Germany has acquired two long-lost bronze horse sculptures worth millions that once stood on the terrace of Adolf Hitler’s office at the Berlin chancellery before being looted by the Red Army and then vanishing for decades.
The two masterpieces known as the ‘Walking Horses’ which were commissioned by the Third Reich leadership were uncovered in a warehouse along with other Nazi art in the German city of Bad Durkheim located in the state of Rheinland-Palatinate in May 2015.
Police officers who were then targeting eight suspected members of a ring of illegal art dealers seized the two bronze statues, but a private owner from Bad Durkheim claimed that he had legally acquired the statues in 1988 as well as several other objects.
The government however argued that they could never have been legally acquired as all property of the Third Reich automatically transferred over to the new government after the war.
The man refused to accept this and filed a lawsuit against the Federal Republic of Germany, which has now ended after the man agreed to allow the state to take over ownership of the horses, if he was allowed to keep certain other art objects that he also claimed when the warehouse was raided by police.
The compromise was accepted by the Frankenthal Regional Court and now the horses are officially the property of the state.
At the peak of the Nazi regime, Hitler demanded thousands of bronze and marble sculptures as he intended to transform the city of Berlin into a world capital after the planned victory in the Second World War.
Among the sculptures he ordered was the pair of bronze horses called the “Walking Horses”, which were created by Austrian-German sculptor Josef Thorak, that were soon placed in front of Hitler’s New Chancellery building on the terrace outside his office.
The building was created by Hitler’s architect Albert Speer who decorated the terraced garden behind the main building with large bronze figures, including the two horses by Josef Thorak.
After the unplanned turn of events when the war started to turn against them, German officials evacuated the sculptures to a town east of Berlin which was occupied by victorious Russian forces in 1945, while the horses reemerged on the sports grounds of a Red Army barracks in the nearby town of Eberswalde in 1950.
The two statues stayed there for 38 years when they disappeared after an art historian revealed the location, and wrote a newspaper article about them in 1989.
They were only found decades later once again in a warehouse in the city of Bad Durkheim and were estimated to be worth around EUR 4 million (GBP 3,4 million) at black market rates.
According to the court’s decision, the Federal Republic of Germany plans to exhibit the sculptures in a museum.