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From Tragedy to Triumph: Altmann Benningson and their Progeny-Restitution of Art Looted by the Nazis

The Program

When the Nazis invaded Austria in 1938, they stole Gustav Klimt’s iconic portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I from the owner. The painting, The Woman in Gold, along with four other paintings were returned, after Donald S. Burris’ law firm argued the case before the United States Supreme Court.  It now hangs, for the then-record price of $135 million dollars.

The return of the Klimt paintings were the exception. There are more than 100,000 confiscated works unaccounted for according to experts at the Jewish Historical Society.   The restitution laws have strengthened in Europe and Austria. People are less tolerant of stolen art being hung on museum walls and buyers can no longer claim they bought a painting in good faith.

While museums are under tighter scrutiny, attorneys and art history experts are hired by auction houses as well as heirs to look for stolen paintings in art registries as well as to press their claims.

As an expert in the return of art stolen during the Nazi era, Mr. Burris will discuss the Klimt case as well as restitution and retribution and its recourse internationally.


Donald S. Burris is a leading expert in the pursuit of art stolen by the Nazis. He is an honors graduate of the Georgetown Law Center, served as the Editor in Chief of the Georgetown Law Journal and further served as a special counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee. He has spent much of his forty three year career as an international lawyer and litigator based in California. In recent years, Mr. Burris has devoted a considerable amount of time to the pursuit of looted art stolen by the Nazis before and during World War II. These efforts culminated with the Supreme Court case of Altmann v. Republic of Austria (2004), at the conclusion of which the Austrian government was ordered to, and did, return a number of priceless historic paintings by Gustav Klimt which were then sold to buyers, both privately and through an auction conducted by Christie’s in New York. 

Mr. Burris has been involved in other important looted art cases and has lectured at a number of law schools, including Vanderbilt, Pepperdine, Texas Tech, Nebraska, the John Marshall School of Law (Chicago), Loyola of Los Angeles Law School, the Georgetown University Law Center and the Jean Moulin School of Law (Lyon, France) as well as to groups such as the American Clubs of Lyons and Paris, France and the Friends of Georgetown (Luxembourg City).




April 1, 2016
1:30 am
Event Category:


UCLA School of Law
UCLA School of Law-385 Charles E. Young Drive East Los Angeles, CA 90095 6:30-7:00 pm Reception Lincoln Bust (first floor) 7:00 - 8:30 pm Room #1430 (next to Lincoln Bust area),
Los Angeles, CA, 90095 US

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Please note: This is a community event not planned by The Jewish Federation.