Families of U.S. soldiers return paintings stolen from Germany after WWII


(JTA) — Five paintings obtained by U.S. servicemen while serving in Germany at the end of World War II were returned to that nation.

Two American families returned the paintings to Germany’s U.S. ambassador on Tuesday in a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, the German news agency dpa reported.

The families reportedly began the process of returning the artworks after seeing the movie “The Monuments Men,” directed by George Clooney, who also starred in the 2014 film.

During World War II, an Allied platoon called the Monuments Men retrieved tens of thousands of valuable masterpieces and returned them to their rightful owners. The Dallas-based Monuments Men Foundation continues the effort and works to raise awareness of the danger posed to works of art and cultural objects in war zones around the world.

Three of the paintings, which had been stored by an art museum in Dessau in the Solvayhall salt mine for protection during  the war, were mailed to the United States after the war by a U.S. Army major who said  he won them in a poker game, according to reports. His stepson contacted the Monuments Men Foundation to return the paintings — the only paintings stolen from the 200 stored in the mine ever to be returned to the museum, the foundation’s head, Robert Edsel, told dpa.

Two paintings returned by the family of a Montana woman will be returned to the royal family of Hesse. The paintings, which the woman had purchased for a small price, had been stolen from the Kronberg Castle outside Frankfurt.

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