Day 196. Finally Returned

Saw another great movie this weekend.  It’s a documentary about an oil painting, done in 1912, by the Austrian artist, Egon Schiele.  It is a portrait of his mistress, wallyValerie “Wally” Neuzil.

The painting was owned by Lea Bondi Jaray.  Although she owned an art gallery this, particular, painting was part of her private collection; and hung in her home.  Which, of course, didn’t stop the Nazi’s.  Not only did they close down her gallery, she was also forced to give up her own art, as well.  She and her husband escaped to the U.S. and she never saw the portrait again.

In 1954, it was purchased by an obsessive collector, Rudolf Leopold, and became part of the collection at the Leopold Museum, in Vienna.  Near the end of a 1997-1998 exhibit of Schiele’s work at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, its history was revealed in a New York Times article.

That’s when Lea Bondi Jaray’s heirs contacted the New York County District Attorney, who issued a subpoena, forbidding its return to Austria.  The work was tied up in litigation for years.  The entire story is told, in meticulous detail, in the documentary, “The Portrait of Wally”.  From the Nazi occupation of Austria, to Jaray’s attempts to get the painting back after the war, to the extremely lengthy, complicated and costly legal proceedings, to the family finally getting restitution:

Acknowledgement that the painting had, in fact, belonged to Lea Bondi Jaray; and a $19 million settlement.  In exchange, the heirs had to agree to allow the painting to be returned to the Leopold Museum where, once again, it now hangs next to the self-portrait of the artist.

Personally, I’m sorry it went back to Austria.  I would have preferred to see it hang at the Jewish Museum, in New York.  Just saying.

Anyway, the movie was fascinating.  And, needless to say, it was a poignant reminder of one of the worst times in the history of the world.  I suppose I’m fortunate, in that none of my family perished in the death camps.  Everyone was safe in Canada or the U.S.  I have friends and extended family members who were not so lucky.

Not that it matters.  What happened in Europe during WWII, affected all mankind.  The world over.  Jewish or not.

Of course, watching films like this, you have to think of all the hatred and prejudice around us.  At least I do.  Especially as I just recently saw another documentary about a member of the Klu Klux Klan.  I am amazed, and horrified, to think we are capable of committing atrocities like these.  That we believe we are entitled to judge others.  To believe they are of less value, then we are.

To segregate them.  To stop them from going to school, or from voting.  To shut down their businesses.  To loot their homes.  To take what’s theirs.

To shoot them.  To hang them.  To starve them.  To make them dig their own graves and then kill them.  To incinerate them.  To turn the planes they’re in, into weapons and fly them into buildings.  To threaten the world with nuclear weapons.

All without conscience.

I find it impossible to comprehend.  And what really amazes me, is knowing the sick and twisted individuals who conceive these evil acts, manage to find like-minded souls to help them.  Hundreds and thousands and even millions of other sick and twisted individuals.  And frankly, there’s no punishment severe enough, no restitution big enough, no memorial high enough, to ever make up for these crimes against humanity.

Why are we so focussed on our differences?  Why can’t we see our commonalities?  Look beyond colour.  Look beyond race.  Look beyond religion.  What do you see? Men and women.  Boys and girls.  Husbands.  Wives.  Parents.  Children.  Sisters.  Brothers.  Friends.  Neighbours.  Colleagues.  Fellow citizens.

We’re all the same.  And yet we continue to teach our children to hate, instead of to love.  Instead of respecting and honouring the lives, the belongings, the beliefs and the rights of others.


Sometimes I’m ashamed to be a part of the human race.


24 thoughts on “Day 196. Finally Returned

  1. I don’t believe it’s getting worse, but I do believe that there are so many platforms available to these jackasses to proselytize and to find like-minded individuals. There are a lot more of us, Fransi, that believe in fairness and equality for all. We’re just too busy living it rather than preaching it. The silent majority sometimes just have to speak up a little more, just to remind everyone that we’re here and prevent us from having a jaundiced view of all humanity.

    • Yes, I suppose you’re right. I guess because it’s always the bad guys who make the headlines it does feel worse than maybe it is.

