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Vienna Police Confiscate Painting

November 15, 2002

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VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Vienna police on Friday confiscated a painting looted by Nazis that was about to go on sale at an Austrian auction house, media and officials said.

The work by Austrian artist Egon Schiele, entitled ``Bildstock, Haeuser und Baeume,″ (Wayside Shrine, Houses and Trees), had been part of an 800-piece collection stolen by Nazis in 1938 from Vienna dentist, Heinrich Rieger. Rieger died in 1942 in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

The newspaper Der Standard said it was the first time Austrian authorities seized a painting looted by Nazis. According to the paper, the small oil painting is valued at up to $60,000.

Klaus Schachner, a police spokesman, confirmed that police seized the painting from the Vienna Dorotheum auction house. Authorities acted a day after a Vienna court ordered its confiscation, he said.

Officials at the auction house did not return telephone calls Friday.

Harry Neubauer, a lawyer for one of Rieger’s heirs, said an investigation was underway to identify the painting’s current owner. After World War II, Rieger’s collection was never returned to his heirs.

``We don’t know who brought the picture to the Dorotheum, but we believe the criminal court will find this out,″ Neubauer said by telephone.

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