Kainer Heirs Sue UBS Over Nazi-Looted Degas

Edgar Degas

According to the New York Times; the descendants of Jewish collectors Ludwig and Margret Kainer, whose fortune, and art collection was sized by the Nazis during World War II, have begun legal proceedings against executives at the Swiss bank UBS , claiming that they neither received nor were made aware of any assets subsequently recovered by the bank.

Margret Kainer and her father, Norbert Levy, had a long-standing relationship with the Swiss Banking Corporation – which merged with Union Bank of Switzerland in 1998 to form UBS – Not only did the corporation manage the family’s vast wealth, but they also oversaw a foundation set up by Levy for his daughter before his death.

Mrs. Kainer and her husband fled to France at the rise of Nazi power, with most of their holdings were confiscated. Yet the foundation was safe in Switzerland for the majority of the war and provided the Kainers with 800 Swiss francs per month, that is – until the funds ran out in 1944. The foundation with the death of Mrs. Kainer in 1968. Their most direct descendants are the 12 children and grandchildren of Mrs. Kainer’s cousins as the Kainer’s died childless.

The recovered assets include Edgar Degas’s ‘Danseuses’ (1896), which fetched £6 million at Christie’s in 2009. The £1 million share of the proceeds from the sale, plus other funds including war reparations paid by the German government, were added to a foundation set up by one of the bank’s senior managers, officially meant to support the education of Jewish youths – with the family’s descendants never receiving their percentage of the recovery.

The West German government agreed to pay a lump sum to the family in 1970 – but at that time the heirs were apparently “unknown”.

When contacted by the Times, UBS claimed that the bank was only a “bystander” in the case and declined to comment further.


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