Rutoma salt store at the Amsterdam Museum Photo: S Boztas

They are a reminder of the opulence of the Dutch “Golden Age”, when the wealthy hosted sumptuous dinners in marble houses facing the canals.

but 4 17th The century-old silver halide cellar, created by Johannes Lutma, a master craftsman and friend of Rembrandt, is claimed to be looted art.

Descendants of Emma Budge, a Jewish woman from Hamburg, say at restitution committee hearing that €3 million, now sitting in the Amsterdam Museum and Rijksmuseum, was wrongfully taken from a family in Nazi Germany. Did.

A previous Return Commission ruling in 2018 already returned a bronze sculpture that was part of the same collection and sold at the very same auction. It labels the Lutoma Silver Cellar as an item with a “controversial” provenance that “could be considered an involuntary loss of title.”

cellar box

The set was once owned by Emma Lanet Budge Lazarus, a wealthy Jew living in Hamburg and an American citizen. His Lothar Fremy, partner at the Berlin law firm Rechtsanwälte Rosbach & Fremy, explains:

“She had a large villa in Hamburg, but was unable to display all the pieces she had purchased, so many of them were stuffed into boxes in the basement.” , the Nazis could not touch her property. [had] I lived in America with my husband. They left her alone for a while.

But it was a different story after she died, according to Steven Schwab, an 81-year-old American attorney and great-nephew of Budge who was childless. and the whole collection,” he claims. “It went to Berlin and was auctioned – I have a catalog.

“I worry about keeping detailed records because everyone always jokes about how specific the Germans were, but in this case they did. It was stolen from our family.


The auction took place on October 4, 1937 at the offices of Paul Graupe/Hans W. Lange in Berlin, says Fremy, and more than 40 descendants of Budge and her husband are now in all 1,020 objects. It claims to represent “losses from persecution.” A form of art looted by the Nazis. Her will authorized a Jewish executor to donate her art collection to museums, but she did not want an auction in Germany and she was among 13 Jewish beneficiaries. She said she divided her property in

For Schwab, who was asked by her 101-year-old aunt and Holocaust survivor Marianne Schwab to enforce a claim against a branch of her family, it’s a clear question of justice. “Of course, the most important thing is that they were taken away illegally,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how old it is. The object was stolen from the Budges, so the Budges have to claim it.

“The danger is that people will say: ‘This has been going on for a long time, but they’ve recovered what they should have recovered. Now it’s fair game.’ I think it exists all over the world in any country in the Westernized world. It’s fair and we believe this is part of our heritage.

Sales catalog Image: Heidelberg University Library


The artistic director of the Amsterdam Museum, Marguerite Schaabmaker, agrees, saying the museum has a duty to continue researching its collections. “We are changing as a society and we are not just accepting things as they are, we understand that all kinds of systemic power struggles are at stake in the world,” she says.

“The museum may have these collections, but do you think they are rightfully there and should be there forever? .

After working on 18 exhibits at the Stedelijk Museum that changed owners under the pressure of the rise of the Nazis, she proactively inquired about works of questionable provenance at the Amsterdam Museum. While keen to ‘do the right thing’ when the Restitution Commission reaches a binding opinion, she said the story of the two Rutma salt cellars currently on display in World War II. In part, it is important to retell this history.

Human race

“On the one hand, they represent the immense wealth of the Dutch in the seventeenth We have these wonderfully decorated salt cellars that we put on the table for fancy banquets,” she explains. was talked about them.

‘[We turn] It became a transfer of ownership story as it had a Jewish owner who had to leave the country. Many Jewish collectors had to sell things to make money to escape, or hide them in case they returned.

A spokeswoman for the Rijksmuseum said two silver halide cellars are currently on display and researchers have shared extensive research into their provenance with the Dutch heritage organization Rijkdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed. rice field. In 2020, welcoming a new approach to repatriation based on a more “humanitarian” basis, general director Taco Divitts said it was a “positive development” for justice to guide decision-making on the looted arts. said.


However, there is some frustration among the Budge family, who took about five years to evaluate Lutma’s claims, especially given their previous ruling to return another item from the same sale.

“My father knew the Budge family very well,” says Schwab. “He knew many of the objects, admired the collection, and felt the same way we did, that they were collected by our relatives and belonged to us. These objects are It’s great to have them on display in museums because they are so beautiful and meaningful, but they need to be resolved and the descriptions of the objects should remind them that these were stolen by the Nazis.

A spokeswoman for the restitution committee told Dutch News that there would be no date to publish a “binding opinion” that would decide the fate of the salted fish.

But reflecting on his family’s story and the scars, losses, looting and escapes of wartime, Schwab adds: “It’s important for people to remember.”

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