Nazis Stole It in 1941. Painting Is Finally Going Home

Jan van der Heyden work was stolen from Austrian couple nearly 80 years ago
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2019 9:54 AM CDT

(Newser) – In 1941, the Gestapo stole more than 160 paintings from a Jewish couple, who'd fled Nazi-annexed Austria. Hitler's photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, nabbed "View of a Dutch Square" by Jan van der Heyden, but he didn't have long to enjoy it. Retrieved by the Allies after the end of World War II, the painting was sent to the Bavarian government in Germany. But Gottlieb and Mathilde Kraus would never see it again. As revealed in 2016, the painting was sold for $75 to Hoffmann's daughter, also Hitler's secretary, who went on to sell it to St. Victor's Cathedral in Xanten, Germany, for "about 54 times as much," per the New York Times. But "it is never too late to grant a measure of justice and compassion," American John Graykowski, a great-grandson of the Krauses, tells the Art Newspaper, which notes the work is finally going home. (See the painting here.)

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St. Victor's Cathedral, pictured in the painting, has agreed to surrender it to Kraus heirs on Thursday. "I'm the first one in my family to actually see this painting in 80 years, since 1938," Graykowski tells the Times. Church officials say they were previously unaware of the painting's messy past. Still, Graykowski wonders why it took eight years of negotiations with the Commission for Looted Art in Europe "since the first time we presented the incontrovertible evidence and that it belonged to my family." He plans to donate the painting to a Jewish museum in Vienna, per Time. Meanwhile, the commission is working to return other paintings stolen from the Krauses. "This is only the seventh painting to be returned to them," says founder Anne Webber. Per the Art Newspaper, the other six paintings were returned by Austria in 2002 and 2004. (Read more looted art stories.)

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