Berlin antiquities museum wants Holocaust survivor's family to return ancient gold tablet
A Holocaust survivor's family urged New York's highest court Tuesday to let them keep an ancient gold tablet that their late father somehow obtained in Germany after World War II. Attorney Steven Schlesinger argued that the estate of Riven Flamenbaum has a legal claim, whether the native of Poland bought the relic from a Russian soldier or simply took it to compensate for losing his family at Auschwitz, the concentration camp where he spent several years.
|The golden tablet from King Tukulti-Ninurta I's temple to the fertility goddess. |
Maybe worth $10 million cash at auction, but priceless, in more ways than one.
According to court documents, the tablet dates to 1243 to 1207 B.C., the reign of King Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria. Placed in the foundation of the temple of a fertility goddess, its 21 lines call on those who find the temple to honor the king's name. The tablet was excavated by German archaeologists from about 1908 to 1914 in what was then the Ottoman Empire, with Germany giving half the found antiquities to Istanbul, Raymond Dowd, the museum's lawyer, said. The modern state of Iraq has declined to claim it, he said. In 1945, the Berlin museum's premises were overrun, with many items taken by Russia, others by German troops and some pilfered by people who took shelter in the museum, Dowd said. The museum director was not in a position to say who took it, only that it disappeared. One recent estimate put its value at $10 million, Schlesinger said. Lower courts in New York were split on the decision, leading to the latest appeal.