The Story

L. Meyer v. Bd. of Regents of the U. of Oklahoma

Historical Background


Shepherdess Bringing In Sheep (“Bergère rentrant des moutons”) (1886)
[herein referred to as “La Bergère”]
An Oil on canvas, by Camille Pissarro, France, 1830 – 1903
Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer Bequest, 2000
[Source: Fred Jones Museum]


The Weitzenhoffer estate bequeathed 33 impressionist paintings, including masterpieces by Monet, Corot, Renoir, Bonnard, Gauguin.

Some examples:
  • Sara in a Dark Bonnet Tied under her Chin, c. 1901, By Mary Cassatt (1844-1926). Pastel on paper, 22 x 17 1/2 in.
  • Personnages sur la plage, Trouville (People on the Beach, Trouville), 1866, By Eugène Boudin (1824-1898). Watercolor and graphite on paper, 5 1/2 x 10 in.
  • Coast Scene, 1893, By Paul Signac 1863-1935). Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 22 in.


Following the murder of her entire family at Auschwitz during World War II, Léone Meyer was adopted by Raoul Meyer (1892-1970) and Yvonne Bader (1897-1971) in December 1946.

Upon Yvonne Bader’s death in 1971, Léone Meyer became the sole heir to both Raoul Meyer and Yvonne Bader family’s assets, which included La Bergère.

German soldiers posing with painting stolen from the
National Museum of Naples Picture Gallery (Source)

The ERR was one of several Nazi agencies engaged in the plunder of cultural property in Nazi-occupied countries during World War II.

The Meyer family appeared on special listings drawn up by the ERR of Jewish collections targeted for seizure in German-occupied France.


The ERR had a depot at the Louvre Museum and one at a museum known as “Jeu de Paume.” The Jeu de Paume served as the main processing, sorting, and distribution station for art and cultural objects confiscated by the ERR all over France.

Artwork that was categorized as “undesirable” was set aside to either be sold to dealers and collectors to obtain foreign exchange, or to be exchanged for more acceptable works of art, such as European Old Masters that could be repatriated to the Third Reich and incorporated into Nazi collections.


In March 1940, the Meyer family placed their art collection in a bank safe at Crédit Commercial de France, located in Mont-de-Marsan, France, for safe keeping.

On or around February 22, 1941, Nazi forces obtained access to the bank and seized a collection of artworks registered under the name of Mrs. Raoul Meyer.

The seized Meyer collection was sent to Jeu de Paume. La Bergère was set aside for possible exchange. The painting ended up in Switzerland between 1944 and 1946.

Letter from the DSK to Ministerial attaché, Rademacher, of the
German Military Administration in Paris—Militärbefehlshaber für
Frankreich or MbF, dated 11 February 1941

Rosenberg Archives-Raoul Meyer
German Inventory

Following the liberation of Paris in August 1944 a special commission, “Commission de Récupération Artistique” (CRA), was created to document, research the thefts of and restitute cultural assets. Unsatisfied claims were transferred to “Office des biens et intérêts privés” (OBIP) in 1945.

Raoul Meyer sent an inventory of artwork taken by Nazis to the CRA. Some artwork was recovered, but not La Bergère. Raoul Meyer sent an inventory of unsatisfied claims to the OBIP.

Raoul Meyer’s artwork that was still missing was incorporated into a report titled “Répertoire des Biens Spoliés en France Durant la Guerre de 1939-1945.” This report was widely disseminated to embassies, museums and art galleries throughout Europe and the Americas.

Office des Biens et Intérêts Privés (Private Assets Office)
 Meyer File (“Raoul Meyer,” 32058, RA 608, MAEE, Paris, France)

“Répertoire des Biens Spoliés en France Durant
la Guerre de 1939-1945” was one of the
registries distributed in by the  U.S.
State Department.

The United States, France, and Great Britain signed the “Tripartite Agreement” on July 8, 1946. As part of its obligation under the Agreement, the U.S. State Department distributed registries of art losses, such as the “Répertoire des Biens Spoliés en France Durant la Guerre de 1939-1945” to museums, galleries, colleges and universities.

