The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

February 19, 2014

A family's 70-year quest to regain treasures stolen by Nazis

(Continued)

The art library at UCLA became another resource for the Goodman brothers, who paged through catalogs from exhibitions and art auctions, searching for references to Gutmann holdings. Simon says they soon began to benefit from the Getty Research Institute’s enormous trove of original documents about art.

Their first success — a partial settlement, because of the legal complexities of the claim — was a small pastel landscape by Edgar Degas that a Chicago pharmaceuticals magnate had lent to the Art Institute of Chicago.

The case was grueling and expensive, settled by the businessman, Daniel Searle, in 1998 after a British documentary and CBS’ “60 Minutes” had chronicled the brothers’ underdog fight. When their money was running out, the Goodmans, media-savvy pros of the entertainment industry, applied pressure and rallied support by placing an appeal for help in a national Jewish publication, the Forward.

As time went on, they tried to do as much as possible themselves, saving the expense of lawyers and investigators. The Internet soon came into its own, and that, the brothers said, has made all the difference. From his cubbyhole office overlooking the swimming pool, brick patio and flowering trees in his Beverly Hills back yard, Simon can access the Nazis’ own meticulous files, along with highlights of the Monuments Men archives and much more.

Photographs of brilliant silver and gold tea service vessels that the Goodman brothers tracked down at the Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum in Amsterdam, flank the computer on either side. Portraits of their great-grandparents look over Simon’s shoulder.

Elsewhere in the house hang separate photographs of his grandparents, taken in 1926 by the American expatriate artist Man Ray. Fritz Gutmann, the very image of a resolute businessman, has the same dark eyebrows as Simon. Louise wears fur and a Garbo-esque mien of glamorous detachment.

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