in Gold,” starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.
Even the Case of the “Woman in Gold” Needed Legal Translators
The actual case of great art wrongfully stolen by the Nazis is called Austria v. Altmann, 541 U.S. 677 (2004), and it went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although they did not play a part in the movie, professional legal translators had a part to play in this fascinating case. Namely, if it wasn’t for legal translation services such an important case could not even be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court or any U.S. court.
When it comes to international cases, such as cross-border stolen art cases, the nuts and bolts of those cases hinge on the quality of the legal translators who function in the process. Legal translation services transcend the duties of a regular translator. Legal translators need to understand the legal jargon, terms of art, and technical specificity of the language of the law – in any language.
Accordingly, great cases like Altmann could not be heard but for the technical prowess of professional legal translators like the experts at All Language Alliance, Inc. Call 303-470-9555 to learn more about what we can do for your international litigation.
Austria v. Altmann – Art Stolen by the Nazis, Kept by the Austrians
Some critics believe that the 2015 movie “Woman in Gold” was a dull depiction of what was a truly fascinating story. Here is what really happened.
Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jewish sugar magnate and art patron, lived in Vienna, Austria in 1938. His deceased wife, Adele, was the subject of two paintings by the famous Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, and those paintings, along with four others by Klimt lived in Ferdinand’s Austrian home.
– The “Anschluss”
In March 1938, on the day known as the “Anschluss,” the Nazis invaded and annexed Austria. Ferdinand fled the country ahead of the Nazis, but could not save his precious works of art. The Nazis took over Ferdinand’s Vienna home and divided up his works of art, including the extremely valuable Klimts, which ended up in the hands of a Nazi lawyer.
The Nazi lawyer sold three of the Klimts to an Austrian Gallery, sold one to the Museum of the City of Vienna, and kept one for himself. The whereabouts of the sixth painting was never determined. Ferdinand ultimately settled in Zurich in 1945.
– Post WWII, the Austrians Made It Difficult to Export Masterpieces
Once the Nazis were vanquished, Austria enacted a law declaring that all transactions motivated by Nazi ideology were null and void. That law, however, did not result in the returning of many looted works of art. A different legal provision prohibited exporting certain artworks “deemed to be important to Austria’s cultural heritage.” Not long after, Austrian officials began abusing the law to force Jews to donate valuable works of art in exchange for exporting other works.
Ultimately, in the late 1940s, heirs to Ferdinand retained an attorney to investigate the whereabouts of the Klimt paintings. The Gallery falsely claimed that the three paintings in its possession were bequeathed to it by Adele, Ferdinand’s wife. In a strange turn of events, however, the attorney ultimately helped the Gallery keep the three paintings it had, and obtain possession of the one Klimt kept by the Nazi lawyer, and the one the Nazi lawyer sold to the Museum of the City of Vienna.
– The 1998 News Story that Started the Lawsuit
Fast forward to 1998, when a journalist examining the Gallery’s documents discovered that at no time did Adele or Ferdinand ever donate the Klimts to the Gallery. Following the publishing of his report, Maria Altmann, the sole surviving heir to Ferdinand, sought return of the paintings. Austria refused, and Altmann sued in federal court in California.
The case ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was only asked to decide a narrow principle of law. Yet, the outcome of the Court’s decision allowed Altmann to get Austria to submit to non-binding arbitration.
The Austrian arbitration panel ultimately sided with Altmann. This decision was a significant victory because Austria was extremely reluctant to let go of the Klimt paintings, which were worth approximately $150 million dollars, and served as a tribute to Austria’s native artistic genius Klimt.
Legal Translators Make Cross-Border Cases Triable
Stolen art cases are only a tiny portion of the many, many international cases that arise in the U.S. and abroad. None of those cases could be litigated if it was not for the highly technical expertise of legal translators who translate from Hebrew to English, German to English, French to English and from and into Russian, Portuguese, Polish, Dutch, and other foreign languages who assist in ensuring that all parties can speak, and can be heard, in courts throughout the world.
If you are litigating matters across borders, you will need the services of a reliable, professional legal translation service. We welcome you to call All Language Alliance, Inc. at 303-470-9555, and find out how we can make your international litigation go smoothly.