My Uncle Claude, a great old guy, died on Saturday. For the past ten years, he and his wife had been fighting to recover a painting that belonged to his family before they lost it during their escape from Nazi Germany. The painting, by Camille Pissarro, now hangs in a museum in Spain, worth an estimated $20 million. The museum has refused to return it, arguing, in essence, that they stole it fair and square. Such is the fate of much of the art looted by the Nazis.
This news story, which ran a few days before my uncle's death, provides the basic information.
I don't know if my uncle's family will succeed in their quest to recover the painting. Legal developments look promising at the moment, and I certainly hope truth and right will win in the end. I just wish my uncle could have lived to see it.
In my story "Liberation," there's a small bit about a painting brought from Germany to the U.S. by Jewish escapees from the Nazi regime. I don't think I realized when I wrote that part that I was telling a family story, or tweaking it to make it right.
Set against the enormity of the Holocaust, one recovered painting isn't much. But it's what my uncle wanted, and it's no more than he deserved.
This is for you, Uncle Claude. I hope the story, the art, turns out the way it was meant to.