The Fate of the Adolphe Schloss Collection
What Happened to the Adolphe Schloss Collection?
In August 1939, Adolphe Schloss’ children arranged for the transfer of their father’s art collection from their parents’ home on 38 Avenue Henri Martin in Paris to the relative safety of bank vaults built into the Château de Chambon, a castle near Laguenne, Corrèze, controlled by the Paris-based Banque Jordaan. A trucking firm was hired to transport the paintings from Paris to the village of Laguenne.
In June 1940, France collapsed and agreed to an armistice with Germany. The Third Republic ceased to exist; it was replaced by a nationalist and antisemitic regime based in the resort town of Vichy but with its capital in Paris. The Vichy regime staked France’s future on a collaboration with Nazi Germany, which now occupied northern and western France. By a quirk of fate, the Château de Chambon, where the Schloss Collection had been stowed, was south of the demarcation line that separated German-occupied France from the unoccupied zone (ZNO), which stretched south of an undulating line that extended southwest to the Spanish border and due east to the Swiss border.
Angerer raid on the Schloss residence
Shortly after the ratification of the Franco-German armistice, Nazi agents aided by French agents and police launched a series of raids against Jewish art dealers and collectors in the Paris region, as well as in the southwest of France, for the purpose of seizing Jewish art collections. A specialized Franco-German unit raided more than twenty Jewish art dealerships and private art collections. Joseph “Sepp” Angerer, a textile specialist closely aligned with and acting on behalf of Hermann Göring, coordinated and oversaw this unit, which included two French officers from the Judicial Police, Inspectors Liénard and Duchez. On 24 July 1940 they paid unannounced visits to six Jewish collectors and dealers across Paris, including the residence of the late Adolphe Schloss. No paintings were found at the Schloss residence.
The Schloss Collection was known to the German museum world and its art historians and experts, who were keen collectors and traders of works by Dutch and Flemish old masters. Karl Haberstock, one of the main figures of the Nazi art world, was acquainted with Adolphe Schloss’ collection. Hans Posse, the first director of the Linz Museum project, noted the Schloss Collection in his diary. If they knew about Schloss, it is likely that Nazi officials whom they served did as well, since Jewish art collections were prioritized as targets for seizure and confiscation. Joseph Angerer’s coordinating role in July and August 1940 suggests that he may have been acting on behalf of Hermann Göring. Had the 333 paintings been found at the Avenue Henri Martin location at the time of the Angerer-Liénard visit, the entire collection would have devolved to the Germans without the French being able to say or do anything about it.
The four-year collaboration between the Vichy regime and the Nazi authorities was a mixture of competition and cooperation, subservience and distrust. With respect to the control of Jewish cultural wealth and assets in occupied France, Vichy and the Nazis were in competition. The Schloss Collection and its 333 paintings became entangled in this rivalry. Their fate was sealed, as French citizens increasingly offered to aid and abet Vichy officials and German agents in locating and seizing Jewish cultural assets abandoned by their fleeing owners, including the Schloss Collection. As the collection was hidden by the family in non-occupied France, it took three years before the National Socialist search for the missing works culminated in the seizure and dispersal of the Schloss Collection.
Inspector Liénard’s hunt for the Schloss Collection
Following the failure of the raid on the Schloss mansion, Inspector Liénard worked closely with Göring’s circle and other Nazi officials on matters pertaining to security and the location of Jewish assets, including art objects. That relationship was formalized in the spring of 1941. He also persisted in his quest to locate the Schloss paintings. While doing so, Inspector Liénard also helped seize many other Jewish-owned art objects for Germany.
Liénard located Mr. Nériec, the truck driver with knowledge of the drop-off site for the crates containing the Schloss paintings. He questioned the driver and obtained an approximate location. Liénard and Commissaire Duchez were introduced to Kurt von Behr, the head of Amt Westen in Paris, an arm of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), whose mission was to plunder the cultural assets of Jews in territories occupied by the Nazis. Von Behr’s head of security, Henri Rigeaux, was well-connected with the Paris criminal milieu and especially the so-called Paris Gestapo, based at 93 Rue Lauriston, which was led by two former police inspectors.
In early 1941, Karl Haberstock, who had a business connection with Parisian gallerist Georges Wildenstein, was approached by a “Jewish woman,” purportedly a Mrs. Loewenstein, while at the Hôtel Negresco in Nice. She allegedly offered him all or part of the Schloss Collection. Haberstock demurred. Across the Rhine, Hans Posse, the first director of the Führersmuseum project, wrote several entries in his diary in late 1940 noting the name and exact location of the Schloss paintings.
Since the Schloss Collection was under the direct purview of the Vichy administration, the German occupiers and their agents had little margin of maneuver for engineering its seizure. This is most likely one of the reasons why it took so long for the Germans to participate in the confiscation of the Schloss paintings.
Planning the seizure of the Schloss Collection
The creation of the Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives (CGQJ) in April 1941 signaled an intensification of Vichy-sponsored anti-Jewish measures, aimed in part at placating the Germans and in part at guaranteeing French involvement in the seizure and confiscation of Jewish wealth. Several months later, the Schloss family business—Adolphe Schloss Fils et Cie.—was subjected to seizure and liquidation measures in direct application of decrees passed by the German administration on 7 November 1940.
Any decision regarding the fate of the Schloss Collection would have to involve French museum officials and especially the curators from the Louvre, who had discussed possible gifts from the collection with family members prior to the National Socialist occupation. A discussion amongst senior Louvre officials in mid-1941 reaffirmed that they would not hesitate to use preemption in order to keep the Schloss paintings in French hands. Thus, Vichy had already staked a decisive claim on the Schloss Collection as early as 1941.
The German interest in the Schloss Collection and its Dutch and Flemish old masters presaged a clash with French museum authorities. French cultural policy assumed that art objects of significant quality and importance should remain in France and be integrated, to the extent possible, in state collections by whatever means. The single-mindedness of curators and art experts at the Louvre and in the French museum administration signaled a determination to keep the Schloss Collection, in whole or in part, on French soil and preferably at the Louvre. The most powerful legal tool at the Louvre’s disposal was the right of preemption: It could intervene to prevent significant cultural assets from leaving French territory or from falling into private hands through a preemptive acquisition.
As Franco-German collaboration became more entrenched, many Jewish collections were denounced by business associates, clients, employees, art dealers and collectors, or anyone seeking advantage with the occupying authorities and/or the Vichy regime. The ERR and associated Nazi agencies pursued their plundering and confiscation operations across German-occupied France. Jewish-owned galleries and businesses often changed hands without the consent of their owners. Anti-Jewish persecutions reached new heights, as camps and detention centers for foreign-born Jews cropped up across France, including in the ZNO.
While thousands of art objects were confiscated and brought to the Jeu de Paume in central Paris for processing, cataloguing and shipment to Germany and Austria, a change of leadership in May 1942 at the Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives (CGQJ) marked an increase in Vichy’s anti-Jewish measures under the leadership of Louis Darquier de Pellepoix. Beginning in early 1942, Kurt von Behr, the leader of the Dienststelle Westen (a Paris-based division of the ERR) oversaw the so-called Möbel-Aktion, a sweeping campaign designed to empty of their contents apartments and residences once occupied by Jewish tenants and owners. Household goods and cultural objects of value were separated at M-Aktion camps across Paris. Objects of value were handed over to the ERR for further examination. The summer of 1942 proved catastrophic for tens of thousands of Jews as many of them were interned and forced onto deportation trains headed to Nazi-occupied Poland.
Locating the Schloss Collection
Jean-François Lefranc, an art dealer and old acquaintance of Darquier de Pellepoix, was deeply enmeshed in the Aryanization of Jewish-owned galleries and businesses in Paris. His desire to enrich himself by denouncing Jewish collections and profiting from their liquidation brought him closer to Darquier de Pellepoix and the CGQJ, who worried that too much Jewish wealth was falling into the hands of the Germans when, in his view, it rightfully belonged to Vichy. At the same time, Bruno Lohse, deputy director of ERR operations in France, sought out “hidden” Jewish collections with the help of informants—French, German and other—both for the ERR and for Hermann Göring, whom he had been serving since his arrival in Paris in the winter of 1941.
Henri Rigeaux, head of security for von Behr, became aware of the approximate location of the Schloss Collection from information leaked by Inspector Liénard that he had obtained from Nériec. Rigeaux shared the information with ERR officials, perhaps Lohse and von Behr, who independently learned of the Schloss Collection through SS officer Hans Leimer, who was embroiled in the black market with his Russian mistress and who collaborated with Rigeaux and his criminal cohorts from the Rue Lauriston. Leimer may have learned the location from Rigeaux, and that news may have spread as well to other elements of the Paris Gestapo.
