Israel has restituted three ancient medallions stolen by the Nazis in Poland in 1941. After payment to heirs of the original owners, two of the 4th century C.E. gold-painted glass pieces will remain at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, where they have been since they were purchased from looters in 1965. The medallions, actually the bases of glass bowls, are decorated in gold with Jewish motifs, including menorahs and lions of Judah. They are among the oldest known depictions of Jewish symbols ever found in the Mediterranean diaspora, Anne Webber, a co-chair of the London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe, told JTA in a telephone interview. The non-profit commission, which assists heirs in locating stolen objects and helps museums determine the provenance of their collections, announced Tuesday that the museum had restituted the three medallions to the heirs of the original owners. Count Adam Zamoyski, speaking for the heirs in London, said they were “very happy with the outcome.” He said they “fully recognize the importance of the two glasses to the Jewish people, and respect the wishes of the Israel Museum to keep them in Jerusalem.” Originally found in catacombs in Rome, the medallions were part of a collection assembled by Countess Isabella Dzialynska nee Czartoryska at the Hotel Lambert, her family home in Paris.
Teddy Kollek, the former mayor of Jerusalem and founder of the Israel Museum, purchased two of the medallions from a collector in Vienna together with Israeli art dealer Joseph Steiglitz. Kollek bought the third one for himself and donated it to the museum in 1970.
The family has known for four years that the medallions were in the Israel Museum. Two of the pieces will remain in the museum’s permanent collection, the commission reported. One was repurchased by the museum and the second was purchased by a museum patron for long-term loan.