Holocaust Survivor Ordered to hand over artifact to museum

Jodi - posted on 06/04/2012 ( 5 moms have responded )





Family of Holocaust Survivor Ordered to Return Artifact (Dennis Clark/Polaris via Newscom)A Brooklyn court has ordered the family of a Holocaust survivor to return a 3,200-year-old artifact to a German museum.
The Assyrian artifact is a golden tablet about the size of a passport photo that was looted from the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin during World War II, according to court papers.

The tablet was discovered in 1913 by a group of German archeologists in Iraq, court papers read. It was placed in the Berlin museum in 1926, but when an inventory was conducted in 1939, the tablet was missing.

The looter has been pegged as Auschwitz survivor Riven Flamenbaum.

"He was at Auschwitz for a period of almost five years," Flamenbaum's daughter, Hannah Segal, told ABC News. "The Germans put him into forced labor and he walked out of there by some miracle.

"The tablet represented his ability to survive," she said. "It represented a dark period in my parents' lives and lives of Jewish people."

Flamenbaum left Auschwitz in 1945, when he was sent to a camp in Germany.

It was not clear how he obtained the tablet, but when he and his wife immigrated to the United States four years later, the tablet was one of his most prized possessions.

"This was never something that was going to make him rich or he was going to sell," said Segal, 60. "It was a memento, a legacy. I never knew a grandfather, aunt, uncle or cousin. No family. The tablet is our legacy."

When Flamenbaum died in 2003, his children found the golden square in his estate.

The museum sued for its return in 2010, but a Nassau County Surrogate Court judge ruled in favor of the Flamenbaum family, saying the museum never reported the tablet as stolen.

"The museum sat on their rights for 60 years and now they say they're entitled to it," Segal said.

A recent appellate court ruling reversed the Nassau County decision, ordering the tablet to be returned.

The family's attorney, Seth Presser, said most similar cases involve a Holocaust victim trying to reclaim stolen property taken by the Nazis, not a museum going after a survivor.

"The time frame is a huge factor, as is the emotion of the case," Presser said. "This tablet was one of the first things he had in his hands when he came to this country. He raised three children. He started a new life here, and now they're being chased down by his past."

But attorney Raymond Dowd said otherwise.

Dowd, who represented the museum and has served family members of Holocaust survivors in the past, said having the tablet returned to Germany is a "victory for the museums of the world."

"This a public treasure for scholars of the world," Dowd said. "It's a rare artifact, and the world scholars deserve to study it. It doesn't belong in private hands."

I have to say, I agree with the order. It was in fact, a stolen relic that, nowhere in the article states, originally belonged to the survivor in the first place. It sucks for the survivor for sure, and the museum should have reported it stolen as soon as they found out. But in the end, it was the museums to begin with, it wasn't his and it really does belong in a museum. Just my original thoughts, but I think I could easily be swayed to believing he should have been allowed to keep it regardless...maybe. lol


Lady Heather - posted on 06/04/2012




But if someone gives me a stolen diamond necklace as a gift, does that make it mine?

Of course the really funny thing about this is the museum also stole it as they steal most of their wares. I say this as someone with an archaeology degree. It's kind of an uncomfortable thing for me. Nowadays artifacts are collected in a more ethical manner. This thing though...they went, they saw, they took whatever the fuck they felt like I assume. And once museums get their hands on something they rarely repatriate. Yet here they are asking these folks to do what they don't do. It's all very amusing.


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Stifler's - posted on 06/04/2012




They should buy it from him if they want it. Possession is 9/10ths of the law.

Johnny - posted on 06/04/2012




I could maybe support this if it were Assyrians or whoever lives there now requesting their tablet back, but this just seems like one thief asking the thief who took it from them to give it back. Perhaps an arrangement could be made that the family retains ownership but "lends" it to the museum.

Jodi - posted on 06/04/2012




"I would think there was a statute of limitations on something like this. " I think I agree. There should be a statute of limitations on how long the museum (or whomever) can wait before reporting something stolen, 60 years is just ridiculous. I do not think though, there should be for the length of time something is gone, if that were the case, I would steal tons of stuff, hide it until the length of time was up, and then sell it or whatever. (well, I wouldn't, but I could see ppl doiing this.)

But if someone gives me a stolen diamond necklace as a gift, does that make it mine?

Exactly, even if *you* didn't steal it, it is in fact a stolen item. If someone stole a family heirloom of yours, gave it to a friend for surviving breastcancer, and you found out a decade later...would you really not want it back? I would.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 06/04/2012




I would think there was a statute of limitations on something like this.

Considering what his family has gone through, I think the museum should have at least given them some sort of compensation as a "thank you" for taking "care" of it for so many years. Clearly this item has much sentimental value, and stands for freedom and survival, among other things that I can only imagine. This was a family heirloom. Who knows how the item came into his possession, for all they know it could have been a gift. It doesn't matter. I do feel the museum either should not have gone searching for it, or could have given a monetary compensation.

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