Circumstances converged in the second half of 1942 that paved the way for decisive action regarding the Schloss Collection. Lefranc and Darquier de Pellepoix met with von Behr and Lohse at their headquarters on Avenue d’Iéna to discuss Lefranc’s proposal to monetize the hunt for “hidden” Jewish collections in a profit-sharing arrangement that would reward informants. Lohse expressed his support for Lefranc’s plan in a note to Göring, who, by then, served as an advisor to Pellepoix, therefore the CGQJ, on “high-value Jewish art collections.”
An exchange of letters between Roger Dequoy of the Wildenstein gallery, Georges Destrem, a Paris art dealer doing active trade with the Germans, and Karl Haberstock, a principal agent in the Nazi-sponsored art trade, exemplifies the rumor mill in Paris concerning the Schloss Collection. Dequoy and Destrem separately discussed with Haberstock possible deals involving all or part of the Schloss Collection and ways of contacting Adolphe Schloss’ heirs. Although these talks went nowhere, they show how interested private art circles close to Germany were in any information about the Schloss paintings.
On 10 November 1942, in response to Anglo-American landings in North Africa (Operation Torch), the German Army swept through the unoccupied areas of France. Germany now could wield its power over the former ZNO and any property lying therein. If Vichy was intent on safeguarding its interest in the Schloss Collection as “culturally significant,” the Louvre and its right of preemption provided an argument of choice.
In the early months of 1943, Darquier de Pellepoix ordered several agents to seek out Nériec, the truck driver, and question him about the location of the Schloss Collection, thereby asserting the CGQJ’s stake in it. By March 1943, Darquier, Lefranc, and other officials at the CGQJ knew that the Schloss crates were stored at Laguenne. In his capacity as “administrator of Jewish collections” for the CGQJ, Lefranc encouraged Nazi officials like Bruno Lohse to take an even more aggressive stance toward locating concealed Jewish art collections, working for them just as he had done for the CGQJ and, by extension, the Vichy administration and the Louvre. Lohse, for one, still represented Göring’s interests in matters of cultural plunder in occupied France. While the ERR adopted a noncommittal position with respect to the Schloss Collection, the Linz museum planners—including Erhard Göpel, Hermann Voss, its second director, and, ultimately, Adolf Hitler himself—took a great interest in its contents.
Seizure of the Schloss Collection
When Lefranc pressed both sides to arrest the Schloss brothers in early April 1943, he provided the impetus for decisive action leading to the confiscation of the Schloss Collection. The seizure and transfer of the Schloss Collection from the vault at the Château de Chambon to Paris between April and August 1943 was a largely improvised process, with spontaneous decisions dominating French and German strategy. The result was a raid engineered largely by agents of the CGQJ, with assistance from local prefects and their law enforcement officers. Nazi agents close to Lefranc and Lohse supplied critical logistical assistance. The seizure forced the highest echelons of the Vichy government to consider the fate of the Schloss Collection, which was now a matter of national importance. If France wanted to assert its rights over all or part of the collection, it had to act quickly so as to prevent Germany from asserting complete jurisdiction over it. Key to this strategy was the assertion of the Louvre’s right of preemption over the collection, considered to be “culturally significant” for France and its cultural heritage.
Louvre interest in the Schloss Collection
Shortly after the confiscation of the Schloss Collection, René Huyghe, one of the Louvre’s senior curators, indicated that the museum should “not let the collection slip away, especially not abroad.” Lefranc reminded René Huyghe and Germain Bazin that it was essential for them to safeguard French rights over the paintings by invoking preemption. The right of preemption would give the Vichy government leverage to counterbalance Nazi Germany’s wish to acquire the Schloss Collection for Hitler’s Linz Museum project.
Throughout May and June 1943, Germain Bazin and René Huyghe reiterated the Louvre’s position with Darquier de Pellepoix and Jean-François Lefranc. Darquier sought guidance from the leadership of the Vichy government on how best to proceed, in light of the growing German interest in the paintings. Darquier reminded the Louvre and French museum officials that they could not negotiate as equal partners with the Germans. In early August 1943, Prime Minister Pierre Laval confirmed that Abel Bonnard, his minister of National Education, would oversee talks on how to dispose of the confiscated Schloss Collection once it reached Paris. In late August, after the Louvre had exercised its right of preemption over parts of the Schloss Collection, Lefranc took credit for enabling France’s national museums “to enrich their collection from the Dutch period with 49 top quality paintings, including one of the rare landscapes known to be by Rembrandt. I should also be congratulated since most of the paintings in this collection are going to the museums of a country with an old culture, our neighbor.” His feeling was shared by Abel Bonnard. The German Embassy also reacted favorably to the talks with Vichy, pleased that the Louvre was satisfied with its selection of Schloss paintings. René Huyghe also praised Lefranc’s role in safeguarding the interests of the Louvre and of France.
