United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York - 536 F. Supp. 829
The Federal Republic of Germany filed a lawsuit in 1969 to recover two stolen portraits by Albrecht Duerer found in the possession of Elicofon in Brooklyn, New York. The Kunstsammlungen zu Weimar museum and the Grand Duchess of Saxony-Weimar both claimed ownership of the paintings and were granted the right to intervene as plaintiffs. The court ruled that Elicofon could not have acquired good title to the paintings, even if he purchased them without knowledge of their source, as they were stolen property. The court confirmed that a thief cannot transfer good title to a purchaser, even if the purchaser acted in good faith, according to BGB § 932. The court also confirmed that Military Government Law No. 52 voided any transfer of cultural property, making it illegal to transfer or acquire any property without authorization from the Military Government. The court upheld the authority of the American Military Occupation Forces to promulgate Law No. 52 to protect public art treasures in Thuringia and Schwarzburg. The court determined that New York law governs the question of title, and Elicofon did not acquire title under Ersitzung. The statute of limitations for the action was tolled from 1949 to 1974 when the German Democratic Republic was not recognized by the US government. The court found that the action commenced in 1969 would not have been time-barred, even if the cause of action accrued in 1946.
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