Instructors for the PRTP Workshop in Vilnius, Lithuania, December 1-6, 2013
Marc Masurovsky is an historian, researcher, and advocate, specializing in the financial and economic underpinnings of the Holocaust and the Second World War. Born and raised in Paris, France, Mr. Masurovsky holds a B.A. in Communications and Critical Cultural Studies from Antioch College and an M.A. in Modern European History from American University in Washington, DC, for which his thesis was on “Operation Safehaven.” He worked at the Office of Special Investigations of the US Department of Justice researching Byelorussian war criminals, locating primary source documents, and interviewing war crimes suspects in North America and Western Europe. As a result of his early work on the transfers of looted assets from the Third Reich to the safety (safehaven) of neutral and Allied nations, Mr. Masurovsky advised the Senate Banking Committee in the mid-1990s on the involvement of Swiss banks in the Holocaust, then lent his expertise to plaintiffs’ counsels suing Swiss banks on behalf of Holocaust survivors.
Since 1997, Mr. Masurovsky has focused his attention on the fate of objects of art looted by the Nazis and their Fascist allies, and was a founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP). He played a major role in the January 1998 seizure of Egon Schiele’s “Portrait of Wally” and “Night City III” at the Museum of Modern Art of New York and was a director of research for the Clinton-era Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States (PCHA). Since 2004, Mr. Masurovsky has overseen the creation, development and expansion of a fully-searchable, public online database of art objects looted in German-occupied France that transited through the Jeu de Paume in Paris from 1940 to 1944. Mr. Masurovsky is co-author of Le Festin du Reich: le pillage de la France, 1940-1944(2006), and is currently at work on a book on cultural plunder during the Nazi era and its impact on the international art market. He operates a blog on looted art at plundered-art.blogspot.com.
Agnes Peresztegi is a practicing attorney in Budapest, Hungary, a graduate of ELTE University in Budapest (1990, J.D. summa cum laude), the University of Pennsylvania, (1991, LL.M. in International and Comparative Law) and McGill University (1998, LL.M. in Human Rights Law), and is a member of the New York State Bar and the Budapest Bar. As a consultant and Executive Director of the Commission for Art Recovery, Europe, Dr. Peresztegi assists the Commission to find suitable solutions, legislative or otherwise, to the unfinished business of restituting art taken by the Nazis and their collaborators. Dr. Peresztegi has also been legal counsel to private claimants, including, among others, the Herzog and Hatvany families. She has been involved in all issues pertaining to restitution/compensation for human rights violations committed against Hungarian Jewry during WWII: slave and forced labor claims, bank account and insurance claims, and other property claims against Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the United States.
Irina Tarsis is an art historian and a practicing attorney in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from University of Virginia, Harvard University and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She is a member of the New York State and New York City Bar, and the current chair of the Cultural Heritage and the Arts Interest Group of the American Society of International Law. She is the founder and director of the Center for Art Law. Ms. Tarsis conducts provenance research and consults on various art law matters such as restitution, authenticity and property disputes.
In addition to the full-time instructors, a number of specialists from the variety of fields related to provenance research gave presentations during the workshop, including:
Yagna Alsston (Poland) offered the participants an overview of the status of Jewish artists in Krakow before and during the Holocaust. She also pointed out ways in which their works of art were recycled in the postwar Polish art market through specialized galleries and auction houses.
Susanne Anna (Germany), director of the Dusseldorf City Museum, described her responsibilities and duties as the director of a German museum in a city with a rich cultural past and how she applies the highest standards of due diligence in the acquisition and display of cultural objects.
Pavel Ilyin (USA) is a geographer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC; he discussed 20th century boundary changes in Eastern Europe from a geo-historical perspective in an effort to highlight the importance of geographical markers in provenance research.
*Shir Kochavi (Israel) is a researcher at the Company for Location and Recovery of Holocaust Victims’ Assets in Israel. She discussed the postwar work of the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization (JRSO) in Allied-occupied Germany and Austria as it relates to the creation of art collection in modern Israel. She also discussed the notion of “heirless” cultural property.
Nawojka Lobkowicz-Cieślińska (Poland) is an art historian, provenance researcher and freelance journalist, who introduced workshop participants to the particularities of cultural plunder in the East and the problems of restitution in the immediate postwar era influenced in part by the geopolitical shifts of power that privileged the Soviet Union’s interests over those of the countries that it “liberated” and whose political futures it subsequently controlled.
*Fern Smiley (Canada) discussed the rediscovered archive of the Otto Schneid Collection, which consists of Schneid’s writings about Jewish artists in Europe during the interwar years, his involvement with YIVO in then Vilna during the early 1930s. This unique archive combines both unpublished manuscripts, biographical sketches of many Jewish artists who have never shared the limelight with their more famous brethren like Chaim Soutine or Felix Nussbaum, as well as photographs of their works together with notations about their inter-war locations, a key aid for provenance researchers.
Program organizers thank *Rose Lerer Cohen and staff members of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum for presentations they made regarding 20th century Jewish history in Lithuania.
*Participants making presentations.