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France to finally return stolen Nazi paintings to Jews

By Mason White 1:32 PM February 15, 2013
One of the artworks to be returned 

By: David Ross
After struggling for years, the French government finally decided to return several Nazi looted paintings to its Jewish rightful owners, according to press reports in France.

France announced that it will return seven artworks taken from their Jewish owners during World War II, part of an ongoing effort to return hundreds of stolen art that still hang in French museums.

The works were stolen or sold by force 70 years ago since their Jewish owners had to flee from Nazi Europe. The seven works were scheduled to be displayed in an art gallery of Adolf Hitler, which he wanted to build in his hometown of Linz, Austria, according to a planned museum catalog.

At the end of the war, with Hitler dead and the reconstruction effort of European cities, thousands of artworks were left behind and many of them has found its way into the country’s most important museums.

The decision to return the paintings ends a seven-year struggle for the two families, whose applications were validated by the French government last year after years of investigating the fate of the works.

“This is very rare. It’s the largest number of paintings that have been able to return to Jewish families in more than a decade,” Bruno Saunier of the National Museums, said.

Many of the 100,000 artworks that were looted, stolen or appropriated between 1940 to 1944 in France have been returned to the Jewish families, but Saunier said that the country has increased its efforts in the past five years to track down the rightful owners of 2,000 works of art still in state institutions.

Filing errors and the challenge of identifying the paintings’ owners have made the return of the stolen work a slow go.