Painting stolen by Nazis returned to rightful owners

A work of art looted by the Nazis during World War II for Hitler’s Munich headquarters was finally returned to its rightful owners on Tuesday.

United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman presented Salomon Koninck’s 1639 piece, "A Scholar Sharpening His Quill," to the family of renowned art collector Adolphe Schloss -- decades after it was snagged from his collection in 1943.

According to a press release from the DA’s office, in WWII the Nazis created a special division known as the Einsatzstab Reichleiter Rosenberg (ERR), tasked with confiscating artwork and other valuable cultural representations of Jewish life.

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Among the works confiscated was Koninck’s painting, taken from Schloss’ gallery in Southern France.

Officials said that 243 pieces of art were taken from his collection and transported to an ERR-operated museum. Koninck’s painting was selected to be sent to Adolf Hitler's headquarters in Germany, where it was lost in the aftermath of the war.

The artwork resurfaced in November 2017 after a dealer attempted to sell it at an auction house in New York. The ERR had carefully documented the paintings stolen during the war, which meant there was a detailed record of its original ownership.

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The dealer told officials that the painting was bought by her father in 1952 from one of the Nazis'chieff purchasing agents.

A motion seeking a civil forfeiture of the painting to the heirs of the Schloss family was filed in October and it was granted on March 11.

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“The campaign of cultural plunder that the Nazis directed against millions of innocent Jews was sadistic and unjust.  That is why restitution in this case is more than returning a material good, but restoring a physical part of lost heritage,” Berman said in a statement. “After nearly 80 years of being lost, this painting has been found and we are returning it to the Schloss family.”