‘Woman in Gold’ and the Politics of Returning Nazi-Looted Art (Listen)

'Woman in Gold' and Politics of

Woman in Gold,” opening in theaters this weekend, depicts the politics and legal hurdles faced by Austrian Jewish immigrant Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) and Los Angeles trial lawyer Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) as they try to secure the return of Altmann’s family-owned Gustav Klimt painting looted by the Nazis.

The painting, depicting Altmann’s aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer, had become a famous museum attraction in Vienna — what some had called that country’s Mona Lisa.

Altmann and Schoenberg won back the painting, as well as other Klimt works taken by the Nazis during their occupation, but that was after an eight-year effort that went all the way to the Supreme Court and the gamble of an arbitration proceeding in Austria.

Schoenberg tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM, however, that the courtroom wrangling to win the return of Nazi-looted art continues, with an estimated 100,000 works of art still at issue, many missing. He’s involved in legal efforts to return 16th century Adam and Eve paintings, now in the possession of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, to the family of a Dutch art dealer who fled Amsterdam with his family in World War II. (The paintings were featured in the opening credits of “Desperate Housewives.”)

“There are many, many cases like that and many, many items that haven’t been discovered,” Schoenberg says. “The 100,000 number — you could put any number on it because it just depends how far down you want to go in people’s possessions.”

The director of “Woman in Gold,” Simon Curtis, has said that his movie is a “love letter to U.S. immigration policy,” as it centers on the relationship with Altmann, who fled Vienna during the Nazi occupation with her husband and then settled in Los Angeles, teamed up in 1998 with Schoenberg, whose grandfather was famous Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg and another Jewish immigrant.

“It seems a timely reminder, as some people are questioning immigration, of how valuable it can be for a lot of individuals and society,” Curtis says.

Listen below:

Curtis talks about why it has taken families and governments generations to fully grapple with the return of artworks.

Listen below:

Schoenberg talks about how Altmann’s escape from Nazi-occupied Vienna with her husband Fritz was actually more harrowing than that depicted in the movie.

Listen below:

Variety‘s David Cohen and U.S. News’ Nikki Schwab talk about the backlash to Indiana’s religious freedom law, and the controversy over new “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah’s past tweets.

Listen below:

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS 124. It also is available on demand.

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  1. Lisa says:

    It’s the family’s painting. There are many, many ways to find out the providence of a painting. It’s doubtful the Nazis even knew what they were doing when it came to destroying the paper trail of the paintings they looted. The problem is now, too many wealthy people own these paintings illegitimately and aren’t willing to give them up even though they probably got them for free or very little from the Nazis.

  2. Hugo Aspinall says:

    I agree with Contessa46’s reply to jhs39’s comment; Maria Altmann and Randy Schoenberg were totally in the right legally. The paintings did not belong to Maria’s aunt, they were not hers to give away to the Austrian Gallery. jhs39 needs to read “Lady in Gold” or see the documentary “Stealing Klimt” to understand the true historical reality!!! The (Austrian) Nazis stole the paintings in 1938 and the post-War Austrian kept hold of them right up until Maria Altmann and Randy Schoenberg got them back!!!

  3. IT 2 IT says:

    “WWII has now emerged.
    —————-The NAZIs were NEVER going to WIN.
    ————————The SOVIETs were to be made the HEROES.
    ——————-Basically, WWII was just
    ———————————globalist mafia research & development
    ————————————————-DISGUISED as WAR.”
    Very Informed Radio
    SWEDEN
    2014

    TAKE HEED

    LOOK at what’s unfolding.

    BEHOLD!

  4. Contessa46 says:

    Mhs39: I see you can write so it baffles my mind that you can not read!!! Try googling the story. In her will she asked that upon her husband death the painting be given to the museum. The Nazis confiscated the painting while he was still alive. In his will he left all his estate to his relatives, which would have included the painting if it was in his possession. He fled for his life and the only account is an oral account. The niece had no first hand knowledge of what her will stated and was not obliged to honor it after Austria Under the Nazis plundered their home and drove them from their country. What the niece did after gaining possession legally does not matter. As for Jews being filled with greed, just look to your greed filled US coorationsrofit and representatives to see the full picture of greed. Jews make up .05% of the total population and have given more to the world than any million people of any other people. Google what Jewish people have co tributes to society. The next time you use your cell phone or need 1 of many vaccines Google who discovered what. Oh, by the way Jesus was a nice Jewish man and died a nice Jewish man!

  5. jhs39 says:

    I haven’t seen the movie and have no intention of seeing it but the trailer suggests the movie is presenting a highly misleading version of what actually happened. In real life the aunt of the character played by Helen Mirren actually left the painting to the museum in her will. The lawyers argued that the painting was never technically hers since the Nazis confiscated it and got the aunt’s will invalidated so the old woman could claim ownership. Even though she claimed her case was never about money she almost immediately sold the painting to a private collector for over 100 million dollars. The actual case depicted in the movie was actually controversial because a lot of people, including some prominent members of the Jewish community, felt that the woman had no moral claim to the painting considering her aunt’s wishes and that the old woman was reinforcing stereotypes about Jews being filled with greed. I didn’t see anything resembling the real story in the movie trailer.

    • 4/04/15 10:31a Variety Ted Johnson Maria Altmanm Woman in Gold
      jhs39: A Quote ”The painting was never Technically hers since the Nazis confiscated it and got the Aunt’s will invalidated” So in effect the Nazis ”Stole” the Painting and then destroyed the legal document showing her legal ownership. Then Maria Altmann sold the painting just like many paintings are sold every day and many of the Artists never see a penny of it, if you would of been in Court, the case would lasted two minutes after reading this.

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