French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay (L), Viviane Dreyfus, daughter of the late Maurice Dreyfus and the returned Degas. (AP/Michel Euler) (AP/Michel Euler)
Returned Degas

France has restored to its rightful owners a drawing by Edgar Degas that was stolen by the Nazis from its Jewish owner in 1940.

In a moving ceremony in Paris on Monday, Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay said that “Trois danseuses en buste” — a late 19th-century charcoal sketch of three ballerinas — was found in 1951 in a cupboard in the Occupation-era German Embassy. It had since remained unclaimed in the Louvre.

Viviane Dreyfus accepted the drawing for her father, Maurice, who died in 1957 without ever speaking of the lost work.

She said she was “extremely touched,” especially because she didn’t know the work existed.

There are 2,000 unclaimed works sitting in French museums, of which at least 145 were stolen by the Nazis.

The Nazis organized looting of European countries during the time of the Third Reich. Nazi plundering occurred from 1933 until the end of World War II, particularly by military units known as the Kunstschutz.

In addition to gold, silver and currency, cultural items of great significance were stolen, including paintings, ceramics, books, and religious treasures.

There is an international effort underway to identify Nazi loot that still remains unaccounted for, with the aim of ultimately returning the items to the rightful owners, their families or their respective countries.

Many Jewish families have fought, or are fighting, to reclaim ownership over family heirlooms, which are currently held by museums and other institutions around the world.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

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