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Holocaust survivor’s family must return artifact to Berlin museum

JTA

June 1, 2012 | 10:30 am

The family of a deceased Holocaust survivor must return to a German museum a 3,200-year-old artifact that he had brought with him to the United States, a New York state appellate court has ruled.

It is not clear how Riven Flamenbaum gained ownership of the ancient gold Assyrian tablet, but the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin listed it as missing just after World War II, The New York Times reported.

The decision, which overturns a 2010 Nassau County Surrogate Court judge’s ruling, is unusual in that it asks a Holocaust victim’s or survivor’s family to return an item to a museum instead of the reverse.

Flamenbaum, a former Auschwitz prisoner, brought the passport photo-sized relic with him to the United States four years after the war and after spending time in a displaced persons camp, according to the Times.

He died in 2003, which is when his children discovered the item had been stolen at one point from the museum. That institution sued to regain the tablet.

“The principle that property taken unlawfully should be returned is consistent with the rights of Holocaust victims,” Raymond J. Dowd, the attorney who represented the museum and has in the past advocated for families of Holocaust victims seeking to recover lost art, told the Times.

Seth A. Presser, the Flamenbaum’s attorney, told the newspaper that the decision would be appealed.

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