It seems that the years of shivering are coming to an end. According to a decision of the US Supreme Court, the dispute over the so-called treasure wolf, which has started since 2008, cannot be referred to a US court. Nine constitutional judges at the Supreme Court decided unanimously in Washington on Wednesday that the matter involved German internal affairs and sent the case back to the US District Court.
It was there that the heirs of the Union of Artifact Dealers, who lived in the United States and sold a total of 42 parts of the medieval church treasure from Braunschweig Cathedral to the Prussian state in 1935, sued for surrender. Today medieval crosses, relics, and support pogroms are at the Berlin Museum of Decorative Arts, under the auspices of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.
In response to the lawsuit, the latter called on the Supreme Court to clarify jurisdiction. The foundation’s president, Hermann Barzinger, welcomed the Constitutional Court ruling: “The SPK has always held the view that the case does not concern a US court.” He is now looking to present the legal arguments to the district court as to why the case was filed for the refusal.
The case is not over yet
The expectation appears to be justified, because the now responsible court must follow the higher instance’s decision. Judge John Roberts had stated in the ruling that American law could not be decisive for the entire world. Nevertheless, Roberts assigned the District Court with the task of examining the heirs’ argument that their ancestors were not German citizens at the time of the sale.
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So it was not completely over for the Prussian establishment. From the start, the purchase was described as a “fair deal,” which the Limbach Commission confirmed to it in 2014. Jewish art dealers bought the church treasure for 7.5 million DM in 1929 from the noble Welvin family, and in 1935 sold part of it to the Prussian state for 4.25. Millions of German marks. According to the foundation, this was in no way done under pressure, say the lawyers for their descendants.
In 2015, the state of Berlin declared the treasure a cultural asset of national value, which means that it can only be exported with the approval of the federal government. Then the heirs turned to the American courts.