Survivor of holocaust’s Nazi art case is revivedNEW YORK - A federal appeals court has given new life to a Holocaust survivor’s claim that the University of Oklahoma is unjustly holding a Camille Pissarro painting the Nazis stole from her father during World War II.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan has directed a lower-court judge to consider whether the lawsuit she threw out should be transferred to Oklahoma.
The court’s order Thursday came as the school found itself amid a racial controversy after video of fraternity students engaged in a racist chant spread across the Internet. University President David Boren ordered a fraternity house closed and expelled two of its members after reviewing clips of the chant that referenced lynching and said blacks would never be allowed to join the fraternity.
The school and Boren are defendants in the lawsuit brought in 2013 by 75-year-old Leone Meyer, who lives in Paris. She maintained she is entitled to Pissarro’s 1886 “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep’’ because it belonged to her father when it was taken by the Nazis as German forces occupied France.
Swiss records show Meyer’s father in Paris had owned the painting. But a Swiss court ruled that its postwar owners had properly established ownership and rejected her claim.
Bequeathed to OU by Clara Weitzenhoffer, the wife of oil tycoon Aaron Weitzenhoffer, the school displayed it publicly for over a decade. The Weitzenhoffers bought the painting from a New York gallery in 1956. When she died in 2000, she donated more than 30 works worth about $50 million to the university.
In an emailed statement Saturday, Oklahoma University spokeswoman Catherine F. Bishop said: “The University is continuing its efforts to work with the plaintiffs to determine all the facts in this matter, some of which may still be unknown, and to seek a mutually agreeable resolution.’’
Last year, Boren defended the university’s ownership, saying the school does not want to keep any items it does not legitimately own but also wants to avoid a bad precedent by automatically giving away gifts it receives to anyone who claims them. AP