I was a resident of Freiburg from 2001 to 2009 with an artist visa. In 2002 I arranged with Volksbank Freiburg for my artwork to be transported from New York to Freiburg for exhibition. Volksbank paid a portion of the transport costs and for the insurance.
The shipment was also supported with a grant from the Freiburg Kulturamt. In the course of shipping over 30 paintings were lost/stolen and that many more damaged, some beyond repair. About 100 drawings were also damaged. The shipping was carried out by Artsped Schutz and their affiliate in New York, Transcon International.
When the shipment arrived at Artsped Schutz after a 2 month delay they unpacked the container without me being present, as required by law. They informed me the next day of the arrival and assured me ‘alles ist in ordnung’. I came to see the shipment the following day and was shocked to discover the unprofessional way the work had been packed which caused the damage and dismayed when I realised how many paintings were missing. I reported this to the police. They did not do an investigation. I reported it to the insurance company, R&V Versicherung of Kravag Logistics and they sent a gutachter, Herr Sven Neff, to examine the shipment.
He confirmed the state of damage and loss and assured me a settlement would be made. He recommended a restorer for the paintings that could be repaired and Artsped Schutz packed these paintings for shipment to the restorer. Kravag made an offer of 25.000€ which I refused because the value of the loss and damaged was estimated at 350.000€. At this point Kravag withdrew Herr Neff as gutachter and sent another, Herr Schwartz, who denied the validity of the claim. He of course did not see the shipment as it arrived. I hired a lawyer, Frau Tina Wienecke of Hegar Haus Freiburg to file a claim for a fairer settlement.
She never filed the claim for the insurance. She continued to represent me fraudulently for a year and a half during which time her only action was to arrange for me to give Artsped Schutz more artwork to pay for the cost of packing the paintings for the restorer. She concentrated her efforts on criticising me because I had taken a break from painting for several years. She harassed me emotionally. She assured me there was no time limit for filing the claim. She never inquired into the possibility of getting a settlement from the company that owned the ship which was another avenue for investigating the circumstances of the damage and loss and for financial compensation.
When I questioned her about these things she claimed I was ‘difficult’ and she couldn’t work with me. I contacted another attorney and sent him the files and he said that the insurance company had given her a 6-month deadline, which she did not inform me of and which she did not respect, and he was therefore unable to represent me. I returned to Frau Wienecke for explanation and she threatened to call the police if I did not leave.
I wrote to the Anwaltskammer but they did not take action against her. This event was followed by attacks on me personally which endangered my health. This caused me to leave Freiburg, though I returned a year later. The attacks on me resumed. I lived at the time of the attacks in the Thomas-Morus-Burse, student housing on Kapplerstr in Littenweiler. The house master Andreas Brown knew of the attacks and did nothing to stop them. I begged them to stop and they wouldn’t. This is a profound violation of human rights. The attacks also occurred at the Black Forest Hostel. Have you heard of the practice called ‘dousing’. It involves administering drugs surreptitiously – all kinds of drugs, different ones every day, so that the victim loses all sense of who they are. My doctor mishandled the tests so that I could not prove what was happening, although he clearly recognised my symptoms. There were further thefts and vandalism of my artwork. The police did not investigate. Psychological abuse followed - mobbing. I was refused employment. I will mention that although I don’t think the primary reason for this was my Jewish background, but I do think it played a part. One of my room-mates told me I was going to burn in hell. Others contributed on a less obvious level.
I come from a successful professional family of musicians, actors and artists. I am educated at the best schools in the United States and have always been professional in my work. My work as an artist, musician and actress had always been respected and I had many exhibitions and sold about half of everything I produced; in fact prior to the theft I had a show at the Goethe Institute and was represented by Spiegellhalter Gallery. In 2006 I was given another show at the Carl Schurz Haus, and the Badische Zeitung reviewed it. I sang the songs I wrote to good response in Freiburg and Paris. I have been a member of the actors’ union in Hollywood since 1991 and performed in many TV shows, films and theatres. Since this event in Freiburg, I have been unable to sell my artwork and the body of work has been crippled by the loss of about 30% of the work through theft and damage. The attacks on me physical and socially have damaged my health and my belief that I have a place in the world. My career as a musician or actress has been destroyed. My credibility has been destroyed. I have been living in abject poverty since that time. Unless this is resolved I do not believe I will ever recover my credibility or my profession.
I have tried continually to rectify this problem and get a financial settlement for the loss of my work. I have tried myself to deal with the insurance company, the courts, the lawyer, the police, the bank. I was told today that finally the deadline had passed in which to pursue this legally and therefore I am presenting this to you and to the public to influence the people responsible to make amends to me. This is a shameful story and should never have happened in the Freiburg I loved.