Family Card - Person Sheet
Family Card - Person Sheet
NameKlaus Wolfgang (Claude) CASSIRER 781,110
Birth27 Apr 1921, Berlin
Death25 Sep 2011, San Diego
MotherEva Charlotte CASSIRER (1901-1921)
Birth19 Feb 1920, Cleverland, Ohio, USA
Marriage29 Jan 1944, Cleverland, Ohio, USA110
ChildrenAva Lenore (1951-)
 David Highland (1954-)
Notes for Klaus Wolfgang (Claude) CASSIRER
See also Notes, Misc Note 2. (includes “Thyssen museum says it is legal owner of alleged Nazi-looted masterpiece”1047 )

Klaus’s mother Eva died the year he was born (from influenza - an epidemic was sweeping Europe). As a result of her death, he grew very close to his grandmother, Lilly, and thus it had special meaning for him in his efforts in later life to try to recover the painting taken by the Nazis in exchange for exit visas for her and her famous husband, Prof. Otto Neubauer, the head of the teaching hospital in Munich before the war.

As a child, Klaus first studied in an English school in Prague. But already he found it difficult with the growing level of antisemitism. 1048 Then he was offered the possibility to go on a school trip to study in England, which with his father’s support, he did. It then became inappropriate to return to Germany and in 1936 Barbara and Werner Falk returned from their honeymoon in Australia and helped Klaus enrol in Dauntseys School in the UK. By now he was 15 years old. He would stay with Barbara and Werner on holidays. Barbara remembers him as a very nice boy. He gained some standing because he could translate Hitlers’s speechs for students and staff alike.

Eventually he put an ad in the paper asking if anyone would assist a young jewish guy who needed lodging. Terrence O’Neil, a young establishment man who had an apartment in a leading part of London, responded because he knew about the plight of jews in Germany, and offered Claus free accommodation, which he accepted. Claus said that his father insisted that he check the standing of O’Neil, which Claus with some considerable embarassment did, only to find that O’Neil was connected in the highest circles, and had an impecable reputation.

Claus stayed at O’Neil’s apartment until eventually a friend suggested that to further his education they should go to Paris where they would learn fluent French. So they did. This was of course a bad mistake.

He eventually made his way out of Paris and to the USA. There he had a series of jobs and eventually applied to be a photographer’s assistant working for a company that did the manufacture of displays. However, the photographer was a drunkard and was fired after some months. So then Claus became the chief photographer, learning on the job.

Later when he met Beverly and decided to marry he felt that he would be best to specialise in Childrens photography. Beverly had many friends in Cleverland who were just setting up their married lives and so Claus found it easy to get an entre into the Cleverland jewish community. There his work was greatly appreciated and his photographic albums became famous. Families would book him up to a year in advance to take their wedding photos. They would then call him back at important stages in their lives - birth of children, bar mitzvars, etc.

Claus changed his name to Claude when he was naturalised as a US citizen. He and Beverley adopted two children of whom they are very proud.

He is now petitioning the Spanish Govt for the return of the Painting "Rue St.-Honoré, Après-Midi, Effet de Pluie," a Parisian street scene painted by Camille Pissarro in 1897 - see opposite.1049 The painting has been valued at around $US 6 million.

Account from Literature of the Holocaust: CLAUDE CASSIRER:1050 Claude Cassirer must be a clever person. He escaped capture by fleeing from Berlin to Prague, Prague to England, then (for some reason) from England back to occupied Paris, then Paris to Casablanca where somehow he arranged a boat to New York City. Here are his comments about his attitudes today.

I'm not comfortable with men's organizations. I like women and enjoy being with them. My other involvements are with political campaigns. I'm also a member of the Federation's Speakers Bureau. I feel I have a message to give. I'm sensitive to anything that reminds me of Germany. When they had this no-knock law, for example, that was too close to Gestapo technique for me--or that certain books were to be banned, or sterilization of groups of people. I'd like people to think of such things carefully and see the frightening implications. I want to resist this feeling of hopelessness that people get. They think they can't change the course of history. That's not true. I think there are people who have the guts and courage to do things and we should help them. I don't think we can dare to take our liberties for granted.

