Nazi-Looted Cross Saved From Garbage Returns to Heirs

Bloomberg 6 May 2008
By Catherine Hickley

A medieval processional cross that was looted from Poland by the Nazis and discovered decades later in an Austrian garbage bin has been returned to the heirs of the countess who owned it before the war.

The Limoges enamel cross was part of the Dzialynska collection at Goluchow Castle in Poland, according to a statement from the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, a London-based organization which helps families recover property stolen by the Nazis. The 13th-century cross features enameled plaques with images of the crucifixion and the apostles.

``I can hardly believe it has turned up,'' Adam Zamoyski, one of the heirs, said in a telephone interview from Zell am See, Austria. Zamoyski said the 19 inch-high cross will be displayed at the Czartoryski Foundation museum in Krakow. Other items the family has recovered are on show in Warsaw and in Poznan, and Zamoyski said he would like eventually to house the reconstituted collection in its own museum.

Countess Isabella Dzialynska collected thousands of works of art in the second half of the 19th century, including paintings, antiquities, medieval and Renaissance enamels, jewelry and silver. The family transported the most valuable items from Goluchow, which was close to the German border, to Warsaw in 1939. The Nazis found them and seized them in 1941.

Plastic Bag

On Hitler's orders, the treasures were moved to Castle Fischhorn in Zell am See in Austria, where they were looted again by locals as World War II ended. Attempts by the family to recover the missing artifacts after the conflict were unsuccessful.

Then in 2004, Lydia Gruber, a resident of Zell am See, discovered the cross lying in a dumpster filled with the discarded possessions of an elderly neighbor, poking out of a plastic carrier bag full of cutlery. Last year, a friend of Gruber's took the cross to a local museum for evaluation and investigations by the Salzburg police identified the rightful owners.

``The heirs are very grateful to Mrs. Gruber,'' Anne Webber, co-chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, said in a statement. ``We hope that news of this recovery will bring about the discovery of other precious items from the collection which may be in the area.'' Webber declined to put a value on the cross.

Zamoyski promised a reward to anyone who helps recover other objects from the collection. Many items were sold on to dealers after the war, and Zamoyski said the family has recovered artifacts including Persian wall-hangings and reliquaries from as far afield as the U.S.

``We are still looking for some Roman glass and an extraordinary medieval chalice,'' Zamoyski said. He said he is planning to stage an exhibition with photographs of the missing treasures in Zell am See to ``get people interested and see whether they might not look through their attics and cellars.''

To contact the writer on this story: Catherine Hickley in Berlin at
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