Bookmark this page on your mobile

QR Code image

What is this?

Daily Court Reporter - News New Holocaust-related book examines law and ethics in current battles over Nazi art


New Holocaust-related book examines law and ethics in current battles over Nazi art

The dogged quest of Maria Altmann to retrieve her family’s collection of Gustav Klimpt art seized in Austria during the Nazi era is well known, celebrated in the 2015 highly acclaimed film, “Woman in Gold.”

Altmann’s fight with the Austrian government, as well as other examples of organized theft of fine art during the Nazi regime, are detailed in a new book, “A Tragic Fate: Law and Ethics in the Battle over Nazi-Looted Art,” by author and attorney Nicholas M. O’Donnell. Released by Ankerwycke, an imprint of the American Bar Association, the book provides the first comprehensive overview of looted art disputes in the United States and adds historical and ethical perspectives to art thefts that have gained worldwide attention in the past 20 years.

“A Tragic Fate” puts in context the continuum from the Nazis’ first legislation against Jews to the legal principles that have determined the outcome of some of these ongoing court disputes decades later. The Nazi looting of art and cultural property from Jews in Europe was unprecedented, ranging from a massive and organized plunder by the government for the benefit of German museums, to individual thefts by opportunists and Nazis. When the war ended, the Allies enacted a series of far-reaching laws and regulations to undo seizures of property from Jews. Yet, that effort did not extend to finding the individuals from whom the art had been taken, or their heirs.

After the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, new scholarship and attention culminated in the international Washington Conference on Nazi-Era Assets in 1998 and the announcement of the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art. These principles, and the ethical guidelines from museum associations, changed the perspective of the conversation on the need to find “fair and just solutions” for the victims of Nazi looting and their heirs.

Author O’Donnell is a partner in the litigation department of Sullivan & Worcester LLP in Boston. With a practice focusing primarily on complex civil litigation and art law, O’Donnell represents clients around the world in contract, securities, consumer protection, tort and domestic relations cases, as well as in the commercial art world and the restitution of Nazi-looted art. He is also the editor of the Art Law Report, a blog that provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities.

Title: “A Tragic Fate: Law and Ethics in the Battle over Nazi-Looted Art”

Publisher: Ankerwycke

Pages: 432

Product Code: 1620736

ISBN: 9781634257336

Format: Hardcover

Price: $45

Orders: 800-285-2221 or

What others are saying about ‘A Tragic Fate: Law and Ethics in the Battle over Nazi-Looted Art’

“(O'Donnell's) mastery of the relevant law is nothing short of stunning, and his meticulous parsing of legal detail leaves no stones unturned. ... A brilliant display of legal erudition, combined with historical incisiveness.” — Kirkus Reviews

“A comprehensive, detailed, up-to-date overview of the challenges that the heirs of Jewish collectors —whose art was stolen by the Nazis — face in U.S. courts and the successes and failures of the past. Mining his own practical experience in the complex field of Nazi-looted art, O’Donnell reveals an encyclopedic knowledge of his subject. His book is an essential reference for anyone considering U.S. legal action to recover Nazi-looted art — and as O’Donnell makes clear, such cases are likely to emerge for years to come.”— Catherine Hickley, arts and culture journalist, historian, and author of “The Munich Art Hoard — Hitler’s Dealer and His Secret Legacy”

“O’Donnell delves deep into every case of Nazi-looted that has come before U.S. courtrooms, looking at the ethical and issues involved. He clearly explains the various strategies and tactics used by claimants, museums, and current owners in sometimes tense legal battles and analyzes their outcomes. Looking beyond the United States, he charts the responses to restitution questions in European countries, which vary from token to downright hostile. The book is recommended for anyone seeking an overview of this most tragic subject from the U.S. legal perspective and the efforts to return art to its rightful owners — which continue to this day.” — Georgina Adam, art market editor-at-large, The Art Newspaper; art market contributor, The Financial Times; author, “Big Bucks: The Explosion of the Art Market in the 21st Century”

Go to ABA Legal Fact Check ( for the ABA’s new feature that cites case and statutory law and other legal precedents to distinguish legal fact from fiction.

About the American Bar Association

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.

Date Published: September 20, 2017


American Bar Association


Man sentenced to nearly three years in prison for illegal demolition of former factory

A Cleveland man was sentenced to nearly three years in prison for violating the Clean Air Act by failing to remove asbestos prior to demolishing a former factory in Cleveland, law enforcement officials said.

Seven indicted following drug trafficking investigation

(McConnelsville, OH) Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Morgan County Prosecutor Mark Howdyshell, Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks, and members of the Washington Morgan Noble Major Crimes Task Force announced recently the indictments of seven individuals suspected of operating and/or participating in a large-scale drug trafficking organization with ties to Morgan, Washington, Muskingum, and Franklin counties.

