- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2004

BERLIN - The billionaire grandson of a Nazi arms supplier made a rare public appearance Tuesday to defend the showing of his own huge art collection, which critics view as tainted by the family’s history.

In a country where the guilty legacy of earlier generations still can weigh heavily, the debate over the show of influential works owned by Friedrich Christian Flick has become increasingly personal, with his siblings recently joining the ranks of his opponents.

Mr. Flick, who lives most of the time in Switzerland, came to Berlin to promote the Sept. 22 opening of the 2,500-piece exhibition in the German capital.

A German Jewish leader, Salomon Korn, has accused him of trying to “whitewash” the family’s history. Mr. Flick’s sister called for delaying the exhibition as long as the Flick name is connected to it. His brother, Gert-Rudolf, said: “It gives some in the family a bad feeling when the Flick name is marketed.”

Mr. Flick has distanced himself from his grandfather’s ties, and he brushed off the criticism Tuesday, saying he refused to be known as the Nazi of the family.

“In any family, there are of course different viewpoints, and I don’t want to argue in public. The facts speak for themselves,” Mr. Flick said, standing before a bright red painting by the German artist Martin Kippenberger, surrounded by a crush of cameras and reporters. “I am going my own way.”

Mr. Flick’s grandfather, Friedrich Flick, was sentenced by postwar Germany in 1947 to seven years in prison for crimes including the use of slave labor in his arms factories and the “Aryanization” of Jewish property. Released early in 1950, he rebuilt his business in West Germany before his death in 1972.

The younger Mr. Flick — a regular in European celebrity magazines, with an accompanying playboy image — sold his shares in the family conglomerate for $60 million after his grandfather’s death and then built up his riches through investments. The Flick group was sold later to Deutsche Bank for $2.5 billion.

Mr. Flick has been criticized for not putting money into a fund set up by German companies and the government to pay reparations to victims of slave labor, instead choosing to set up his own fund to fight racism.

He proposed building a new Rem Koolhaas-designed museum in Zurich to house his collection but was discouraged by loud protests against his plans. He turned to Berlin, a city eager to shore up its reputation as a culture capital, 60 years after the Nazis and World War II pushed the avant-garde out of the city.

The works will be shown in a newly renovated building at Berlin’s state-funded Hamburger Bahnhof contemporary art museum. Ranging from Marcel Duchamps and Alberto Giacometti to Bruce Nauman and Gerhard Richter, the works likely would have been considered “degenerate art” under the Nazis.

German Culture Minister Christina Weiss said Monday it was worth presenting the works for that reason alone, even with the Flick name attached.

Events to discuss the Flick family history will be held in conjunction with the art show, but the government is resisting calls for side-by-side exhibits of the art and an exploration of Friedrich Flick’s lucrative Nazi connections.

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