Austrian Orchestra Was Given A Stolen Painting During WW2 – Now The Rightful Owner Has Been Found

The Vienna Philharmonic orchestra in Austria has returned a painting by neo-impressionist Paul Signac to the heirs of the original collector. The painting, “Port-en-Bessin,” was given to the orchestra by a Gestapo officer in 1940.  The original owner died without heirs, making it difficult to track down the rightful inheritor for the work of art.

The orchestra’s administrators released a statement in which they expressed relief that the issue had finally been resolved. It apparently took decades for the orchestra to resolve the issue so that they could return the painting to its rightful owners.

The orchestra commissioned a historian in Austria to investigate the heirs of Marcel Koch who was generally considered the original owner of the painting.  Koch died in 1999 without any direct descendants.

The heirs’ names were not released by the orchestra.  They authorized a representative to retrieve the painting on their behalf.

About half of the orchestra’s members were in the Nazi party from 1938 to 1945. Five Jewish members of the orchestra were assassinated during this time.  Ten other Jewish members fled the country, reported.

The orchestra published a book in 2013 which illuminated their Nazi past.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE