California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was on hand on April 10, 2009, when two paintings belonging to the state were returned to the grandchildren of their original owners. Jakob and Rosa Oppenheimer, who owned a gallery in Berlin, fled to France in 1933 to escape Nazi persecution. The Nazis auctioned off 100 paintings from the Oppenheimer’s collection in 1935, to raise money for Reichfluchtsteuer, a “flight” tax designed to strip Jews of all of their assets.
Two of the paintings, “Portrait of Alvise Vendramin” and “Portrait of a Bearded Gentleman,” ended up in the collection of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. They were on display at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, which was deeded to the state of California in 1972 to become part of the state park system.
The families of the Oppenheimers two daughters fled Germany in 1940. Jakob Oppenheimer died in France in 1941. His wife Rosa was taken from France by its German occupiers to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, where she died in November 1943.
The father of Austrian-born Governor Schwarzenegger was a member of the Nazi Party. Returning the paintings on the second day of Passover to Peter Bloch, 73, of Boynton Beach, Florida, and Inge Blackshear, 73, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the governor said, “”I am humbled to play a role in undoing this terrible wrong for the heirs of Jakob and Rosa Oppenheimer,” adding that the Holocaust was “one of the darkest crimes against humanity in the modern era.”