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Germany returns artwork stolen by Nazis to French Jewish family

Three pieces recovered in Gurlitt trove given to descendants of Armand Dorville, most of whose relatives were killed during German occupation of France

Illustrative: A combination of photos released by prosecutors in Augsburg, Germany on November 12, 2013 show five of the more than 1,500 paintings believed looted by the Nazis, seized from a Munich flat of Cornelius Gurlitt. (Lostart.de/Augsburg prosecutors/ AFP/File)
Illustrative: A combination of photos released by prosecutors in Augsburg, Germany on November 12, 2013 show five of the more than 1,500 paintings believed looted by the Nazis, seized from a Munich flat of Cornelius Gurlitt. (Lostart.de/Augsburg prosecutors/ AFP/File)

BERLIN — The German government on Wednesday handed three works of art stolen during the Nazi occupation of France back to descendants of their original owner, collector and Jewish lawyer Armand Dorville.

It was part of a program to return artifacts looted by the Nazis, included two paintings “Dame en robe du soir” (Woman in an evening gown) and “Portrait d’une dame” (Portrait of a woman) by Jean-Louis Forain. The third was a drawing by Constantin Guys, a Dutch-born Frenchman who worked as a Crimean War correspondent.

They are among hundreds of items from the trove of German-Austrian collector Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in 2014. The Nazis engaged his father Hildebrand — who was part-Jewish — to sell items either stolen or confiscated from Jewish owners.

Dorville died in 1941 and his collection was distributed to museums and private collectors.

The family was unable to flee occupied France and most members were killed by the Nazis, who occupied the country from 1940-1944.

Several close relatives of Dorville’s brother Charles perished at Auschwitz.

“It is no longer possible to make up for the suffering of the Dorville family under the Nazi persecution, but we must render them visible and this restitution comprises an important gesture of historic justice,” said German secretary of state for culture, Monika Gruetters.

Investigators discovered some 1,500 works, including drawings and prints by Pablo Picasso, in the house of Cornelius Gurlitt in 2013. According to an email sent to The Times of Israel by the German Minister of State for Culture and the Media, due to a paucity of documentation, only 14 of these works are certain to have been looted by Nazis. To date, 13 or the 14 Nazi-looted paintings have been returned to the families of their original owners.

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