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Monday, 20 May, 2002, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Berlin art thieves 'still at large'
Dieter Glietsch, with the damaged painting Junges Maedchen (Young girl) by Max Pechstein
Dieter Glietsch of the Berlin police with a damaged work by Max Pechstein
Thieves who stole paintings worth more than $3m (2m) from a Berlin museum have not yet been caught despite the recovery of a number of the artworks, German police have said.

On Saturday police announced they had found nine expressionist paintings of the Bruecke school, stolen in April.

The paintings were found rolled up together in a holdall at a Berlin apartment.

Erich Heckel's Irrer Soldat (Mad Soldier)
Irrer Soldat (Mad Soldier) by Erich Heckel: Among the recovered works
Eight were undamaged, but Max Pechstein's Junges Maedchen (Young Girl) had been torn in half, and a piece of the canvas was missing.

Four men and one woman were detained, of whom three have now been arrested for trying to re-sell the paintings.

The three are two Yugoslavs, aged 23 and 36, and a 55-year-old German, police said.

But police are still looking for the thieves, who broke into the Bruecke musuem in the Berlin suburb of Dahlem.

The thieves disconnected the alarm and smashed a rear window.

Six of the paintings were by Erich Heckel, and one each by Emil Nolde, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Pechstein. Most were painted between 1908 and 1920.

Nazi ban

The museum houses one of the most important collections of expressionist art, a style that emerged largely in Germany in the early 20th Century.

Stolen works include:
Ernst Kirchner's Tiergarten Berlin (1912)
Emil Nolde's Herr Sch. (1915)
Max Pechstein's Junges Maedchen (1908)
Bruecke - German for Bridge - was the name of a group of German painters whose founders in 1905 included Kirchner and Heckel.

Often associated with the freewheeling artistic life of 1920s Germany, the group's works were banned as "degenerate art" by the Nazis after they took power in 1933.

The Berlin museum, which opened in 1967, has more than 400 paintings as well as drawings, watercolours and sculptures.

See also:

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