Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North Heir to Pounds 100m Jewish Art Collection; Lost Paintings in Holocaust Restitution Case

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North Heir to Pounds 100m Jewish Art Collection; Lost Paintings in Holocaust Restitution Case

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Warburton

THE long-lost Northumberland descendent of a Jewish art collector is in line for a share of a pounds 100m fortune following a Holocaust restitution claim, it emerged last night.

During the Second World War, Jenny Steiner and her two sisters fled their home in Vienna, Austria, following the Nazi invasions, fragmenting their family across the world.

A collection of more than 18 masterpieces was confiscated by the Nazis - which include the work of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele - and for more than six decades they remained unclaimed, safely held by the Austrian government.

Four years ago, following extensive research by the Jewish Federation, a 70-year-old British doctor was named as the heir to a pounds 100m Holocaust restitution claim.

And now a Northumberland beneficiary, believed to be the nephew or niece of the executor and a second generation descendent of Jenny Steiner, is in line for a substantial share of the haul of 18 paintings.

The executor, who refused to be named, said: "It was quite a bombshell. My cousin was in hospital, but she died the day that the news came that she could have a claim to the assets of the Steiner family.

"I received a phone call from the Federation of Austrian Jewish Communities.

It was completely out of the blue, I'd never heard anything about the family before.

"My cousin was married to an Austrian man who had converted to Catholicism, but he was born Jewish.

"When he died, his mother Daisy wanted her daughter-in-law, my cousin, to inherit her assets under Austrian law, so she adopted my cousin.

"My cousin's husband was the grandson of Jenny Steiner."

The first paintings to be recovered was Klimt's Landhaus am Attersee in 2001, sold for around pounds 18m by Sotheby's in Geneva, Switzerland.

Three paintings by Schiele, worth around pounds 5m each, have also been returned, but the executor believes there are about 14 more to be found.

The executor said: "I'm not exactly a connoisseur, I never knew a thing about art before. I had to learn very quickly about art and about family history.

"It's been an extraordinary experience, and I have no idea when it will end. But it's kept me busy in my retirement, for sure.

"I couldn't guess at how much the full estate is actually worth, and obviously it has to be divided among many relatives. But the Klimts go for more than pounds 20m each, so we will see what happens when the other claims go through."

Jenny Steiner fled to New York but her sister Irinka, who also collected Klimt's paintings, was killed in the Holocaust.

A third sister, Serena, escaped from Austria but died before the end of the war. It is believed Klimt painted a portrait of Serena. …

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