Anything can happen here. When I saw the faces of the people in the South preventing the black people from going to certain schools and using German police dogs and fire hoses they looked no different than the Nazi stormtroopers with their dogs fighting the Jews. People are people. The Germans are no worse than others. If the government becomes immoral and sanctions such things there is danger for everyone.

If there's any hope of survival for the Jews they must unite and stand for what they believe. They must not hide. I found that out when the Jews of Germany said they were not Jewish, and Goering said, "I'll decide who's Jewish."

I have confidence in this country. It is as good a democracy as one can find. That's why I was so disturbed when the Nixon thing happened. The other aspect that troubles me is the crime and violence. I abhor the aggressiveness. I don't watch cowboy movies, with people hitting and shooting one another. I see no sense in such things. “1050
Misc Note 2 notes for Klaus Wolfgang (Claude) CASSIRER
The Pissaro Painting plundered by the Nazis that Spain refuses to return.781

Spain managed to maintain its territory free from World War II, which devastated most of the rest of Europe. Spain, with a small Jewish community, was not, therefore, a place where massive plundering of Jewish property took place. Nonetheless, its strategic situation between Europe, Northern Africa and America and its close political relationship with Nazi Germany and Italy made Spain a suitable environment for the individuals and organizations responsible for the plundering of Jewish-owned art. Their warehouses and logistics were frequently based in Spain.

Historians have discussed the exact degree of involvement of Spain for decades. In 1997, the new Spanish Government led by Mr. José Maria Aznar created a Special Commission to shed light on this matter. Mr. Enrique Mugica, a former Minister of Justice, who was elected by the Spanish Parliament as Ombudsman, was appointed to Chair a Commission named after him (the "Mugica Commission").

The Commission had a balanced membership, including representatives of various departments of the Spanish administration, as well as art specialists and historians. Although some of its findings have been strongly contested outside Spain, in general terms the Mugica Commission fulfilled its duties rapidly and efficiently. It issued a final public report establishing that Spain did not co-operate directly in the plundering activities of the Nazis, nor did it carry out plundering of Jewish property by itself. Nevertheless, the Mugica Commission also confirmed how important Spain had been for hiding, storing and exporting plundered property.

The officially stated low profile kept by Spain during the war has been sometimes understood by Spanish museums and private collectors to mean that their collections do not contain art that may have been stolen from Jewish owners in other countries by the Nazis and their allies. This understanding may, however be wrong. Political continuity from 1936 to 1976 and a smooth transition to democracy made Spain the ideal territory to keep hidden art stolen by the Nazis and an excellent place to transfer plundered works when, due to the efforts of the victims of the Nazi plundering or their heirs and international organizations, other countries became increasingly unsafe for those who sought to keep possession of stolen art.

The role of Spain as a final destination and safe haven for plundered Jewish art is well illustrated by the Cassirers’ case. By the end of the 19th century, the Cassirers were one of the most prominent Jewish families in Berlin. Leading art galleries of the city were developed, supported and managed, at different times, by generation after generation of the Cassirer family. They also were a major force in publishing, frequently in connection with fine art subjects. By the end of the 19th century, Paul Cassirer was generally considered one of the best (if not the best) art specialists in Germany. Their position as fine arts patrons allowed the Cassirers a personal and privileged contact with most of the leading painters of that period. In 1900, Julius Cassirer bought the painting "Rue de Saint Honoré", by the French impressionist Camille Pissarro, from the artist’s close friend and Paris dealer Durand-Ruel. The painting was subsequently inherited by his son Friedrich and his daughter-in-law Lilly. Pictures from the 1930s show the beautiful Pissarro painting in the living room of the Cassirers’ residence in Munich.

