Poland wants Russia to return paintings looted in WWII

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland will officially ask Russia to return seven paintings currently in a major Moscow museum that were looted during World War II by the Soviet Red Army, Poland’s Minister of Health said Wednesday. Culture.

But Piotr Glinski also said about 20 previous requests to Moscow for the return of thousands of other items stolen during World War II fell on deaf ears. Previously requested items included records from the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz, paintings by Old Masters such as Durer, Holbein or Cranach, and manuscripts by Polish authors.

“Until now, the (Russian) government has not considered any of the claims,” ​​Glinski told a news conference. He added that Russia is the only one of several countries approached so far that has not even responded to Poland on the matter.

Poland’s historically strained ties with Russia hit a new low after Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February. A former satellite of the Soviet Union, Warsaw supports Kyiv and is pushing for more sanctions against Moscow.

The new request concerns seven paintings by Italian artists that are currently in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. They date from the 14th to 18th centuries and include “Two Saints” by Spinello Aretino and “Adoration of the Child” by Lorenzo di Credi.

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Before the war they were in the collections of the Czartoryski family in Goluchow, Wilanow Palace and in Poznan, Wroclaw and Lodz.

Glinski said it was difficult to estimate the amount of Polish art and culture destroyed or looted by German and Soviet occupation troops during the war, but at the time it was believed that Polish museums had lost about 50% of their collections.

“Traces of hundreds of thousands of items lead to the Russian Federation and former Soviet republics,” Glinski said.

He said Poland “will never stop looking for… cultural objects that were looted” during the war.

Since 2016 alone, Poland has recovered more than 600 looted cultural artifacts, but none of them from Russia, Glinski said.

Among them are the paintings “Madonna under the Fir Tree” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, who ended up in Switzerland, and “Jewish Woman Selling Oranges” by 19th-century Polish painter Aleksander Gierymski, who returned from Germany. .

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