Artwork stolen by Nazis returned to Poland by grandson

The Nazis stole thousands of artworks from museums and castles in Poland during World War II. Many have been lost forever. But some of the looted pieces are now being repatriated.

One of these has been returned by Ulrich Gauer, whose grandfather was with the occupying German army in Poland during the second world war.

His late grandfather, a keen photographer, took about 1,400 photos while he was in Poland. Gauer found the stash of photos recently.

Besides showing what life was like in Poland during the German occupation, Gauer found an image of a painting which had hung for decades in his family living room.

Realising it had been stolen, Gauer resolved to return it to its rightful owners.

After contacting the Polish embassy, he made arrangements to return the painting to Nowy Sacz in Southern Poland.

“It’s an extraordinary gesture of humanity and it helps to build a bridge between our cultures which are so closely tied” Nowy Sacz Museum director Robert Slusarek says.

“For centuries culture is what brought us together. These experiences of war waken the demons in us. This is a very important gesture towards reconciliation.”

Poland was hit hard by wartime plundering. Thousands of artworks with an estimated value of over 10 billion euros are still missing and should be returned to Poland, Slusarek says.

Regional museums also suffered losses, he says.

“I believe these objects are in private hands, but even so we need a dialogue with the cultural institutions that are under the authority of the German government.

“Returning looted art is an essential part of reconciliation and recovering from past tragedies,” Gauer says. “I hope that more people will have the same idea and say ‘it’s high time we gave back these artworks’.”

Gauer says he and his wife hope their example will encourage others to follow and return stolen artworks to their rightful owners.


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