Article in Die Weltwoche on the donation of a painting by Max Liebermann – statement by the FDFA

Press release, 23.01.2020

An article has appeared in the 23 January 2020 edition of Die Weltwoche concerning the donation of the painting 'Grosse Seestrasse in Wannsee' by Max Liebermann to the Max Liebermann Society in Berlin by the FDFA. The article claims that the then Swiss ambassador in Berlin, Christine Schraner Burgener, made the donation in order to raise her own personal profile and that an accusation of criminal mismanagement had been levelled against her. The FDFA categorically rejects these claims.

The painting was originally owned by François de Diesbach, head of the Swiss representation in Berlin, who acquired it in 1948. After de Diesbach's premature death in an accident in 1949, the painting remained in the embassy. As the painting had come into the care of the embassy through a tragic set of circumstances and as the search for possible rightful claimants or heirs had proved unsuccessful until 2003, the options open to the embassy were either to sell the painting or – without any profit for the federal government – to make it accessible to the general public. Based on a legal opinion recommending a long-term solution that would not benefit the federal government financially, the former ambassador Christine Schraner Burgener took the initiative in 2017 of looking into whether the painting could be donated to the Max Liebermann Society.

Prior to the donation, the ownership of the painting was established and a claim under inheritance law was ultimately rejected by the court. In addition, the provenance of the painting was checked once again to rule out that it had been stolen. The donation agreement stipulates that the painting may not be resold.

The FDFA approved the donation on behalf of the Swiss Confederation as the owner of the painting. The head of the FDFA informed the Federal Council of the loan and the donation on 14 May 2018, 3 July 2018 and 21 May 2019. The act of donation itself took place on 14 April 2019 in the Liebermann Villa in Berlin.

Address for enquiries:

FDFA Communication
Federal Palace West Wing
CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Twitter: @SwissMFA


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs