Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announces return of art stolen by Nazis

 September 22, 2023

Germany's Nazi regime frequently looted works of art during WWII, often from Jewish people who would later die in the Holocaust.

This week saw Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announce that he is attempting to reverse that phenomenon by helping to return the art collection of one victim to his family. 

Seven drawings identified and returned

A statement put out on Wednesday explained that Bragg's office had worked with the Department of Homeland Security to identify seven drawings belonging to Austrian Jewish cabaret performer Frtiz Grünbaum.

The drawings were done by Austrian artist Egon Schiele and found to be in the possession of various institutions. They were voluntarily surrendered after evidence of their theft was presented.

"Frtiz Grünbaum was a man of incredible depth and spirit, and his memory lives on through the artworks that are finally being returned to his relatives," Bragg was quoted as saying in the press release.

"I hope this moment can serve as a reminder that despite the horrific death and destruction caused by the Nazis, it is never too late to recover some of what we lost, honor the victims, and reflect on how their families are still impacted to this day," the district attorney added.

Homeland Security agents says victims' "legacies will now live on"

Ivan J. Arvelo serves as special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York, and he also celebrated the collection's return.

"These priceless works of art have a history we cannot ignore and collectively tell the story of the realities that were endured by millions during the Holocaust," Arvelo declared.

"Franz Friedrich (Fritz) Grünbaum and his wife, Elisabeth never had the opportunity to be reunited with their treasured art prior to their untimely deaths, but their legacies will now live on," the agent stressed

"Today, with deep respect, we humbly restore seven of these precious pieces to their rightful heirs, ensuring their profound significance will not be forgotten," Arvelo declared.

Judge praises Bragg and Arvello for "fearless pursuit of justice"

Judge Timothy Reif is a relative of Fritz Grünbaum who serves on the the United States Court of International Trade. He spoke up as well, offering words of praise for Bragg and Arvello.

Their righteous and courageous collaboration in the pursuit of justice — unique among prosecutors and law enforcement in this entire nation, if not the world — shine a bright light for all to follow," he said.

"Their names, along with Fritz Grünbaum’s, will be forever inscribed in the book of history," Reif insisted, adding, "We look forward to the District Attorney’s continued fairness, objectivity and fearless pursuit of justice in conducting this criminal investigation."

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