Monday, November 17, 2008

Medieval stained glass windows returned to Germany

Medieval stained glass windows returned
14 November 2008
Associated Press Newswires

The last panels in a set of 14th-century stained glass windows seized by Soviet soldiers after World War II will be returned soon to a German church, the government said Friday.

The six panels were taken from Marienkirche church in the city of Frankfurt an der Oder, near the Polish border, and held in Moscow's Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts for more than 60 years.

In 2002, Russia returned the other 111 stained-glass panels from the church's 65-foot-high (20-meter-high) altar that had also been taken. That batch of panels had been held in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Russia's parliament voted earlier this year to return the remaining panels, all of which make up a picture Bible -- most churchgoers of the time were illiterate.

Germany's culture ministry said they are to be handed back to the church on Monday.

Russia and Germany have long sparred over thousands of valuable objects taken from Germany in the waning days of World War II. Germany and other countries have pressed for the return of such objects, which they argue were taken illegally. But Russia has proclaimed that the art was seized as rightful retribution for the 27 million Soviet lives lost, 100 museums destroyed and utter ruin of entire cities during the conflict it calls the Great Patriotic War.

Russia has urged Germany to search for and return Russian art seized by the Nazis, and the two nations have accelerated exchanges of looted art in recent years.