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Jewish collector's heirs can proceed with suit against Hungary for art seized in Holocaust
WASHINGTON (AP) ' The heirs of a Jewish art collector can proceed with a lawsuit against Hungary seeking the return of art seized during the Holocaust that is worth more than $100 million, a federal judge ruled.
But, as Hungary requested, other heirs of Baron Mor Lipot Herzog with older lawsuits over the art, cannot proceed, the U.S. District Court judge in Washington decided Thursday.
In the lawsuit that will go forward, David de Csepel, Herzog's great grandson, and two other heirs sued Hungary and several state-owned museums seeking the return of works that included paintings by Renaissance artist El Greco and Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbaran.
The dismissed suit was brought by De Csepel's aunt, Martha Nierenberg and other heirs.
Herzog died in 1934. His collection, which at its zenith may have grown to as many as 2,500 objects and numerous paintings from the Old Masters, including 10 by El Greco, was inherited by his three children after his wife's death in 1940.
With the onset of World War II and the persecution of the Herzogs and other Jews, the collection began to be dismantled. Some artworks were taken by the Nazis and Russia's Red Army. Others may have been stolen and some were seized by Hungary's communist regime.
According to experts, Adolf Eichmann, who oversaw the deportation of over 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz and other concentration camps, took some of the masterpieces for his own collection.
The art sought by the heirs is housed in Hungary's National Gallery and several Budapest institutions ' the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Applied Arts and the University of Technology and Economics.
A 16th century portrait by German painter and engraver Georg Pencz of businessman Sigismund Baldinger, which Germany returned to Herzog's heirs last year, was sold in July at a Christie's auction for $8.56 million.