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May 23, 2015

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Art sleuth’s role in Hitler’s horses find

A Dutch art sleuth best known for identifying works looted from Jewish owners by the Nazis said he helped German police recover two massive bronze horse sculptures crafted for Adolf Hitler, as more details emerged yesterday about an amazing trove of Nazi-era art seized by authorities this week.

Arthur Brand provided tips to German detectives who made the stunning discovery in a series of coordinated raids.

Berlin police spokesman Michael Gassen, who confirmed authorities worked with Brand, said so far some 100 tons of art has been loaded onto trucks in the southwestern spa town of Bad Duerkheim where they were found in warehouses.

Eight suspects, whose identities have not been released by police, are under investigation on suspicion of dealing in stolen goods and fraud, Gassen said.

But Attorney Andreas Hiemsch, who represents the Bad Duerkheim man who was in possession of the art, denied the allegations, saying that his client had rightfully obtained the pieces from the Russian army more than 25 years ago.

Hiemsch said in an e-mail that his client had even loaned certain pieces by artist Arno Brekers to a museum near Cologne over the past 20 years and had “a few years ago” offered the bronze horses by artist Josef Thorak to a “federal museum exhibit.”

Brand, who runs a Dutch agency that helps track the provenance of artworks, says he was shocked when he pieced together enough evidence to prove that photographs of the Thorak horses were not fakes.

Brand said when he first saw the photos, “I said, ‘Yeah, right, those horses were destroyed. This is ridiculous.’”

The photograph came from a contact offering the horses for sale, Brand said, which in the end sought 8 million euros (US$8.9 million).

After research Brand became convinced the horses were the sculptures that once stood on either side of the stairs into the grand chancellery building.

The art will be evaluated by Germany’s federal office for property to determine who or what institution should receive them after the investigation.


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