Renoir painting stolen by Nazis returned to victim’s granddaughter

Madame Sylvie Sulitzer had to fight back tears as she got her first glimpse of the painting that was stolen from her grandfather by the Nazis during World War II.

"I'm very thankful to be able to show my beloved family, wherever they are, that after all what they've been through, there is a justice," she said.

The Renoir was one of hundreds of thousands of pieces stolen by the Nazis during the war. But many were carefully documented and registered, leaving behind a detailed record of the works they stole.

"Some of those pieces are lost to our culture forever," said William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director-in-charge of the FBI's New York field office. "However, we take a small bit of pride in returning a painting looted during the war, decades after peace was declared, knowing we can help repair some of the discussion during that time."

The painting "Deux Femmes Dans Un Jardin," or Two Women In A Garden, was one of several in the collection of Sulitzer's grandfather, Alfred Weinberger. When Weinberger fled Paris at the beginning of the war, he stored much of his collection inside a bank vault that was later looted by the Nazis.

"One of the reason that we hold these events upon the return of missing or stolen art works is to celebrate these agents dedication and proficiency and to get the word out that the FBI's team is ready, willing, and able to help right the wrongs of history," said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman.

In 2013 the painting went up for auction at Christie's Gallery in New York. That's when Madame Sulitzer made her claim. Christie's notified the FBI and the purported owner agreed to relinquish its claim.

"I hope he loved it," Sulitzer said of the latest unnamed owner.

Unfortunately Sulitzer won't be able to keep the painting. Now that it's been found, she has to repay the French and German governments for the compensation they gave her family following the war.

To do that she plans to put the painting up for auction. Several sites estimate the value to be about $200,000, although no one at the museum would speculate on a sale price.

"Suffice it to say that Mme. Sulitzer believes it's priceless," said Berman.

The picture will be on display at the Museum of Jewish Heritage until Sunday before it's officially returned to Sulitzer.