  2. I believe it’s actually a minority of people that are as twisted as this, but when they get into a position of power due to this depravity being strangely mixed with charisma – it becomes an even larger issue. People are susceptible to brain washing and mob mentality, and those such as Hitler are masters at utilising this for their own benefit. Then it all just snowballs and spirals and we’re all left with a humanitarian disaster. It’s odd, I could never imagine myself suddenly thinking it was okay to detain and destroy a huge swathe of our population…but he managed it with Germany (I am only using one example here with WWII, I know of many others) using Hitler Youth for instance and schools in order to mould the youngsters into tools for his horrible aims. I don’t always understand how huge groups can be…not tricked, but convinced, of something as awful as what he wanted. Basically I think the people who are as twisted and sickened inside as all that are in the minority, but then they get into a position of power, they suddenly have the might of hundreds, thousands, millions behind them – and they are masters of manipulation. I’m not saying it isn’t the fault of those numerous peons, but that…sometimes, they’re just as horrified as the rest of us by what they did. On a side note, if you watch Derren Brown: The Game Show, he does a study into mob mentality, and it shows how when anonymous and in a large group people do tend to pick the worst options when given a choice. If you haven’t seen it, I would definitely recommend it.
    Excuse the huge rant.

    • I haven’t seen the show. I will gave to check it out. No apologies necessary. You made excellent points. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. Interesting reading! I also wonder why we are so focused on differences when we should see our commonalities instead. We should start to do that!

  4. My pet peeve is that a lot of horrible things are done in the name of religion — all religious actions from the Spanish Inquisition and earlier to jihads. The fundamentals of all religions I am familiar with are kindness and goodness. What gives?

  5. I’m always ashamed, yet never surprised, at the ugliness in the world. You would think that the newer generations would know better, but they only know to mimic their family views, it seems. It sickens me to see people bend religion to justify their hatred.

    • I know. They don’t even have te courage to call it what it is: pure, unadulterated hatred and ignorance. They hide behind religion.

  6. One of the things that I feel most optimistic about is that there’s a lot of evidence that over the course of human history we’ve been getting better at seeing our common humanity in a wider group of people. Our failures still hurt though, even if we have made progress.

    • Yes, they do. Of course the fact that our failures are often on such a massive scale makes them even harder to handle and accept. I just wish we could be re-programmed.

  7. I think we need to see things in context. At that time in WWII, the world in general had not come from a base where all humans were considered equal. For example, not many years earlier, Australia was the firs country to give women both the right to vote and the right to be elected to national parliament – that was only in 1902. Aboroginal people were not given equal rights until the 1960s and weren’t even counted in census’ until the 1970s. As biblioglobal states above, “we’ve been getting better at seeing our common humanity” but I think we must keep in mind that this has been a very long long process. And we must not also forget that the basic concept of equality and equal rights is NOT accepted in all parts of the world yet. All countries are not the same in this regard, there is still a long way to go. Unfortunately. But each year there is progress.

    • I wasn’t referring only to WWII. I only started there because of the movie I’d seen. And as for women, we still have a long way to go. Female genital mutilation is still practiced, for example. And yes, we have made some progress. But I live in a very ethnically diverse city. And country, for that matter. But when I’m sitting at Starbucks or standing in line somewhere, or having lunch or waiting for the subway and I hear people making racist remarks or making racial or religious slurs, i’m disturbed by how far we still have to go.

      • Yes that is very true, I guess my point was that we are all on a continuum of progress and we are not all in the same place, either as individuals or nations. I still think things are moving forward though.

      • I agree with that. For that matter we are all on a continuum of progress on all kinds of things (other than racism and prejudice) and we’re not all in the same place.

  8. Ah, one of Philosophy’s finest debates. Why do we hate? Genetically it doesn’t make sense. Socially it builds barriers. Economically it causes recession. Politically it leads to war. We hate because it is our nature to hate, and not what God intended. It is a perversion. We hate what we don’t understand, don’t agree with. This kind of hate is corruptive and evil. The Bible tells us to love one another and hate evil. Yet we hate one another and love evil. And look where it has got us. No matter what you think, sometimes the Bible has some darn good advice. Unfortunately people think that to hate evil you must hate the evildoer. But one can still love the person and hate the action. Parents love their children no matter what they do. We must all learn to cultivate the difference between love of person and hate for an action.

    • Thank you. I have no idea where I got “Valerie” from, this post was written so many years ago. I have just googled it and, of course, you are right.

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