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Painting Looted by Nazis Returned

July 13, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ A painting by an obscure but respected German artist was returned to its Jewish owners on Monday, 60 years after it was stolen by the Nazis and wound up in a museum in Adolf Hitler’s hometown.

Officals of the state Holocaust Claims Office turned over ``The Seamstress″ to Michael Loewenthal, whose grandfather, art collector Louis Loewenthal, lost everything when he fled Berlin at the outset of World War II.

A pro-Nazi art dealer falsely claimed years later that ``The Seamstress″ had been destroyed in an Allied air raid. After the war, he sold it to the municipal museum in Linz, Austria.

The City Council in Linz voted recently to give the painting to Loewenthal.

``It was a very tough decision, but a very brave one,″ said Loewenthal, who lives in Franklin Lakes, N.J.

The oil painting is by Lesser Ury, who lived in a tiny Berlin garret in the 1930s. While Ury was regarded in his time as a master of pastels, ``The Seamstress″ depicts its subject in mostly dark colors, highlighted by sun through a window.

Loewenthal, who was born in Israel and raised in New York City, asked the Holocaust claims office about the painting months ago, after learning it had been in the Linz museum since the 1950s.

The Holocaust office said the painting was part of a collection confiscated by the Nazis from Louis Loewenthal in 1939-40 and ``acquired″ by Berlin art dealer Wolfgang Gurlitt. Gurlitt later played a key role in Nazi efforts to sell ``degenerate art″ _ works by Jews _ abroad and set up a ``Fuhrermuseum″ in Linz, Hitler’s boyhood home.

When Louis Loewenthal’s son Fritz asked Gurlitt in 1950 to either make a supplementary payment for his father’s art or return it, Gurlitt insisted the paintings had been destroyed in a 1943 air raid.

Gurlitt survived the war and moved to Linz, where he eventually sold more than 160 paintings, including ``The Seamstress,″ to the Linz museum. It hung there from 1956 until a few weeks ago.

Loewenthal declined to estimate the painting’s monetary worth, saying its value to his family was sentimental and he planned to give it to a museum of Judaica for display.

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