In a postscript to this story, Jacques Jaujard wrote to one of the Schloss heirs that “the Germans were very keen to acquire several of the works which we had chosen; they pressured us to withdraw but we refused and exercised the law of preemption.” Jaujard turned the Louvre’s aggressive pursuit of the Schloss paintings into a protective measure designed to fend off the Germans. Bazin offered a similar version when he asserted in a statement to a Paris judge “that he was not sharing anything with the Germans and that the Louvre would exercise its right of preemption in order to gain control of the Schloss paintings.” The price tag for the 49 paintings was 18,975,000 francs (but Vichy France fell before the transaction could be financially consummated).
One can argue that, in the spirit of Vichy-German collaboration, Pierre Laval and his education minister, Abel Bonnard, were able to strike a deal with the German Embassy in Paris that ensured both countries walked away with part of the dismembered Schloss Collection. By November 1943, the deal had been made —with Germany acquiring 262 paintings for Linz after the Louvre preemption of 49 paintings that it had pre-selected in spring 1943 when the Schloss Collection was held temporarily at the Banque de France in Limoges. On 24 November 1943, 262 paintings from the Schloss Collection were transferred to the Führerbau in Munich, a way station for Hitler’s Linz Museum project. The 49 paintings acquired by the Louvre were transferred to a French museum depot in Sourches, until they were restituted to the Schloss heirs in July 1946.
The Linz Group
On 24 November 1943, 262 paintings from the Schloss Collection, sold to the Linz Museum project, were shipped from the Jeu de Paume in Paris to the Führerbau in Munich. The Führerbau was an administrative office building for Hitler and some of his staff, also serving as a way station for paintings acquired for his Linz Museum project. As Allied troops closed in on Munich and the surrounding Bavarian towns, local Nazi officials prepared for the final military actions. In mid-April 1945, all road traffic was suspended in the Munich area except for military vehicles. Clandestine Allied agents from a variety of nations were conducting reconnaissance and sabotage missions to facilitate Allied troop movements.
On 29 April 1945, the few remaining guards at the Führerbau building left their posts, while Hans Reger, the director of the Führerbau, fled east by car. That evening, and for the next several days and nights, dozens of local citizens and assorted individuals from surrounding neighborhoods converged on the Führerbau and its dependencies in search of food and alcohol. Instead, they found furniture, administrative files and hundreds of paintings of all sizes and shapes, stored throughout the building. Over 1,000 paintings, many of which were obtained through illicit means to stock Hitler’s future Linz Museum, fell into the hands of these civilians. From 30 April to 1 May 1945, Munich fell to units of the Third United States Army, which secured the Führerbau and surrounding buildings in and around Königplatz.
By mid-May 1945, cultural officials from the Monuments Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) unit established the Munich Central Collecting Point (MCCP), which served until 1951 as a central depot. Art objects recovered by U.S. troops in the theater of war were gathered there to be examined, inventoried, and identified to the greatest degree possible so as to repatriate them to their countries of origin, in keeping with Allied restitution policy. U.S. and Allied investigators, including agents from the Munich Criminal Police department (KRIPO), gradually recognized the extent of the thefts committed at the Führerbau while Allied troops were liberating Munich. It was essential to recover as many works as possible, in order to restitute them to various nations and their former owners.
Aftermath of the Führerbau theft
In total, 98 Schloss paintings out of the 262 that disappeared were recovered from 1945 to 1951. Most were found in Munich, others at farmsteads within an hour’s drive from the city and as far north as the British Zone of Occupation and west in the French Zone of Occupation. The bulk of the recoveries occurred between 1945 and 1947 (74 out of 98). The investigations were mostly carried out either separately or jointly by American and German investigators, aided occasionally by local citizens and French personnel.