A human disaster followed the rise to power of the Nazis. Mrs. Lilly Cassirer, a widow by then, and her grandson Claude, had to flee Germany. Other members of her family, including her own sister Hanna, who could not escape, were killed by the Nazis in the death camps. A Nazi agent forced Mrs. Cassirer to surrender her Pissarro painting to him. Later on, the GESTAPO seized the painting and included it in an auction in Berlin in 1943. Although Mrs. Cassirer reported the plundering to U.S., German and international restitution authorities, the painting disappeared for decades. The anonymous purchaser of the painting at the 1943 Berlin auction later sold the painting, which was then sold periodically to other parties, who moved the painting from one continent to another, until it was acquired by Baron Heinz Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza for his collection, which was subsequently acquired by the Museum Foundation Collection Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid. Visitors see it now on the walls of the Museum.

In 2001, the Commission for Art Recovery and Mr. Claude Cassirer, sole heir of Mrs. Lilly Cassirer, formally petitioned the Board of the Foundation and the Spanish Government, which controls the Board of the Foundation, to surrender the painting to its legitimate owner, Mr. Claude Cassirer. Since Spain had attended the 1998 Washington Conference and had agreed to the Washington Conference Principles, the Commission had expected the Spanish Government and the Foundation to honor its commitment under the Washington Conference Principles and return the painting. In addition, the Commission believes that Spanish law requires the Spanish Government to return the painting.

The Foundation has, unfortunately, refused to return the painting for reasons such as the statute of limitations, even though the Foundation does not dispute the fact that the painting had been owned by Lilly Cassirer before she was forced to surrender the painting.

The Spanish Government has also refused to take action to return the painting to its proper owner. Moreover, the Spanish Government has refused to meet with the Commission for Art Recovery or to discuss the return of the painting with the Commission for Art Recovery. The Spanish Government has taken the position that the Foundation is a "private" entity, that the painting is private property and not the property of the Spanish Government, and that any claim for the painting had to be filed with the Foundation or the Spanish Courts. The Commission has not accepted the position of the Spanish Government because the Spanish Government (i) provided the funds to acquire the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, (ii) provided the building (and the funds to renovate the building) in Madrid to house the Museum and the Collection, (iii) provided that two-thirds of the Foundation's Board of Directors would be government appointees (with the Minister of Culture serving as the Chair of the Board) and (iv) provided that if for any reason the Foundation would be dissolved, the assets of the Foundation would pass to the Spanish Government.

The Commission for Art Recovery urges the Spanish Government to honor its commitments under the Washington Conference Principles and to return the painting to Mr. Cassirer. The Commission has prepared a "White Paper" on the Cassirer claim, which it delivered to the Spanish Ambassador to the United States in September 2002. (click here to view White Paper)

New York Times783

February 10, 2003 Arts
American Says Painting in Spain Is Holocaust Loot


• Vow to Rebuild Burned Holocaust Museum (Nov 25, 2003)
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ADRID — The Spanish government is refusing to discuss an American citizen's claim to be the rightful owner of an Impressionist masterpiece stolen by the Nazis and now hanging in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum here. The museum is obviously proud of the work, "Rue St.-Honoré, Après-Midi, Effet de Pluie," a Parisian street scene painted by Camille Pissarro in 1897.

"Masterworks," a book dedicated to the best pieces in the Thyssen collection, highlights the Pissarro work and says, "The relationship between the modernization of Paris completed under Napoleon III and the new Impressionist painting achieves its finest representation in this painting." But the museum has little to say about the picture's previous owners. Its catalog entry reads: "Galerie Joseph Hahn, 1976, Thyssen collection," omitting nearly 80 years of history.

Claude Cassirer, an 81-year-old retired photographer in San Diego, can fill in at least the first 40 years: as a child he played in his grandmother's apartment in Germany, where this painting held pride of place until it was seized by Nazi agents. But despite a persistent claim to the Pissarro painting, the Spanish authorities say that the museum is the legal owner and that any claim should be made in the courts, a response that has drawn criticism from American lawyers familiar with the claim.

