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Renoir painting the Nazis stole from a Jewish art collector is returned to his granddaughter

CNN logo CNN 9/13/2018 By Kwegyirba Croffie, CNN
A Renoir painting "Femmes Dans Un Jardin" is displayed at a news conference, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, in New York. The 1919 oil painting was seized in Paris by the Nazis from Sylvie Sulitzer's grandfather. It was returned to her in the ceremony. (Courtesy of Sylvie Sulitzer via AP) © Courtesy of Sylvie Sulitzer via AP A Renoir painting "Femmes Dans Un Jardin" is displayed at a news conference, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, in New York. The 1919 oil painting was seized in Paris by the Nazis from Sylvie Sulitzer's grandfather. It was returned to her in the ceremony. (Courtesy of Sylvie Sulitzer via AP)

A Renoir painting looted by the Nazis during World War II has been returned to its rightful owner, New York federal officials announced Wednesday.

The painting, "Deux Femmes Dans Un Jardin," painted in 1919 by Pierre Auguste Renoir, was stolen by Nazis from a bank vault in Paris in 1941, said a news release from the US Attorney's Office and FBI.

It was stolen from Alfred Weinberger, a prominent art collector in prewar Paris, and Wednesday it was returned to his last remaining heir, his granddaughter Sylvie Sulitzer, at a ceremony at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.

US Attorney Geoffrey Berman, left, unveils the recovered Renoir painting with Sylvie Sulitzer on Wednesday. © Mark Lennihan/AP US Attorney Geoffrey Berman, left, unveils the recovered Renoir painting with Sylvie Sulitzer on Wednesday.

"When Gen. [Hermann] Goering stole paintings from private collections from different museums around Europe, he needed an expert to verify them," said Sulitzer after the painting was unveiled.

Instead of accepting the offer, Sulitzer's grandfather joined the Marquis, "a rural guerrilla group of French Resistance fighters" to escape.

After the war, Sulitzer said Weinberger had a chance to declare different items of his that were stolen during the war, including jewelry and paintings.

According to the release, "The Renoir resurfaced after the war at an art sale in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1975. It subsequently found its way to London, where it was sold again in 1977, and then appeared at a sale in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1999."

Finally, the painting ended up in Christie's Gallery in New York, where it was put up for auction by a private collector in 2013.

Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said: "Today, as we celebrate the just return of this painting to its rightful owner, we also remember the uniqueness of the Holocaust and reaffirm our commitment to ensure that the words 'never forget, never again' never ring hollow. Hopefully this event brings some measure of justice to Madame Sylvie Sulitzer and her family."

"It's an amazing decision and I am very thankful to show my beloved family, wherever they are, that after all what they've been through, there is a justice," said Sulitzer.

Christie's said that in 2013, when the painting was consigned, it was estimated to be worth between $150,000 and $200,000.

Berman said, "I'd rather not speculate on the worth of the painting. Suffice it to say that Madame Sulitzer believes that it is priceless."

The painting will be on display in the gallery of the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust until September 16.

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