Paintings stolen by Nazis returned to Poland

Sept. 23, 2011 at 10:43 AM
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NEW YORK, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Two Polish paintings stolen by Nazis during World War II were repatriated in a ceremony in New York by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Both oil-on-panel paintings by Polish artist Julian Falat were returned to Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski during the Thursday night ceremony, CNN reported.

"Behind every person who is here, we can find a very difficult history ... very difficult ties, tangled Polish-American ties," the president said. "It is so good in difficult histories we were able to develop very good, strong relations between our nations. I want to thank you for your good actions, for everything you have done."

The paintings, titled "Off to the Hunt" and "The Hunt," both winter scenes, "are two magnificent and very important pieces of art," said Bogdan Zdrojewski, Polish minister of culture and national heritage.

The paintings, taken from the National Museum in Warsaw, were discovered in 2006 at an auction in New York

A complaint filed in December claimed the paintings were taken from the Warsaw museum in 1944 by SS Lt. Col. Benne Von Arent.

The United States customs agency has returned more than 2,500 items to more than 22 countries since 2007.

"No one can ever provide just compensation to the victims of the Nazis' atrocities, but it is very gratifying for our office to play a role in returning the art that they looted during World War II to its rightful owners," New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

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