"The reaction of the Spanish government is quite astonishing," said Charles Goldstein, special counsel to Ronald S. Lauder, who heads the Commission for Art Recovery, based in New York. "Why should a government that already has a law relating to the return of Holocaust property refuse to have a discussion on the issue?"

Lawyers assisting in the Cassirer claim note that Spain, which aggressively pursues stolen Spanish art, is party to at least four international agreements aimed at restoring looted artworks to their rightful owners. Three are aimed at Holocaust victims. Principles adopted at Washington in December 1998 require states to act "expeditiously to achieve a just and fair solution," and the follow-up forum in Vilnius, Lithuania, in October 2000 asked governments "to undertake every reasonable effort to achieve the restitution of cultural assets looted during the Holocaust era to the original owners or their heirs." The Council of Europe's Resolution 1205 of 1999 says, "Bodies in receipt of government funds which find themselves holding looted Jewish cultural property should return it" or pay compensation at the full market value. Full market value for "Rue St.-Honoré" might be as much as $6 million, a leading auction house said, although family members said it could be worth more.

"It is also of great emotional value," Mr. Cassirer said in a telephone interview. "Everything was lost in Europe, my family, my life." As a child, he said, he often played in the apartment. "It was part of my life," he said, "and I want the painting back for no other reason than that."

Mr. Cassirer's great-grandfather, Julius Cassirer, bought the work from Durand-Ruel, Pissarro's Paris dealer, only a few months after it was painted. The Cassirers, a family of publishers and gallery owners, imported many major Impressionist works into Germany. This particular Pissarro painting was inherited by Julius's son Friedrich, and when he died in 1927 passed to his widow, Lilly, a distant cousin and herself a Cassirer. Claude, still a baby when his mother died in the influenza epidemic that ravaged postwar Europe, spent much of his childhood with his grandmother, Lilly, and remembers the picture well.

Although Claude Cassirer and his father left Germany for Britain shortly after Hitler's rise to power, Lilly and her second husband, Otto Neubauer, remained in Munich. In 1939 they were forced to surrender the painting to the Nazis before fleeing to England. The painting was auctioned by the Gestapo in 1943, Mr. Cassirer said. After the war Lilly Cassirer took legal action to reclaim the work, and in 1958 the West German government acknowledged her to be the legal owner of the painting, paying her 120,000 German marks to compensate her suffering. Under the agreement, she retained full rights to the painting, but she died in 1962 without having found the work, leaving Claude as her sole heir.

Almost four decades later a friend of Mr. Cassirer bought a book about Pissarro with a photo of "Rue St.-Honoré." "We were very excited when we found out about this," Mr. Cassirer recalled. But that was in 2000, and "we've been fighting them ever since."

Lawyers in the Madrid office of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, who represent the Commission for Art Recovery, said they had passed the claim and all the supporting documentation on to the Spanish Culture Ministry and to the Thyssen Foundation, a body set up in 1993 by the Spanish government, which paid $338 million to buy Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen's collection. The Thyssen Foundation replied with a fax saying that the baron had bought the painting legally.

A ministry official wrote that the painting was the sole responsibility of the foundation. Eight of the foundation's 12 trustees are appointed by the government, and the chairman is the minister of culture. The Thyssen Museum refused requests for an interview, though the curator, Tomas Llorens, issued this statement, "Advisers to the museum have examined the request and assured us there is no legal basis to the claim, a response we have passed on to the family." The Culture Ministry refused requests for interviews with the minister and three other officials who sit on the Thyssen board.

A spokesman for the ministry said there was no legal basis for the Cassirer claim, saying that it was beyond the statute of limitations, and that the foundation held good title to the painting. He suggested that Mr. Cassirer file a lawsuit.

But the commission's Madrid lawyers said there was no statute of limitations, since the case fell under Spain's extensive genocide laws, and that Spain's criminal and civil code required the restitution of stolen property, even if held by a third party in good faith. "We are trying not to take the government to court but to encourage it to comply with the various international treaties Spain has signed," said Juan Picon of Squire, Sanders in Madrid. "But we think their arguments would be very easily dismissed."

