Nazi Gold: Old Master painting may be handed back

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The Independent Online
If the Nazis stole a valuable 17th-century painting during the Second World War, it will be returned or donated to a museum, the owners said after it was withdrawn from auction.

Peter Henle, son of the German collector Guenther Henle, said in a letter to the London branch of Sotheby's that his family would look for the victim and return the painting if it was stolen.

It was to have been auctioned at next week. The letter was released to The Boston Globe, which first reported the painting's dubious ownership background. Should the victim turn out to be Jewish with no descendants, the letter said, the painting, A dune landscape with two figures by a fence (left), by Jacob van Ruisdael, would be donated to "an appropriate museum or gallery in Israel." If no evidence of Nazi looting exists and no victim can be found, the family would meet again "to settle the disposition of the picture." The Globe said Sotheby's listed the painting with a notation showing it had been acquired for a museum Hitler planned to build in the Austrian city of Linz.

Guenther Henle, an industrialist and political architect of the post- war Christian Democratic government in Germany, bought the painting in 1961 from the Amsterdam dealer Pietre de Boer, who helped the Nazis obtain 300 paintings during the war.

Ori Soltes, director of Washington's National Jewish Museum, said the Henles' effort "is as correct as one could hope for, and reflects a sensitivity for rapprochement."

AP - Boston