Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

German court orders poster return

Peter Sachs poses in front of two posters at the German Historical Museum in Berlin
Peter Sachs was a year old when the posters were taken

A German court has ruled that a Jewish man living in the US is the rightful owner of a rare poster the Gestapo seized from his father in 1938.

Peter Sachs, 71, who lives in Florida, claims a total of 12,500 rare posters were taken on the orders of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

The ruling could pave the way for the surviving portion of the collection, worth 4m, to be returned to Mr Sachs.

The collection of 4,000 posters are held by the German Historical Museum.

Mr Sachs sued in a test case for the return of two posters - a 1932 poster for Die Blonde Venus (Blonde Venus) starring Marlene Dietrich, and one for Simplicissimus, a satirical German weekly magazine, showing a red bulldog.

The Berlin court ruled that it was unclear whether Die Blonde Venus was part of his father's collection, but that there was no doubt about the Simplicissimus poster and that it must be returned to him.

'Delighted'

Matthias Druba, Mr Sachs' lawyer, said the ruling meant the court backed Mr Sachs' claim on the surviving portion of his father's collection at the German Historical Museum in Berlin.

"We are definitely delighted," Mr Druba said. "It's a shame that we didn't get the Blonde Venus, but in the end what is more important is that the general question has been answered clearly in our favour: Peter is the rightful owner of the collection and he has a claim to get them back; we couldn't want more."

Hans Sachs and his family fled Germany shortly after the posters were seized, setting up home in the US.

They assumed the posters were lost forever, but in the 1960s Hans Sachs learned that a museum in East Berlin museum had some and wrote to the communist authorities about viewing them, without success.

He died in 1974 without seeing them again.

Appeal

The collection, which includes advertisements for exhibitions, cabarets, films, and political propaganda, was turned over to the German Historical Museum in 1990.

Only a handful are on display at any one time, but museum officials say they form an integral part of its 80,000-piece collection.

The museum's Collections director Dieter Vorsteher, who represented the museum at the hearing, said he would not comment on what the loss of the collection would mean to the museum, but suggested that his side would appeal.

"It will certainly continue," he said outside the courtroom.

But the panel of three judges also rejected a countersuit from the museum in their ruling, which might make an appeal difficult.

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