By Simon Goodman
Scribner, 2015. 353 pgs. Nonfiction
The Orpheus Clock brings to life the tragedy of the Gutmann family’s losses to the Nazis. The Gutmann’s acquired their wealth through banking in Germany but by the time of the World War II, the family trustee of their famous art collection lived in Holland. The Nazis soon became aware of the priceless collection of art owned by Fritz and Louise Gutmann and couldn’t rest until they had taken everything, even Fritz and Louise’ lives. Because the Nazis usually made their art thefts look legal by forcing their victims to sign documents verifying their “sale,” most European governments were extremely slow to recognize and return art to victims and their families after the war, claiming the art had been legally acquired by the Nazis. Many governments ignored the life and death pressures experienced by the victims and required them to repurchase their art!
Inheriting his father’s voluminous correspondence from the decades after World War II, Simon Goodman renews his father’s quest to locate masterworks once owned by his grandparents that ended up in the hands of governments and galleries in Europe and the United States after the war. This gripping book also traces the lives of the Gutmann family as they acquire and then lose their wealth because of Nazi policies toward the Jews.