Russia Returns Looted Stained Glass Windows to Germany

Artinfo 17 November 2008

FRANKFURT AN DER ODER, Germany—The Russian government has returned to Germany six stained-glass window panes that were among the objects Soviet troops shipped home as war booty after World War II, reports Bloomberg.

In 1941, the 600-year-old windows in St. Marienkirche in Frankfurt an der Oder, a town on the border to Poland, were boxed up and shipped to Potsdam for safekeeping. After the end of the war, Soviet troops sent them home as booty; 111 panels that had been stored in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg were returned by the Russian government in 2002. These six, at first believed to be lost, were found in storage at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow in 2005. German authorities have been negotiating for their return since.

The windows were among about 2.5 million art works that Stalin's Soviet Trophy Commission plundered from East Germany after the war. The Soviet Union returned about 1.5 million of those in the 1950s, including Berlin's prized Pergamon Altar, but Russia has refused to give up the rest, despite increased pressure from Germany since its reunification in 1990. Under Russian law, art taken by the Trophy Commission is Russian property.

"This restitution makes us optimistic," German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann said in a statement, "that despite all the problems, progress is possible with goodwill on both sides — even if only in small steps."
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