U.S. Returns Paintings "Liberated" by Soldier from Nazi Germany

ArtInfo 16 July 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Lawsuits relating to the restitution of art looted by the Nazis during World War II have been held up in courts in recent years. Eleven paintings that were stolen from Nazi Germany by an American serviceman following World War II, however, are finally making their way home, according to the Associated Press.

Paintings by Heinrich Buerkel were among the stolen artworks. Above is the artist's "Regenschauer in Garmisch."

The hero in the story is Beth Ann McFadden, who was a bit suspicious when she inherited the 11 paintings from her great uncle, Harry Gursky. She researched the works’ provenance and discovered that they belonged to an art museum in the small German town of Pirmasens, where Gursky was stationed after the war, and then approached authorities.

“Without the integrity and good will of Beth Ann McFadden, the repatriation of these paintings to the Pirmasens Museum could not have taken place,” New York district attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement released to press. The works include three paintings by Heinrich Buerkel, valued at $50,000 each, a work by Alois Brock pegged at $10,000, and seven minor works work about $4,000 apiece. 

While the Nazis proved to be the most prolific art looters in history, it has emerged in recent years that Allied soldiers also stole work. Back in December, John Pistone, an 87-year-old service member, returned a book that had been stolen from Hitler’s home in the Bavarian Alps. Ironically, the book was actually part of a multi-volume "wish list" of works that Hitler himself hoped to steal for his private museum.
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