Son of Nazi Returns Stolen Art to France

Nazi art
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / During World War II, Nazis looted millions of pieces of art. Hundreds of thousands of those pieces have not been returned

An 80-year-old German man by the name of Peter Forner has returned a piece of art to the Embassy of France in Berlin. The work, by Nicolas Rousseau, represents a rural scene and dates from the nineteenth-century. Radio France Internationale (RFI) has stated that this painting is worth more than 3000 euros (around $3300 US).

Forner’s father was an officer in the Nazi army who was stationed in Normandy during World War II. According to the head of the Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation in Germany, a French organization that returns Nazi-looted art, Alfred Forner (Peter’s father) was an officer in the Luftwaffe. When he was granted permission to return to Berlin, one of his superiors asked him to take home this painting. Forner went to the address indicated and discovered a home that was in ruins. He then found the painting and kept it at his home.

Because the origin and legitimate owner is currently unknown, the work was officially released to the French government on July 23, 2019.

Following the ceremony marking the return of the artwork to France, Forner told RFI that he felt that giving back this painting would help him “go away with [a] peace of mind” knowing that he had returned something that did not belong to him and perhaps was even stolen.

This painting marks the first time that a work with an unknown origin has been given to France by an individual. The painting will be deposited in a public institution in Normandy until the rightful owner is found.

Throughout World War II, the German army stole millions of works of art from families to sell or keep as trophies of war. Efforts have been made over the past several decades, spearheaded by World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, to track down and repatriate art looted by the Nazis during the Second World War, but hundreds of thousands of pieces still remain unaccounted.