Windmill Program for April 27th
Ernie, you missed a great program. We know you are “looking” forward to a full recovery from cataract surgery. Get well soon!
BRIAN BUMPUS led the Pledge. LENNY (he’s a real gem) FRIEDMAN led us without piano (“Acapulco” according to PREXY DON) through “You Are My Sunshine.” PDG ANDY ANDERSON provided the Invocation, with wise words from Rotary Founder Paul Harris about how our occupation provides us with a great opportunity for service above self.
PREXY DON reported that there were no visiting Rotarians at our meeting. We did, however, have a guest: SALLY BRANDT brought her brother, DAVID BRANDT, who hails from Montana.
PREXY DON announced that: (1) JACK HARRIS is recovering nicely from last week’s automobile accident, and we are hopeful he can join us next week; and (2) ERNIE WOLFE is “having his body fumigated!” Actually (and if you read the introduction you would already know), Ernie is having cataract surgery on the day of our meeting, and won’t be “seeing” us for a bit (hopefully he’ll be back next week).
PREXY DON also announced that the District is putting on a program about Homeland Security at Harbor College in Wilmington on May 10, 2006 (from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m.). Federal and California state home security officials will be speaking (weapons will be checked at the door).
REZA BUNDY then volunteered that he was three minutes late getting to our meeting. PREXY DON asked Reza how he felt; Reza replied, “I feel fine.” PREXY DON then proceeded to fine REZA BUNDY only $50, since he had “volunteered” for it. PREXY DON then asked TERRY WHITE, SR. how he felt. Terry replied, “I think I feel fine, too.” So PREXY DON fined TERRY WHITE, SR. $50. Isn’t it good to see the 4 Way Test in action?
MARK BLOCK introduced our Speaker, E. Randol Schoenberg, an attorney with the law firm of Burris & Schoenberg located in Brentwood. I’d like to thank ELLIOTT TURNER for asking and arranging for Mr. Schoenberg to speak to us. Mr. Schoenberg’s topic was most interesting: a case concerning the recovery of six world-famous paintings by the artist Gustav Klimt, stolen during the Nazi era from Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer which were residing in an Austrian museum. These paintings, which include the famous portrait of his client’s aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, are currently on display at LACMA through sometime in June while his clients figure out what to do with them (they are worth about $250-300 million).
Mr. Schoenberg started by aptly noting he had just this morning spoken to a kindergarten class on this subject, and he was informed that perhaps he should keep his talk on the same level given our audience. Randol’s family has lived in Brentwood for 71 years (his father still lives in the house in which he was born). Randol also lives in Brentwood, with his wife and three young children.
Randol’s client is Maries Altman (who many WVRC club and auxiliary members know). Ms. Altman, who is now 90 years old, was born in Vienna, Austria. Her aunt and uncle were Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer (who died in 1925). The Bloch-Bauers were wealthy, and owned a large art collection. When the Nazis came to power in Austria, Ferdinand first fled to Czechoslovakia, and then to Switzerland. The Nazis confiscated all of his property, including his vast art collection, which wound up in (among other places) the private collections of Hitler and Goering.
Ferdinand died in November 1945. In Adele’s will, she asked Ferdinand to gift the paintings to Austria. Ferdinand, however, gifted his estate (including the paintings) to his nephew and two nieces.
After WWII, the Allies put all of the art stolen by the Nazis in Munich for redistribution to their “country of origin,” rather than trying to return the art to the victims from whom they were stolen. The Klimt paintings went to Austria, where they were housed in a state art museum for over 50 years.
In the latter 1940’s, Ferdinand’s heirs attempted to get the art collection back. They were coerced into “gifting” the Klimt paintings to Austria in order to get an export license for the rest of the collection to be taken out of Austria. Austria subsequently passed a law allowing claims to be made for the return of artwork which had been “gifted” to the state in return for the export licenses.
Ms. Altman made a claim for the return of the Klimt paintings. The Austrian Commission in charge ruled that the paintings were given to Austria by Adele under her will when she died in 1925. This, however, was wrong, as Ferdinand kept the paintings after Adele’s death, and bequeathed them to his heirs.
Since the Austrian courts required Ms. Altman to pay a $2 million filing fee to sue there, Randol decided to sue Austria in US Federal Court under a statute that allows such claims where an instrumentality of a foreign government takes someone’s property, and that instrumentality conducts business in the United States. Austria fought the lawsuit every step of the way, but was told by the trial court, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and finally the United States Supreme Court (based on Randol’s fine arguments) that Austria was subject to suit here for return of the paintings to Los Angeles resident Ms. Altman.
Randol ultimately prevailed on Ms. Altman’s behalf in an arbitration conducted in Austria by agreement of the parties. Make sure you see this wonderful artwork during their temporary residence at LACMA.
PREXY DON left us with the following thought to ponder: How come bra is singular, and panties is plural? (You should only answer this question at home, if you dare at all).