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Arts

Hitler's looted horse sculptures recovered

Two life-sized bronze horse sculptures that once stood in front of Adolf Hitler's chancellery, estimated to be worth millions of dollars, have been uncovered in dramatic raids across Germany.

The whereabouts of the horse sculptures, as well as a number of granite reliefs, have baffled investigators for decades. But, following Wednesday's 10 raids across five states aimed at smashing an underground art trading ring, the mystery of the Nazi treasures has finally been solved.

Commissioned by Hitler at the height of his power, the colossal twin "Walking Horses" were sculpted by Josef Thorak (1989-1952). They were part of the thousands of bronze works crafted for the Nazi regime in its quest to transform Berlin into the imperial global capital of "Germania.

Following the Second World War the sculptures were evacuated into the Russian-occupied territory surrounding Berlin and resurfaced soon after on a sports ground of the Red Army barracks in Eberswalde, northeast of what was then divided Berlin. They remained there, in obscurity and in a deteriorating state, until the Berlin Wall threatened to tumble.

Following an exposé on the profound history of the horses by an art historian in early 1989, the sculptures quickly vanished, most likely sold off to help fill rapidly depleting East German coffers as the Soviet Union began to falter. Their location remained unknown for a quarter of a century.

The sculptures, in addition to granite reliefs crafted for the Nazis by Arno Breker, were discovered in a warehouse in Bad Duerkheim in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate. A report by Germany's "Bild" newspaper, which says the works have collectively been on the black market for four million euros ($4.4 million), suggests the artifacts are now likely to become the property of the German state.

jgt/kbm (AP, Reuters)

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