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US Embassy Returns Vases Stolen by Nazis to Rightful Owners

Vases stolen by Nazis have been returned to their rightful owners in Berlin as US embassy employs FBI oversee the case help

August 13th, 2019
Christina Vassell, News from Berlin
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Two vases stolen by the Nazis almost 80 years ago have been returned to the heirs of their original owners at a ceremony in Berlin, following a joint effort by the US embassy and the FBI.

The vases, which are valued at $120,000 today, belonged to the family of Harry Fuld, a German Jew who founded the first modern telephone system in the country, the Frankfurt-based H. Fuld & Co. Telefon und Telegraphenwerke AG, says FBI art crime team.

Special Agent Christopher McKeogh of the FBI’s Art and Antiquities Crimes office in the New York Field Office played a key role in the recovery of the vases. McKeogh has more than 15 years’ experience in investigating art crime.
“Finding ways to bring small measures of justice to the victims of the Holocaust and their families, even after so many years of injustice, is a priority of the Trump Administration," Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, told Fox News.

"From the very beginning, President Trump instructed his team to be aggressive in this work. Returning these Nazi stolen works of art to their owners’ families was a group effort by the team at the US Embassy in Berlin, the FBI, German private citizens and many others.”

He continued: “We hope this one success story will encourage others to keep researching and pushing auction houses and governments to return the thousands of other Nazi stolen items on the market to their rightful owners.”

According to the FBI, Harry and his wife, Lucie Mayer Fuld, lived in Germany in the 1930s though, Harry died while on a trip to Switzerland in 1932, before the Nazi regime took power in 1933.

After the Nazis took power in 1933, the regime seized “Lucie’s bank accounts and placing an exit tax on her if she left the country. She fled Germany in 1939 with only a few of her possessions, leaving behind her home and much of the artwork in it,” the FBI said.

In 1940, an auction house in Berlin listed items for sale from the Fulds’ estate, the FBI said.

The agency noted that the Nazi regime “determined proceeds from the auction satisfied the exit tax they put on Lucie. The work was listed as Lot 198 at the auction, described as ‘two bronze vases, fire gilded, two-tone, French, Louis XVI, 1780-1890.’”

Lucie Fuld died in 1966, and the vases subsequently found their way to an auction in London in 1997, and again in 2000.

“The works were eventually consigned to Christie’s Auction House in New York City. The auction house confirmed both pieces as unrestituted property through its restitution due diligence process, and worked with the FBI to secure the vases,” said the FBI.

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News from Berlin