David Toren, 94, Pursued and Reclaimed Nazi Stolen Art
David Toren, who tracked down his family’s art looted by the Nazis, died of COVID-19 on April 19.
The New York resident was an attorney and Holocaust survivor.
According to the New York Times, Toren captured press attention when a painting by Max Liebermann of two horse riders on the beach was located in the hands of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi art dealer.
“I always liked that painting because I liked horses,” the Times reported Toren as saying, adding, “I will get it back.” He succeeded.
“My father remembers it hanging in the sun room of his mother’s uncle David Friedmann’s villa,” said David Toren’s son Peter J. Toren, in a TED Talk.
According to the talk, Friedmann owned 10,000 acres of sugar beets and a distillery. “He liked to give lavish parties for German intellectuals. He also reputedly had the largest art collection in Breslau,” now part of Poland but which was then part of Germany.
David Toren was born into an affluent family in Breslau. Like himself, his father was a lawyer.
His father was able in August 1939 to get his son onto the last Kindertransport to Sweden just prior to the onset of World War II.
“I was lucky,” Toren told the Leo Baeck Institute in a video clip for its “1938Projekt.” He landed a place that had been designated for a close friend of his. Since that friend’s family emigrated to the Dominican Republic, Toren was able to take his friend’s spot on the Kindertransport.
His parents were murdered at Auschwitz.
In 1948 Toren joined the Haganah, which became part of the Israel Defense Forces, and headed for Israel. He had an eye disease that ended his military service. He then came to the US, earned a law degree, and became a patent attorney.
In November 2013, a prosecutor in Munich announced the seizure of 1,200 works of art from Cornelius Gurlitt, who held the “Two Riders on a Beach” painting. “The German government was slow in returning the painting,” Peter Toren told the Algemeiner.
“He was not only my father, he was my best friend,” Peter Toren said. “We had the same sense of humor and could complete each other’s sentences.”