ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On Thursday, a painting looted by the Nazis back in 1933 was finally returned to its rightful owners during a virtual repatriation ceremony.
Back in 1934, the piece of art called “Winter” was lawfully purchased at an auction by the owner of the Arkell Museum located in Canajoharie. It’s been part of their collection ever since. Little did they know, it belonged to the prominent Mosse family from Berlin, Germany and it had been stolen from them.
“I’d like to emphasize in this case, there was no evidence that the Arkell Museum knew when they took custody of the painting back many years ago that it was stolen,” said Acting United States Attorney Antoinette Bacon.
Bacon said Rudolf Mosse and his family operated a successful publishing company in the early 20th Century. The newspaper was called the Berliner Tageblatt. The Mosse family was Jewish and the Nazi party reportedly targeted them for being outspoken about the rise of the Nazi movement. The family eventually fled Germany leaving behind their property, including an extensive art collection, which the Nazis allegedly seized.
“Members of the Mosse family made their way here to America and, coincidentally, so did ‘Winter,’” said Bacon.
The family heirs are represented by Roger Strauch, who is the step-great-grandson of Rudolf Mosse. Strauch now serves as the President of the Mosse Foundation, which operates internationally to recover the hundreds of pieces of stolen artwork.
“The Mosse Art Restitution Initiative located and validated the provenance of the painting within the last couple of years and we approached the Office of the United States Attorney and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to ensure an orderly and lawful transfer of ownership to the rightful owners,” said Strauch.
“We may have played just a small role in this effort, but we will forever recognize the magnitude of this work, and we are truly honored to be able to return this painting to its rightful owners,” said FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Peter Magnetto.
Following the repatriation ceremony, “Winter” will be auctioned off through Sotheby’s with an estimated value in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Strauch said he does not get any personal compensation and that the money goes right back into the foundation’s philanthropic mission for arts and education, as well as their restitution efforts.
“We have successfully completed three dozen restitutions recovering over 50 Mosse art items and artifacts,” said Strauch.
He added that they currently have eight ongoing restitution claim efforts in Poland, Sweden, Germany, Israel and the U.S.
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