Friday, November 15, 2013

No Spoil Of War

The New York Court of Appeals ruled against an estate that contested the claim of a German museum to a 3,000 year old gold tablet recovered by German archeologists prior to World War One.

The tablet was shipped to the claimant museum in 1926, was missing by 1945 and "resurfaced in 2003, when it was discovered in the possession of the decedent..."

The estate of the Nassau County resident and Holocaust survivor claimed that the tablet was  a"spoil of war."

The court:

The "spoils of war" theory proffered by the Estate - that the Russian government, when it invaded Germany, gained title to the Museum's property as a spoil of war, and then transferred title to the decedent - is rejected. The Estate's theory rests entirely on conjecture, and the record is bereft of any proof that the Russian government ever had possession of the tablet. Even if there was such proof, we decline to adopt any doctrine that would establish good title based upon the looting and removal of cultural objects during wartime by a conquering military force.

The court answered a question certified by the Appellate Division. (Mike Frisch)

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