Years after World War II, American officials here entrusted more than 10,000 confiscated artworks to Bavarian authorities to return to the rightful owners, many of them Jews whose property had been plundered.
But new research in the yellowing archives here makes clear how relentlessly Nazi families pursued the Bavarian officials, badgering them, often successfully, to return art they brazenly continued to view as their property.
Hitler’s private secretary, Henriette von Schirach, and her family pleaded with officials of the Bavarian State Painting Collections to turn over nearly 300 works, including a small landscape, “View of a Dutch Square” by the Dutch artist Jan van der Heyden.
Before the war, the painting had been owned by Gottlieb and Mathilde Kraus, Jews who fled their Vienna penthouse, leaving behind a carefully packed collection of art that was then confiscated by the Gestapo in 1941.
Mrs. von Schirach persuaded the Bavarians to give it back to her for a pittance — 300 Deutschmarks, which was roughly $75 then or nearly $600 now.
“The basic element of this story is this: They stole from my family,” said John Graykowski, 62, the Krauses’ great-grandson, “and then they gave it back to the guy who stole it from them. How does that work?”