The intentions of the thieves and subsequent handlers of the stolen works shaped the fate of the paintings stolen from the Führerbau. Many were citizens and neighbors who worked as barbers, bakers, accountants, and plant managers. One owned a music shop, another was a stamp dealer. Most did not realize the value of the paintings, while others sensed that they could benefit through barter schemes by exchanging paintings for foodstuffs, clothing, cigarettes and/or alcohol. One painting even ended up in the Lord Mayor’s office in Munich.
Those with local connections in the Munich art world, writ large, sought the help of art experts in assessing the value of the works in their possession and in offering the works for sale.
The following are some examples of how the Schloss paintings stolen from the Führerbau recirculated in and out of Munich.
Pierre Duchartre and the Yugoslavs
One of the more unusual recoveries occurred between September and November 1945. It involved two Royal Yugoslav Army officers who had befriended a French restitution officer, Pierre Duchartre. Through their connections in Munich, they had located several sites around the Führerbau where looted goods were stored. Their investigations led them to a number of Schloss paintings and other looted art objects, which they handed over to Duchartre, and also developed leads that brought Allied investigators to Erding and Landersdorf, where a dozen paintings were recovered; most of them had come from the Schloss Collection.
The Barntrupp paintings
A local librarian, Ulrich Toepser, found at least twenty paintings, twelve of which belonged to the Schloss Collection, at or near the Old Botanical Gardens close to the Führerbau. Toepser opted to take them to the safety of his parents’ house in Land Lippe in the British Zone of Occupation. U.S. and German investigators found him and he offered to take them to Barntrupp, where the paintings were stored. Since the looted works were in another zone of occupation, British military passes had to be issued to the Munich investigating team in order for them to carry out their investigations under British control. Eventually, restitution protocols were negotiated and, in mid-1947, the twelve Schloss paintings found their way back to Munich via Düsseldorf, the regional headquarters for the British MFA&A unit.
The story of the recovery of Schloss 92 is a highlight of the investigative work carried out by the MCCP. In the weeks following the Führerbau theft, Frau Neuner, residing at Hindenburgstr. 39/III, met a man on a bench in a Munich park who traded a painting (Schloss 92, by van der Helst) in return for clothes. Frau Neuner consulted with a well-known local art dealer, Hellmut Lüdke, Pilotystrasse 10/II, Munich. On 8 July 1945 Lüdke wrote to her that the paintings she showed him were of good quality and that they bore markings which attested to the possibility that they had been stolen. [Report No. 15 by OMGBavaria, dated 26 November 1946, fold3.com]. He might have realized the French origin of Schloss 92, which still bore markings from Paris. Frau Neuner traded the van der Helst and four other paintings to Frau L. von Parseval, Wormsestr. 3, Munich, in exchange for a rug. In spring 1946, Frau von Parseval sold the painting to Ludwig Karl, Westendstr. 17, Munich, and co-owner of Ruf auction house, in exchange for art objects.
Frau L. von Parseval produced on 15 June 1946 a certificate of authenticity and a document attesting to the fact that the painting had been in private hands in Bavaria long before the war. Ludwig Karl then sold the picture, half for cash and half for objects of similar value, to Heinz Bohner of Dallarmistr. 29, Munich. Later in the spring of 1946, Bohner swapped the van der Helst painting for one by von Hügel with art dealer Emil Fussgen, Platzl, 4 Munich.
Dipl. Eng. Christian Kellerer, Ungererstr. 66, Munich, dealt with three other people before buying the painting: Herr Gillman, in whose apartment the painting hung for some time and whom two art dealers described as “middlemen”; Frau Engelhardt, Prinzregentenplatz 23, Munich; and Paula von Kosel, Giselastrasse 18, Munich. Once Kellerer bought the painting, he sold it to Mr. Kautz, a Swiss citizen living in Engen/Hegau in the French zone of Occupation of Germany. Edgar Breitenbach recovered the painting from Mr. Kautz and returned it to the MCCP on 30 August 1946.
The Lefranc Group
The day after the Louvre exercised its right of preemption on 49 paintings from the Schloss Collection, 22 additional paintings, representing the residual of the Schloss Collection, were set aside for Jean-François Lefranc to dispose of on the art market, due to assessments by Louvre curators and art appraisers of alleged deficiencies. The argument put forth by the Louvre experts was contradicted by two Judicial Police inspectors (Le Long and Thibault) in 1945; they maintained that those 22 paintings were the most important in the Schloss Collection. That same day, on 21 June 1943, Lefranc asked Cornelius Postma to come up with a total estimate of the Schloss Collection. Despite his hesitations, the Louvre experts convinced him to conduct it. The appraisal occurred in the poorly lit basement of the CGQJ in the presence of René Huyghe and German Bazin. Bruno Lohse and Erhard Göpel did not object to Postma’s estimates. Postma appraised the collection at 84,610,000 francs and collected 2,066,830 francs from Lefranc for services rendered regarding the Schloss Collection. An initial estimate of the 22 paintings, according to Rose Valland and confirmed by Juliette Schloss Weil, came in at 16,305,000 francs. [209SUP_573_R23].