State must prove charter school building operators intended to profit from lease deals

The Ohio Supreme Court recently overturned denials of property tax exemptions sought by the building manager of two Horizon Science Academy charter schools in Columbus. The Court found that state taxing authorities used the wrong standard to conclude the corporation attempted to profit from leasing educational space.

Battelle reveals new anti-drone device

Battelle introduced a new version of the DroneDefender device at the Air Force Association's Air, Space & Cyber Conference's Technology Symposium on recently.

Supreme Court of Ohio heard oral arguments last month, including an appeal of a death penalty sentence for a murderer who found victims through Craigslist

The Ohio Supreme Court heard three oral arguments Tuesday, September 26th, including an appeal from Richard Beasley, an Ohio death-row prisoner who placed ads on Craigslist to lure potential murder victims. He claims that the media coverage surrounding his actions ensured that he did not receive a fair and impartial trial.

Ohio companies tackle health insurers' PA requests

(Columbus) Local companies are seeking to disrupt a practice by health insurers that has been criticized for delaying doctor-prescribed medications for patients.

Defendants charged with intent to distribute 720 kilos of cocaine in first of its kind case in southern Ohio

(Columbus) Four defendants are being transported to Columbus, Ohio today for federal prosecution in the Southern District of Ohio after being charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute approximately 720 kilograms of cocaine. The more than 1,584 pounds of cocaine has an approximate street value of $25 million in total.

AEP honored for economic development efforts

American Electric Power has been recognized by Site Selection Magazine as one of the country's top 10 utilities for economic development.

Attorney General DeWine offers updated information regarding the Equifax breach

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently offered updated information for consumers following the recent announcement by Equifax of a major data breach affecting over 5 million Ohioans. Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting bureaus, has stated that their system was compromised between May and July of this year and includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers.

Public records reboot

Last September, legislation took effect that launched a new way for people who think they’ve been wrongfully denied a public record to challenge their lack of access. The law aims to offer “an expeditious and economical procedure that attempts to resolve disputes” about public records. The appeals are heard in the Ohio Court of Claims, which handles most civil lawsuits against the state, including public agencies and state universities.

PUCO issues Winter Reconnect Order for 2017–2018

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently approved the Winter Reconnect Order to help Ohioans reconnect or maintain electric and natural gas service during the winter heating season between Oct. 16, 2017 and April 13, 2018. Any customer of a PUCO-regulated electric or natural gas utility may take advantage of the order. Last winter heating season, more than 228,000 Ohio utility customers utilized the PUCO’s Winter Reconnect Order.

3 reasons to go cashless

(BPT) The dollar, the euro, the pound, the yen... the currency people use around the world has many different names, but it all shares something in common. Paper forms of currency are out and digital payments are in. The security and convenience of card based electronic payments and digital payments are driving a global shift away from cash. As consumers and merchants around the world become more and more digitally connected this shift will continue to accelerate.

Court had authority to return Akron police officer to prison for wife’s murder

The Summit County Prosecuting Attorney had the right to appeal a judgment declaring a former Akron police captain innocent of murdering his wife, and a common pleas court judge had the right to send him back to prison, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled recently.

Bill gives PUCO submetering oversight

A Republican lawmaker from Worthington believes high-rise residents and those in other residential settings throughout the state are getting a bad deal when it comes to having a say in their utilities.

Bill focuses on vision care practices

Members of the House Insurance Committee are mulling a bill that would eliminate the seemingly arbitrary limitations health insurers impose on vision care services for Ohio consumers.

Trucking industry braces as e-log mandate approaches

Luke Roy said he expects to seem some "headbutting" when most trucking companies must use electronic logging devices by the December deadline.

West Nile Virus confirmed in Ohio horses

The Ohio Department of Agriculture recently confirmed the first positive cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) in Ohio horses for 2017. Multiple cases in different parts of the state have been reported. The horses confirmed to have contracted WNV had not been vaccinated. The spread of WNV in horses is preventable with proper vaccination and horse owners are urged to ensure their animal’s vaccine and boosters are up to date.

Treasurer Josh Mandel announces launch of the Ohio University Checkbook on

Ohio University posts largest amount of checkbook level spending online of any public university in state

Pro teams back fantasy sports bill

Ohio appears to be well on its way to joining 16 other states that have eased gambling laws to permit fantasy sports contests.

Survey: Social Security causing concerns for future retirees

In a new survey, retirees are voicing their concerns over quality of life in retirement.