France returns to Jewish couple’s heirs artwork sold under Nazi duress

The heirs of a Jewish couple that sold art under duress to secure their passage from Nazi Germany have received the piece in question from France.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

A 16th century oil painting that fell into Nazi hands during World War II was returned by France’s government to a Jewish couple’s heirs Monday.

The Flemish painting “Triptych of the Crucifixion” is attributed to Joachim Patinir and had sat unclaimed in a French museum for seven decades.

French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen presented it to the grandchildren of Hertha and Henry Bromberg during a ceremony at Paris’ culture ministry.

The Jewish couple sold works under duress to secure their passage from Nazi Germany to the US.

“The feeling of thanks and gratitude is more valuable than the painting itself,” said a grandson, Christopher Bromberg.

France has in recent years stepped up efforts to identify the owners of lost or looted World War II treasures.

The Louvre Museum, for instance, recently put 31 paintings on permanent display in an effort to both find these works’ rightful owners in addition to the owners of other works of Nazi-looted art.

“The large majority of the retrieved artwork had been plundered from Jewish families during World War II. Beneficiaries can see these artworks, declare that these artworks belong to them, and officially ask for their return,” Sebastien Allard, the head of the paintings department at the Louvre, told the Associated Press in an interview.

The Nazis organized looting of European countries during the time of the Third Reich. Nazi plundering occurred from 1933 until the end of World War II, particularly by military units known as the Kunstschutz.

In addition to gold, silver and currency, cultural items of great significance were also stolen, including paintings, ceramics, books and religious treasures.

There is an international effort underway to identify Nazi loot that remains unaccounted for, with the aim of ultimately returning the items to the rightful owners, their families or their respective countries.

Many Jewish families have fought, or are fighting, to reclaim ownership over heirlooms that are currently held by museums and other institutions around the world.