Police in five states conducted coordinated raids during more than a yearlong investigation into illegal art trafficking. They seized pieces including the massive bronze horse sculptures by artist Josef Thorak and a 5-meter by 10-meter (16-foot by 33-foot) granite relief by Arno Breker, Berlin police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Eight Germans aged between 64 and 79 are being investigated in the case, he said, adding that many other works of art were found during the raids and authorities are now trying to determine their provenance.
The horses once stood on either side of the stairs into the chancellery that Hitler had built in downtown Berlin. The building, like most in the center of the capital, was badly damaged during World War II. It was ordered demolished after the war by the Soviets, who used much of its red marble walls to build a memorial to their war dead in East Berlin.
The granite relief depicts muscled, shirtless fighters carrying swords “in typical Nazi style,” Neuendorf said, adding it was also destined for the chancellery but was never installed.
The works were last seen in 1989 on display at a sports field in East Germany that was part of a Soviet barracks in Eberswalde, near Berlin, before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The objects were all found in a warehouse in the town of Bad Duerkheim in the southwestern state of Rhineland Palatinate, Neuendorf said. Other raids on homes were carried out in Berlin, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein. It is not known how the art ended up in Bad Duerkheim.
Police started investigating after learning that someone was trying to sell the art on the black market.