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Jewish Collector's Heirs Want Texas Painting On Loan In Germany

BERLIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The heirs of a Jewish collector say a painting from a Texas museum on loan in Germany was stolen from their family by the Nazis, and have filed a complaint asking for its return, a German newspaper reported Wednesday.

German daily Bild reported the unidentified heirs are claiming ownership of Henri-Edmond Cross' "Regatta in Venice" from 1903/04, which is currently on show at the Barberini Museum in Potsdam, near Berlin. The painting is on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

The painting originally belonged to Jewish-French collector Gaston Levy, but was confiscated by the Nazis in 1940, said Christoph Partsch, a lawyer for the family.

"My clients found out only now about the existence of this long-missing painting and they demand its return," Partsch told The Associated Press.

The lawyer said the family lives in Europe, but didn't want to further identify them.

The Potsdam state court has given the Barberini Museum a deadline of next week to respond to their demand, Partsch said.

The Holocaust, also referred to as the Shoah, was a genocide during World War II in which Nazi Germany, aided by its collaborators, systematically murdered some six million European Jews, around two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe, between 1941 and 1945. (photo credit: Getty Images)

The court had no immediate comment, but the Barberini Museum confirmed the court's involvement and said it was in touch with the Houston museum. It said both "see the clarification of the legitimate owner as an urgent obligation."

After the war, the painting surfaced in the United States where in 1958 it was donated to the Houston museum, the Barberini museum said.

"The question of provenance is especially important because Cross is an artist whose work has been forgotten in Germany due to confiscations by the Nazis from German collections as well," the museum said in a statement.

The impressionist work is painted with oil on canvas in the pointillism style and shows several gondolas on the water and the city line of Venice in the background.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

In San Antonio last year, the city's Holocaust Museum was targeted by anti-Semites.

They placed a yard sign that said "Fake News" and "MAGA" with an arrow pointing to the marquee of the museum.

Board chair of the San Antonio Jewish Federation Harry Levy said it was an act of violence against the Jewish community. "

"The ignorance expressed by the perpetrators can only be countered by shining the light of truth upon our shared history."

Levy also said that it was "doubly harmful in that it laughs at the memory of all the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust and is harmful to the precious few Holocaust survivors who witnessed the horrors of the Shoah first hand."

Police never caught the person or people responsible for placing the "insulting, demeaning, dehumanizing," sign.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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