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U.S. Returns Painting Looted by Nazis in ’37

MANHATTAN (CN) - The United States on Tuesday returned an oil painting expropriated by Nazis to the estate of its rightful owner at a ceremony at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. The "Portrait of a Musician" playing a bagpipe was painted in 1632 by an unknown painter, and was stolen by Nazis in 1937.

Tuesday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The painting was returned to the estate of Dr. Max Stern. Stern, a Jewish art dealer in Germany, was ordered by the Nazi Reich Chamber for the Fine Arts to liquidate his gallery and inventory. He was forced to consign most of his art work to the Lempertz Auction house, a Nazi-approved art purveyor, for forced sale.

Stern was prevented from receiving proceeds from the sale, and fled Germany, eventually settling in Canada. He filed a restitutionary claim with the British, placed ads in newspapers and initiated judicial proceedings in Germany.

Efforts to locate the purchasers of Stern's collections were hampered by the destruction of many of the auction's records during World War II.

A German court awarded him damages in 1964 for profits lost during the forced sale. Stern died in 1987, leaving any interest in his collection, including the bagpipe player, to his estate.

In 2004, the estate contacted the Art Loss Register, an art recovery company and databank, to assist in recovering the missing painting, which appears on three stolen art registries. The painting was tracked to a Manhattan art dealer, who did not know it had been stolen.

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