La Bergère, Raoul Meyer’s missing painting, was listed in one of the distributed registries.

“Répertoire des Biens Spoliés en France Durant la Guerre de 1939-1945”
(“Raoul Meyer,” 32058, RA 608, MAEE, Paris, France)


When Raoul Meyer filed a civil case in a Swiss court in 1953, he had to prove that Christoph Bernoulli acquired the La Bergère with knowledge it was stolen (bad faith). The Swiss Court held that Raoul Meyer failed to prove Bernoulli acquired La Bergère in bad faith.

In the US, a theft cannot convey good title. The original owner retains title to the stolen object. It does not matter if a subsequent purchaser did not know the object was previously stolen.


On December 16, 1996, the Federal Council of Switzerland created the Bergier Commission, also known as the Independent Commission of Experts (ICE). The ICE’s mandate was to investigate the volume and fate of assets moved to Switzerland before, during, and immediately after World War II.

On March 3, 1998, Pablo Crivelli, an ICE member, submitted a report titled “Internal Report-The Issue of Looted Assets (Works of Art) in the Swiss Federal Archives, 1943-1950.”


  • The Swiss Government’s policies enabled the permissive importation of looted artwork into Switzerland.
  • The Swiss Federal agencies involved in the investigational and restitution of artwork exercised censorship over information about looted artwork that illicitly entered Switzerland.
  • The private sector failed to properly cooperate with governmental investigations, which further impeded the resolution of looted artwork claims.
  • Citing Meyer v. Bernoulli, the civil code rule in the Swiss legal system was almost unassailable in the context of works of art looted from Nazi-occupied territories and imported into Switzerland.


In 1956, unbeknownst to Raoul Meyer or his family, La Bergère entered the United Stated through the David Findlay Galleries, Inc. in New York from E. J. van Wisselingh & Co., an art dealer in Amsterdam, Holland.

In late 1956, Aaron and Clara Weitzenhoffer acquired La Bergère from David Findlay Galleries, Inc.


After purchasing La Bergère from David Findlay Galleries, Inc., Clara Weitzenhoffer brings it to Oklahoma.

In 2000, Clara Weitzenhoffer’s estate bequests 33 French Impressionist painting, including La Bergère, to the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.


From 1945 up until their deaths, Léone Meyer’s parents made numerous attempts to discover the whereabouts of all the missing paintings from the Meyer family art collection.

Léone Meyer was equally determined to recover the missing paintings and performed an exceptional level of due diligence in her search.


Léone Meyer retrieved documents from the French Government and numerous listings of artwork owned by private collectors.

Léone Meyer filed claims with a French special task force (“Matteoli Commission” then “CIVS”) and filed a claims letter with the Art Loss Register in London, the worlds largest private database of lost and stolen art, antiques, and collectibles.

Léone Meyer met several times and exchanged letters with Sandrine and Lionel Pissarro, heirs to the Pissarro Estate and art dealers.

Léone Meyer hired an art expert, trustee of the “Société des Amis du Louvre” Foundation, to perform an exhaustive research on the whereabouts of La Bergère. The research produced no lead.


In the spring of 2012, Léone Meyer’s family discovered a blog entry on the Holocaust Art Restitution Project website that indicated that La Bergère’s records at Jeu de Paume matched the Pissarro painting on display at the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.

On December 12, 2012, Léone Meyer, through her attorney, demanded the return of the Pissarro painting from the University of Oklahoma. David Boren responded on January 18, 2013 claiming the painting was in the custody of the University of Oklahoma Foundation, not the University Oklahoma.


A complaint for the return of La Bergère was filed on May 9, 2013 in the Southern District of New York.

On January 10, 2014, the complaint was amended.

On February 7, 2014, the University of Oklahoma filed a motion to dismiss, most notably on the following grounds:

  • Lack of jurisdiction of the court
  • State Immunity from suits
  • Res judicata
  • Statute of limitations
  • Laches

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