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France returns 3 paintings stolen by Nazis


By Thomas Adamson

PARIS (AP) - France on Tuesday returned three paintings stolen by the Nazis during World War II to their rightful owners.

In an official ceremony, Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti returned the works to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original owners who are now dead - calling it a "gesture toward justice."

They include "Madonna and Child," by 14th century master Lippo Memmi and "Portrait of a Woman," an 18th century canvas by an unknown artist.

The Memmi masterpiece, painted on wood, was looted in 1944 from a Jewish Romanian banker, Richard Soepkez, who lived in the French Riviera city of Cannes.

It was returned to his grandson Nicholas Florescu, who travelled to France for the ceremony from his hometown of Houston.

"It's unbelievable what's happened," said 62-year-old Florescu, visibly moved.

"I mean think about all these years. It was not even in the cards but the French government was very helpful in finding this and we owe a great gratitude to them," he added, saying he will now travel to Antibes where his gravely ill 89-year-old father, Soepkez's son, still resides to tell him the news.

The third painting, "Mountain Landscape" by Flemish artist Joos de Momper (1564-1635), was destined for display in the art gallery Adolf Hitler wanted to build in his hometown of Linz, Austria.

This restitution now brings the number of looted paintings returned by France to their rightful owners to 10 in less than a year - part of an ongoing effort to return hundreds of looted artworks Jewish owners lost during the war.

At the end of the war, with Hitler dead and European cities rebuilding, artworks were left "unclaimed" and many thousands that were thought to have been French-owned ended up in the country's top museums, including the Louvre.

Many of the 100,000 possessions looted, stolen or appropriated between 1940 and 1944 in France have been returned to Jewish families, but France says some 2,000 artworks still lie in state institutions.

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zzyxx March 11 2014 at 5:29 PM

it is called ....doing the RIGHT thing

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itsmegp46 March 11 2014 at 1:52 PM

Now France, return the ancient Greek artworks and artifacts back to Greece. Ditto to you too, England.

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Ric itsmegp46 March 11 2014 at 4:23 PM

What about Egyptian art and artifacts?

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1 reply
blazinglight Ric March 11 2014 at 9:13 PM

The Egyptian Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark ... has so much art from Egyptian tombs that it staggers the imagination. The entire huge museum is devoted to it. What should be done?

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Mary March 11 2014 at 2:45 PM

This is admirable; what took so long? I urge everyone to see The Monuments Men which were American soldiers (historians & art history majors) designated by the U.S. to return stolen art to its rightful owners. Adloph Hitler and Nazi Germany, what a travesty! Anyone old enough to remember gets shivers up and down their spine. Thank God we won.

There are still accounts in Swiss banks unaccounted for because the Swiss want a death certficate to prove the owner is dead. I don't know of any concentration camp that issued a death certificate after they incinerated the safety deposit owner, do you?

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mickshute2261 March 11 2014 at 11:14 PM

America had a genocide against its native peoples took 99.9% of their land and never gave it back.. Even now we strugle to find equality amongst our many tribes, anglo asian latino black, rich and poor, gentile muslam and jew, straight or gay. ALL our tribemates deserve equality and a voice. Tearing down 1 tears down all.

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yamel86 March 11 2014 at 1:59 PM

At last, I can applaud the French....

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jmg62 March 11 2014 at 10:07 PM

Goering stood not 3 feet away from Rothschild's ante room behind the desk where artworks - owned, donated, had been on revue from the family were cached. Rugs, paintings, Greek Classical, Romanesque, Baroque, Roccoco were hidden from him in the Chateau. Goering had a great deal more time than Hitler to caste about for Grand Works of the Masters - but Hitler spiked him and Goebbles at every turn - sending his Art Masters to Holland, Netherlands, Paris, Jewish Family Castles, etc.. Goering's Carinhall - built in the name of and after his Swedish wife died - along with Jagdhall - House of the Hunt - her mausoleum and as Goering was Master of the Hunt in Nazi Germany was allotted the Lion's share of the takings. Richthofen was given pride of the Hunt for one of the last 1000 kg boars in the forest and was amazed at the art collection Goering had amassed for himself. One of the few who could speak to the Reichsfuhrer in such a truthful manner he saw the insipid fantasy land Goering surrounded himself with after Hitler flayed him after Stalingrad. Indulging in all manner of medications, foods, wines, Armagnac's, - he tried to get Hitler to take Leningrad to abscond with what was in the Hermitage there. Palace turned museum from Catherine the Great in what was St. Petersburg. A great collection even after Lenin sold off so many Tzarist Treasures. All and MORE taken by the Soviet forces from all over Europe and Berlin and NONE returned. "Booty for the State" with no intention of being returned. If they'd only agreed to return some - the Soviets would've learned where the "Amber Room" went - the gold filigree having been melted down long before. Stalin was too precipitate in killing Lenin. The Amber Room stored - but then lost to History. Lenin wanted it disassembled when Trotsky took the Winter Palace - if only Stalin had listened he'd of known Lenin's hiding spot should it ever need be hidden in the future. The Tzarina's jewels were to go there too. Romanov Star, several of Karl's Eggs for Orthodox Holiday's made by a Grand Duke for Mother and Daughter. But all paintings, sculptures and jewels were taken back to Leningrad after the siege was lifted and the Nazi's driven back along with other treasures brought back from over the Urals. Odd that the Imperial Family were subsumed with their jewels remaining on them. Only the diamonds in the boy's pocket were taken from them. The agreement with the Soviets was never to include quid pro quo works of art. They got theirs back - but dragged their feet giving any back to the Europeans - if they ever did so.

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burlareaguy jmg62 March 11 2014 at 10:52 PM

leaders of soviet Russia are thieving scumbags just like the scumbag nazi Germans.

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tropicalriderceo March 11 2014 at 4:45 PM

noble job France! well done!

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cayoblues March 11 2014 at 2:21 PM

It's a start..........

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MARIE March 11 2014 at 2:27 PM

Yes, all of the stolen art work of any kind, should be returned to the families that they rightfully belong to. And then maybe someone could figure out a way to have the SWISS turnover all of the accounts that are STILL hidden in their banking system that the NAZI's deposited after they stole anything of value from the people they killed, ---And the accounts that were made by Jewish people or any persons fleeing the Nazi's that made accounts in Swiss banks and did not live to claim it. A few years back they were "Looking" into it------ I don't think they looked too hard.

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LGgarcia973 March 11 2014 at 2:29 PM

Did anyone see the Monuments Men? This is a true story of American, British and French rescuers of art from the Nazi. Great true story. Clooney paid homage to these men that did a heroic act for humanity.

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1 reply
blazinglight LGgarcia973 March 11 2014 at 9:04 PM

Good story line, but the acting is terrible. I think whoever did the screen play should have been fired..

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