During World War II, as the Nazi’s blitzkrieged their way across Europe, they ransacked the art museums of the countries they conquered and stole paintings for Adolf Hitler’s personal collection. Hitler envisioned a new Renaissance with the rise of the Nazi empire and hoped to cement that vision with the greatest art from every nation. As a result, masterpieces were scattered across the continent, many destroyed or sold off by desperate retreating soldiers. Once in a blue moon, a painting resurfaces and is able to be returned to its country of origin.
Thanks to the work of FBI Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers and her team at the Cincinnati division of the FBI, the painting Portrait of a Young Man by Polish Artist Krzysztof Lubieniecki has been returned to the government of Poland. It is believed that the Nazis had taken the painting from Poland in 1944. Afterwards, it was apparently transported to a palace in Austria. Discovered by a U.S. serviceman, the soldier brought the painting back home and kept it for himself, possibly unaware of its value or importance.
Afterwards, it was sold to purchasers in the Columbus, Ohio area who were unaware of the painting’s origins. It remained there until now. A former serviceman was looking through photos of his ancestors when he came across a picture that contained the missing painting. Curious, he began to research the painting’s origins only to discover it was one of the missing pieces from the National Museum of Poland.
He contacted the FBI who were able to track down the family currently in possession of the painting who agreed to return it to Poland. Agents out of the Columbus, Ohio division presented it to officials from the Polish Ministry of Cultural and National Heritage. The painting will soon hang in the National Museum again, home after 70 years abroad.