The Spanish diplomat who led his delegation to the Washington and Vilnius conferences has been assigned abroad, and Foreign Ministry officials would not comment.

But Mr. Cassirer is a determined man. After completing his education in Britain, he was visiting France when war broke out. Traveling with a German passport marked with a J for Jew, he was interned as an enemy alien but managed to get to Morocco, where he survived typhoid fever before sailing for America.

"Fortunately I was always a little step ahead of Hitler," he said, "but it wasn't easy." Now his two children are preparing to continue his struggle: "So don't think this will die with me."


Thyssen museum says it is legal owner of alleged Nazi-looted masterpiece1047
Tue Feb 11, 2:47 PM ET
By MAR ROMAN, Associated Press Writer
MADRID, Spain - Spain's Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum insisted Tuesday that it was the rightful owner of an alleged Nazi-looted art masterpiece being claimed by a U.S citizen and said that any demand on the painting should be made in court. "The painting was bought legitimately by the Thyssen Museum," said Carlos Fernandez de Henestrosa, the museum's managing director in Madrid. "It was a legal and transparent operation." U.S. retired photographer Claude Cassirer, 81, claims he is the rightful owner of the 1897 "Rue de Saint Honore Apres Midi, Effet de Pluie (Saint-Honore street in the afternoon. Effect of rain)," painted by French artist Camille Pissarro. Cassirer claims the impressionist painting was misappropriated from his family in 1939 by the Nazis in Germany. Fernandez de Henestrosa said the museum has documents to prove that the late Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza bought the painting in 1975 from Joseph Hahn, a New York gallery. "The Pissarro painting has been hanging on a wall for 25 years, first in Lugano, Switzerland, and then in Madrid" he said. "There is no possibility of claiming it back." He said the museum's lawyers had received two letters in 2001 and 2002 from a North American legal firm in the name of Cassirer claiming the painting and warning of a press campaign. He said they found Cassirer's demand unfounded. "They have sent us letter but they haven't started legal procedures before a judge. That's what they should do," he said. Juan Picon of the U.S legal firm Squire, Sander & Dempsey in Madrid dismissed Thyssen's defense and said that the case falls under international treaties aiming at restoring looted artworks to their former owners. He said they were awaiting a definitive answer from Spain's Culture Ministry. "Although the Spanish government is the latest owner of the painting, stolen properties must be given back," Picon said. "We hope we can reach an friendly agreement as we don't intend to take the Spanish government to court," he added. No one was immediately available for comment at the Culture Ministry. Cassirer, who lives in San Diego, California, told reporters this week that the painting was bought by his great- grandfather from Pissarro's agent in Paris. Cassirer said he recalls seeing it hanging in his grandmother's apartment in Germany where he spent much time as a child.


A Rare Insider's View of Holocaust Recovery Efforts, March 30, 20031051

Reviewer: Claude Cassirer from San Diego, California Having lived through the Holocaust, and as someone personally involved in ongoing efforts to recover art works stolen by the Nazis, I found Mr. Eizenstat's new book both revealing and insightful.

Pissarro's Impressionist masterpiece "Rue St. Honore, apres midi, effet de pluie," stolen from the Cassirer family by the Third Reich in 1938, is currently being held, in violation of international law, by the Spanish government in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid. Mr. Eizenstat has selflessly provided much needed assistance to our family in connection with our efforts to effect its return.

"Imperfect Justice" illustrates, from a rare insider's point of view, the many challenges of typically difficult, complex and not infrequently controversial recovery efforts, and how these obstacles have been overcome on behalf of Holocaust victims and their families. The author's remarkable descriptions of how compensation agreements were forged, and many other fascinating details he shares from his first-hand experience on the "front line" of Holocaust recovery efforts are really most compelling. I encourage everyone interested in the "unfinished business" of the Holocaust to carefully read this unique work of non-fiction by a key figure in these extraordinary matters. 1051
Last Modified 8 Jul 2012Created 21 Mar 2024 by Jim Falk