On 22 October 1943, 350,000 francs were deposited in Lefranc’s account at the Banque de France. Although the source of the funds could not be verified, the amount coincided with a sum paid by a Mr. Buitenweg, a Dutch art dealer based in Amsterdam, for the residual 22 Schloss paintings in Lefranc’s custody. No one has been able to ascertain information about his identity, his past, his connection to Lefranc, or his motivation for helping Lefranc with the sale of the 22 paintings. We do know that Lefranc and Cornelius Postma related very different accounts of how each met Buitenweg. Lefranc maintained that Postma had introduced him to Buitenweg while Postma insisted that he had met Buitenweg for the first time in the spring of 1944 at the grill-bar of the Hotel Ritz in Paris.
On 5 November 1943, the day after Alfred Rosenberg visited the Jeu de Paume in Paris, René Claude Catroux and his son, Tristan, went to Lefranc’s apartment on 9 Quai Voltaire (Paris) where they reappraised the 22 paintings that Lefranc had technically sold to Buitenweg on 22 October 1943. Lefranc asked Postma to attend the new appraisal. The Catroux inventory grossly undervalued the paintings, in step with advice given by the Louvre’s curators (Huyghe and Bazin) and Lefranc. His estimate came in at 342,000 francs, close to the amount allegedly paid by Buitenweg for the 22 paintings (350,000 francs). When questioned later by French officials, Catroux contradicted Postma’s testimony according to which the latter had objected to the extremely low values assigned to the paintings by Catroux; he indicated to his questioners that Postma did not raise any objections to his estimates. [3 April 1946 before Judge Frapier].
After the Catroux appraisal, Lefranc asked Postma to reexamine “some of the paintings” with all the necessary supporting documentation. Henri Verne, a former senior official of the Louvre, saw the Brouwer painting (Schloss 260) at Postma’s residence and asked if he could buy it. Lefranc gave his consent. Verne paid 300,000 francs, 50,000 francs short of Catroux’ estimate for all 22 paintings. Postma reassured Verne that the sale was licit. Lefranc was the beneficiary of the sale and paid 40,000 francs to Postma.
The Buitenweg problem
After the war, Cornelius Postma testified that Lefranc had told him that he had sold “what was left of the 22 paintings to Buitenweg.” Postma also asserted that he met Buitenweg only once, at the Hotel Ritz in April 1944. He recalls that Buitenweg did not appear to be Dutch but sported a “Belgian accent” and did not show any visible interest in art or the art market. Nevertheless, Lefranc repeated the story at every opportunity, before and after his arrest in March 1945: He had sold 22 Schloss paintings to Buitenweg and was not involved in any subsequent transaction involving those paintings. At the same time, Lefranc admitted to two Judicial Police inspectors, Le Long and Thibault, that the 350,000 francs he had received on 22 October 1943 were for the sale of a painting from the Bonn or Rottemburg collection (seized with the Schloss Collection at Banque Jordaan in April 1943), therefore casting doubt (again) that Lefranc had received 350,000 francs for the purchase by Buitenweg of 22 paintings from the Schloss Collection.
The archival evidence, so far, points to an elaborate ploy by Jean-François Lefranc to shield his interest in the 22 paintings from the Schloss Collection, shrugged off as fakes or bad copies by French and German art specialists. The ploy consisted of using a Dutch buyer as a “cloak” for the acquisition of the Schloss paintings. But why did he go to such lengths? Lefranc ended up being responsible for the sale of close to half of the 22 paintings. Moreover, Postma and Catroux had little credibility, given that the former was deeply enmeshed in the wartime trade in looted art in and out of Paris, and the latter appeared to be a hired accessory to Lefranc’s by devaluing the 22 paintings from the Schloss Collection.
As far as we know, Lefranc never gave any further details of his involvement in the sale of the 22 Schloss paintings beyond his oft-repeated story of the sale to Buitenweg.