• Home
  • traffic
  • Confiscated Mercedes-Benz 500 K: & # 34; This is looted art on four wheels! & # 34;

Confiscated Mercedes-Benz 500 K: & # 34; This is looted art on four wheels! & # 34;

Arturo Rivas
Confiscated Mercedes-Benz 500 K
Subscriptions & booklets

D he case caused a sensation worldwide: At the Techno Classica 2012 a red Mercedes-Benz 500 K was confiscated from the stand of the renowned dealer Eberhard Thiesen. The special roadster with the chassis number 105 380, built in 1935, was first owned by the industrialist Hans Friedrich Prym until the end of the Second World War and disappeared during the short American occupation.

For $ 3.8 million to Dutch collectors

In 2011, this Mercedes, which is said to have appeared in the USA in the 1970s and was most recently in the collection of Major General William Lyon, in Monterey by RM Auctions for 3.8 million dollars to the Dutch collector Frans van Haren, who then wanted to sell the car at the Techno Classica 2012 for 4.9 million euros.

There, however, lawyer recognized Christoph von Berg took the car and notified Michael Prym as spokesman for the heirs. Lawyer Alexander Martius then had the car arrested by means of an injunction. Martius, who works in Aachen, was previously active for the Prym family; Christoph von Berg, who grew up in Bremen and lives in Leipzig, is an expert in looted art - art objects stolen during or after the Second World War and taken out of the country - and in the famous Gotha case in 1992, for example, he ensured that the painting “ Maria with the child “came back to Germany.

But what has already been successful several times in the art scene is new in the automotive sector and now an exciting case for the courts. In any case, von Berg and Martius can point to an initial success: The Hamburg Regional Court confirmed the legality of the injunction. The car remains in the custody of the bailiff and is currently in the Classic Remise in Düsseldorf until ownership has been clarified.

Motor Klassik : Mr. von Berg, Mr. Martius, how did you hear about the car?

Alexander Martius : That was of course the Prym family at first. This is probably the oldest industrial family in Germany, which produces, among other things, snap fasteners, zippers and electronic components. Andrea Prym-Bruck, responsible for the Prym archive, became aware of the auction in August 2011 in Monterey via a search engine -In the auction catalog it was described in detail that the Mercedes 500 K was first exhibited at the 1935 automobile exhibition in Berlin and then delivered via the Mercedes branch in Aachen to Hans Friedrich Prym or a company belonging to him in nearby Stolberg. At that time, the special roadster was still painted in a special metallic green. In any case, the Prym family waited for years for such a hint.

And then you asked for the car to be handed over?

Alexander Martius : Exactly, at the auction house. Lawyers from the Lyons Collection answered where the car is said to have last been. Of course, they brusquely refused.

Christoph von Berg : Such negotiations over the pond in the USA are difficult - and then the car was gone for the time being.

Until you discovered it at Techno Classica and had it confiscated. But how did the car get to America in the first place?

Alexander Martius : Good question. It is known that during the last years of the war Hans Friedrich Prym hid the Mercedes in a corner of his workshop under towels from the Nazis, who requisitioned everything that had four wheels. In 1944, Stolberg, located far to the west, was one of the first cities to be liberated by the Americans. The 3rd Panzer Division then settled in Pryms Villa Waldfriede - and discovered the car nearby. The workshop foreman from Prym, who was also responsible for the house, was allowed to stay in the villa. Apparently he couldn't keep the car hidden from the Americans.

Christoph von Berg : Apparently General Dwight D. Eisenhower was there too and had the car shown to him. In any case, in 1945 the area became a British zone of occupation. And one thing is certain: when the Americans were gone, sometime in June 1945, the car was gone too. It had been stolen from the garage overnight. Thank goodness: there are still contemporary witnesses. What happened next is not known. This is how the text in the auction catalog describes it - what happened to the Mercedes until the mid-1970s is unknown. So the gap in history was obvious.

Now the Dutchman Frans van Haren has officially acquired the car at the auction in Monterey and paid the equivalent of almost 3 million euros for it. Why can you take the car away from him again?

Alexander Martius : Because you can't become the owner of stolen property.

Van Haren couldn't have known that . In addition: Isn't such an act time barred?

Alexander Martius : Not yet in that case. The Hamburg Regional Court has researched this very precisely. That was true as long as the car was in the USAlocal law, not German. And there it is recognized that the owner of the car can only take action if he knows where the car is - and we have only recently known that.

What happens now?

Alexander Martius : The courts are now clarifying the question of ownership. The case is far from being dry.

Christoph von Berg : If the Hamburg Regional Court were to make a different decision than that the car must be returned, then the spoils of war in Germany could ultimately be freely traded! That can not be.

What exactly does “looted art” actually mean?

Christoph von Berg : Looted art is art that was lost due to the war. Since the Hague District Order of 1907, all states have committed themselves not to take away a people's culture. In the First World War there was practically no looted art, in the Second World War the great pushing of booty began - it basically started with the Nazi looted art.

After some spectacular processes, after which stolen art had to be returned to the original owners or their heirs, the art scene is now sensitized and examines the history of art objects very carefully. Will this procedure soon also be normal in the classic area?

Alexander Martius : It should. Many people in the field know the problem with counterfeits, but not that of looted art, i.e. possible return obligations. That will come now. Actually much too late.

Christoph von Berg : In the 1990s, the art trade had to learn that counterfeiting and works of art with an unclean history cannot simply be traded. Provenance research was therefore introduced. The auto trade still has to learn that. Polemically speaking, with every Horch, Maybach and Kompressor Mercedes there is a certain probability that the car was stolen.

What do I do if I have such a car?

Alexander Martius : Then you may be sitting on a time bomb. However, the original owner first has to prove that the car was once his - and was stolen back then.

Christoph von Berg : If the car was formally confiscated by the Germans or Allies back then, nothing will happen to you. Otherwise it will be exciting.

If the Prym family gets the car back, what will happen to Frans van Haren and the almost three million euros he paid?

Christoph von Berg : He can reclaim it from the previous owner. The whole thing canthus entail follow-up processes.

Alexander Martius : The auction house knew our requirements. Nevertheless, they auctioned the car. But first of all, van Haren will now try to at least claim to the courts that he has effectively become the owner after all. This is going to be exciting.

If I want to buy one of the cars mentioned, what should I do?

Christoph von Berg : The provenance has to be clarified, all acquisition processes have to be conclusive. It may well be that such a provenance test will add value in a few years. It is also interesting in this case that after the auction there was speculation in an American newspaper that the Mercedes was comparatively cheap because the history and ownership structure were unclear.

Will we see even more cases like the 500 K in the future?

Alexander Martius : Well possible. There are still many families in Germany who lost something at the time that they wrote off long ago. But it is never too late to reclaim - the war justifies nothing.


Leave a reply

Name *