Nuremberg trial man's niece reunited with looted art

By Jessica Elgot, April 7, 2011
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Safe: Vogelstein’s Portrait of a young woman with a drawing instrument

Safe: Vogelstein’s Portrait of a young woman with a drawing instrument

The first two paintings in more than 160 works of art stolen by the Nazis from a single family, have been returned to the British family of Rudi Epstein, an interpreter at the Nuremberg trials.

Vienna-born Sue Freeman, 75, of Highgate, has had two paintings, both portraits of young women, returned to her family. One is by Dresden painter Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein, and the other by Johann Baptist Lampi.

Ms Freeman said: "It was just by chance that my sister mentioned our claim to David Lewis at the Commission for Looted Art. He put us in touch with his co-chair, Anne Webber, who helped track them down. We always knew about the paintings. They belonged to my uncle Rudi's three great-aunts."

The Rosauer sisters, who were in their late 70s, when they died, owned a huge collection of art. The eldest, Malvine, died in Vienna in 1940, but Bertha and Jenny died in Treblinka in 1942 and their great-nephew, Rudi Epstein, was the only surviving family member.

Ms Freeman, whose grandmother was close to the three sisters when the family lived in Vienna, said: "Rudi, who escaped to Britain, spoke fluent German, Czech and English and worked as an interpreter at the Nuremberg trials. Long before it became possible to reclaim such works of art he always dreamt that one day it would be.

"It feels like now the paintings have come home and we have a part of the aunts with us. My uncle would have been over the moon, he would have wept. When the Lampi painting was first returned to us, it was such an emotional moment, it looked so beautiful. Now there are three or four more works on whose whereabouts we have leads. But the others are still a mystery."

The Vogel von Vogelstein portrait hung for 60 years in Dresden's Gemäldegalerie. It was sold to the Dresden gallery by Adolf Hitler's art dealer, Julius Böhler. The Lampi portrait was acquired from the German government late last year.

Anne Webber, co-chair of CLAE, said: "We are very glad that some justice has at last been achieved for this family. The Rosauer sisters suffered a terrible fate, and virtually every trace of them was erased by the Nazis. But where are the rest of their artworks? And there are many hundreds more which are still missing from Jewish Austrian families."

    Last updated: 12:25pm, April 7 2011