United States Attorney
Southern District of New York
U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
SEPTEMBER 22, 2010 ELLEN DAVIS, CARLY SULLIVAN,
PREET BHARARA, United States Attorney for the Southern
District of New York, and JAMES DINKINS, Executive Associate
Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (“ICE”)
Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today the
return to the Polish Government of two Julian Falat paintings,
“Off to the Hunt” and “The Hunt” (the “Falat Paintings”), that
were stolen from the Polish National Museum (the “Museum”) in
Warsaw, Poland, by the Nazis during World War II.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney PREET BHARARA stated: “No one
can ever provide just compensation to the victims of the Nazis’
atrocities, but it is very gratifying for our office to play a
role in returning the art that they looted during World War II to
its rightful owners. After 60 years, these national treasures
will finally be returned to the Polish Government –- a
repatriation that would not have been possible without their
Executive Associate Director for ICE HSI JAMES DINKINS
stated: “We are deeply gratified to be able to return these
cherished paintings that were taken from the people of Poland so
long ago. Through our investigations into illicitly trafficked
cultural property, we take every opportunity to track down
objects stolen during World War II.”
In August 1944, the German S.S. Obersturmbannfuhrer
Benne von Arent took over the Museum and confiscated the most
valuable items in its collection, including the Falat Paintings.
Many of those treasures are still missing and have not been
returned. In 2006, after learning that the Falat Paintings were
being offered for sale at two New York auction houses, the Polish
Government enlisted the assistance of the United States
Government to recover and repatriate the paintings. The U.S.
Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a
civil forfeiture complaint on December 13, 2010, after ICE HSI
conducted an investigation. The Falat Paintings were then seized
by ICE HSI, and the U.S. District Court entered a judgment on
August 3, 2011, forfeiting them to the United States.
The Falat Paintings will be returned to the President
of the Republic of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, later today at a
repatriation ceremony at the Polish Consulate in New York City.
Their return to the Government of Poland marks the fifth time
that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New
York, in conjunction with ICE HSI, has returned important
historical and cultural property and art work stolen by the Nazis
during World War II to its rightful owner.
Julian Falat was born in 1853 in Tuliglowy, Poland, and
is well known for his hunting and landscape paintings. His “Off
to the Hunt” painting was first publicly displayed at the Society
for the Encouragement of Fine Arts (the “Society”) in Warsaw,
Poland, in November 1901. The painting was subsequently sold to
a private individual, who later gifted it back to the Society in
1904. In December of 1939, the painting was transferred from the
Society to the premises of the Museum, which was used by the
Nazis as a German depository of Polish national treasures during
World War II. The Museum was the last documented location of the
“Off to the Hunt” painting. Sometime during War World II, the
painting was removed by the Nazis from the Museum without its
frame. It had been missing until 2006, when the Government of
Poland discovered that it was being offered for sale at
Christie’s auction house in New York City.
The Falat painting entitled “The Hunt” was bequeathed
on June 6, 1914, by its first owner, Ludwik Norblin, to the
Society. During World War II, the painting was moved to the
Museum, just as “Off to the Hunt” had been moved. “The Hunt” was
stolen by the Nazis during World War II and remained missing
until 2006 when the Polish Government learned that it too was
being offered for sale at Doyle New York Auctioneers and
Appraisers in New York City.
MR. BHARARA praised the investigative work of ICE HSI
in this matter, and its ongoing efforts to find and repatriate
stolen and looted art and cultural property.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Asset
Forfeiture Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney KAN M. NAWADAY is in
charge of the case.