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France to return Nazi-looted art as ‘Monuments Men’ hits French screens

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(JTA) — Ahead of the French premiere of “The Monuments Men,” France said it will return three precious paintings to the heirs of their owners.

The paintings are to be returned Tuesday, one day before the film on Nazi-looted art starring George Clooney debuts in France.

The conjunction of the two events is “an opportunity to remind people that Culture Minister Aurelie Flipetti is very attached to this gesture of remembrance,” France’s Culture Ministry told the French news agency AFP on Saturday.

“Portrait of a Woman,” an 18th-century painting believed to be by Louis Tocque, will be returned to heirs of Berlin Jewish art dealers Rosa and Jakob Oppenheimer.

“Virgin with Child,” by Lippo Memmi or an associate, seized from banker Richard Soepkez in Cannes in 1944, and “Mountain Landscape” by the 17th-century Flemish master Joos de Momper, belonged to Baron Cassel van Doorn, a Belgian banker. Van Doorn, who had residences in France, had his property confiscated in 1943 although he was not Jewish, AFP reported.

About 2,000 works whose owners have not been identified are being held in French museums.

“The Monuments Men,” whose cast includes Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett and the French actor Jean Dujardin, tells the story of a group charged with finding and saving artworks and other culturally important items during World War II. It is based on a nonfiction book by Robert Edsel.

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