WASHINGTON -- A three-judge federal appellate court heard brief oral arguments Wednesday in what art experts say could be the last great Holocaust-era art restitution case, one with a California connection, but issued no ruling.
The unusual case was brought by heirs and relatives of a legendary Hungarian art collector in a dispute over possession of more than 40 artworks valued at $100 million -- including some paintings in the collections of Hungarian museums -- that were stolen by the Nazis during World War II.
The lead plaintiff is David de Csepel of Altadena, Calif., great-grandson of Jewish banker Baron Mór Lipót Herzog. His once vast collection included paintings, sculptures and other works by such artists as El Greco, van Dyck, Velázquez, Renoir and Monet.
Arguing that Hungarian courts acted unjustly by failing to return the paintings or pay restitution to Herzog’s relatives, the lawsuit seeks to use U.S. courts to press the claim against the government of Hungary, three of its museums and a university.