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Stolen art returned

July 15, 2010

A collection of paintings apparently taken from Germany by a US soldier at the end of the Second World War are being sent home. The 11 pieces of art are on their way to a museum in the small town of Pirmasens.

Heinrich Buerkel's 'Nach der Jagd'
Buerkel's 'Nach der Jagd' was one of three paintings already returned to GermanyImage: picture alliance/dpa

Eleven oil paintings that were among a stash that US soldiers are thought to have taken during World War II are on their way home.

The link between the paintings and their origins was discovered by Beth McFadden, whose great uncle, US Army Sergeant Harry Gursky, had been stationed near the town.

"Without the integrity and good will of Beth Ann McFadden, the repatriation of these paintings to the Pirmasens Museum could not have taken place," said a statement from New York southern district attorney Preet Bharara.

"Each work of art returned symbolizes an act of justice, bringing us one step closer to the goal of repatriating all of the surviving pieces taken from museums during World War II."

Hidden under a school

US ambassador William Timken, left, officially hands over the stolen paintings to Pirmasens mayor Bernhard Matheis in February, 2010
Three Buerkel paintings were returned to Germany earlier this yearImage: picture alliance/dpa

The town of Pirmasens suffered heavy bombing during the war and 40 of its museum's prized paintings were hidden under a local school building.

McFadden researched the history of the paintings and found that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement had an open investigation searching for them, believing them to have been taken by occupying troops.

The paintings, worth a total of 156,800 euros ($200,000), are to be housed at their original home, a museum in the southwestern German town of Pirmasens.

Three of the paintings by the 19th century artist Heinrich Buerkel, who was born in the town, are valued at almost 40,000 euros each. The collection also includes a painting by the artist Alois Broch.

Author: Richard Connor (Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Chuck Penfold