United States to return paintings looted from Germany at end of World War Second

The United States is returning to Germany three paintings that were stolen at the end of World War II after they turned up in an auction last year, the U.S. Embassy said Friday. U.S. Ambassador William Timken will hand over the 19th-century works by Heinrich Buerkel to the mayor of the southwestern city of Pirmasens on Feb. 10, the embassy said.

The three paintings, now valued at US$125,000 (100,000 euros), were among a group of about four dozen paintings stolen on March 22, 1945, as Allied forces swept through Germany, the FBI said at the time of their recovery late last year. They were found when the owner put them up for auction in the fall of 2005.

The FBI said the paintings belonged to the city museum in Pirmasens, in western Germany near the French border.

The museum moved the paintings to a school in 1942 to protect them from bombing. On Sept. 19, 1945 , the museum reported that about 50 paintings stored in the school's air-raid shelter had been lost "during the arrival of the American troops" six months earlier.

It was not clear who brought the works to the United States .

The three paintings were brought to the United States and were acquired by a New Jersey resident about 20 years after the war, the FBI said. In the late 1980s, they were handed down to his daughter.

In October, the paintings were offered for sale by auctioneer William H. Bunch Auctions & Appraisals of Chadds Ford.

German officials alerted the FBI after museum officials spotted the paintings offered for sale by an auction house in Concordeville , Pennsylvania in October.

"The consigner of the paintings agreed to voluntarily have them returned to Germany ," the embassy said.

The paintings are " Amalfi Cave ," from about 1845; "After the Hunt," about 1830; and "The Horse Roundup," about 1861-63. They all depict outdoor scenes of rural life.

They are being returned to the museums' Buerkel Gallery, reports the AP.


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