Today: May 28, 2024
May 17, 2010

Germans lost their art, too

Family says Albright’s father took paintings When Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs researched his biography on Madeleine Albright, he helped revive a claim against Albright’s family concerning artwork allegedly appropriated by her father, the late Czechoslovak diplomat Josef Korbel.

The descendants of the family that originally owned the works of art – which include paintings by Italian and Flemish masters – are publicly pressing their claim against Albright. However, the U.S. secretary of state last year turned the matter over to her brother, John Korbel, whom Dobbs says is in possession of at least two of the disputed paintings.

The claim is being pressed by Philipp Harmer, the great-grandson of German industrialist Karl Nebrich, who owned a Prague apartment later given to Josef Korbel after World War II.

Like most other German-speakers living in Czechoslovakia, Nebrich and his family were expelled from the country under the postwar Benes decrees. They were forced to leave behind several paintings, as well as silver and valuable Renaissance furniture.

Harmer said he was raised on stories that Korbel spotted marks on the wall indicating that the apartment had had paintings. Korbel found them by pressuring a maid who had been trying to hide them for their former owners, according to the family version.

Dobbs said he confirmed that the paintings were in the Albright family’s possession after he visited John Korbel for interviews about his sister. Harmer had provided Dobbs with sketches of the paintings, and Dobbs said he spotted two of the contested works.

Harmer, who lives in Vienna, still does not have the paintings, and he said May 12 that he holds Albright and her lawyers responsible for that. “There is no doubt that her father stole everything,” he said.

Michael Evan Jaffe, a lawyer for John Korbel, has said that “there is no basis whatever for thinking that any art works of the late Ambassador [Josef] Korbel came to him improperly.”


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Radek John
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