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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Stolen art returned to Germany

US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill presents the Durer
A Rembrandt and two rare drawings by Albrecht Durer which disappeared at the end of World War II have been returned to Germany.

After 58 globetrotting years the masterpieces have been returned to the Bremen Museum.

One of Durer's pictures, The Women's Bathhouse, is now estimated to be worth $10m (7m).

Durer's The Women's Bathhouse
Durer's The Women's Bathhouse is estimated to be worth $10m
The works were presented by US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to Wolfgang Ischinger, Germany's ambassador to the United States and Bremen Museum president George Abegg.

They have now gone to Germany, after an absence of more than half a decade and a complex legal case in the US.

The drawings curator at the Bremen Museum, Anne Rover-Kann, said: "We used to have 35 Durer drawings - all stolen in the war - we have seven or eight back now - so it's very, very crucial."

The Women's Bathhouse was first stolen by Russian soldiers.

It disappeared while in the hands of the KGB - turning up with the other works only eight years ago, at Azerbaijan's national museum - only to be stolen again.

Woman Standing With Raised Hands
Rembrandt's Woman Standing With Raised Hands was also rescued
The story of these drawings has some of the hallmarks of an international bestseller - stretching between Germany, Azerbaijan, Tokyo and New York, says the BBC's Jane Standley.

It was in Japan - where the collection was offered for sale - that the trail warmed up, and led eventfully and dramatically to Brooklyn.

The drawings were hidden in a suitcase.

More such works are coming on to the illegal art market - many from desperate sellers in Eastern Europe, adds Ms Standley.

"People who try to sell...get greedy and careless and so they expose themselves - and that is when we can snatch them," said recovery expert and lawyer Willi Korte.

See also:

18 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Family compensated for Tate's Nazi art
08 Dec 00 | Americas
Canada probes Nazi loot
30 Oct 00 | Scotland
Burrell review over looting fears
29 Feb 00 | Scotland
Scottish galleries on 'looted' list
17 Feb 00 | UK
Hope for Nazi loot victims
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