- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2012

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC (AP) - A five-year search by a Czech author has discovered that 16 paintings in the Czech Republic were once owned by Adolf Hitler.

The art works, which Hitler bought in Germany during World War II, had been moved to Czechoslovakia after it was occupied by the Nazis to prevent them being damaged by Allied attacks.

On Monday, author Jiri Kuchar put seven of the paintings on display for reporters at the convent in Doksany in northern Czech Republic where he had identified them. Today, he said, they are probably worth about 50 million koruna ($2.7 million).

“Nobody believed me it could be true,” Kuchar said of his findings. The author, who calls himself “an amateur and enthusiast,” has written about his findings.

Kuchar said Hitler bought the 16 paintings _ by German artists such as Franz Eichhorst, Paul Herrmann, Sepp Hilz, Friedrich W. Kalb, Oscar Oestreicher, Edmund Steppes and Armin Reumann _ in 1942 and 1943 at the Great German art exhibitions that were held annually in Munich from 1937 to 1944.

The German institute whose database includes the works and their buyers _ Zentralinstitut fur Kunstgeschichte in Munich _ confirmed Hitler’s ownership to The Associated Press. Its art experts said Tuesday that while “interesting,” the collection is of “low” value.

As a former artist, Hitler was an art lover and collector. Countless paintings, many done by major European painters, were seized by the Nazis during the Second World War.

At one point, Hitler’s private collection, known as the “Linz Collection,” included almost 5,000 works, and the Nazis had once planned to create a museum for them in Linz, Austria.

In addition to the seven works identified at the convent, Kuchar found seven more that Hitler had once owned at the northern Czech chateau of Zakupy, and one each at the Military History Institute in Prague and the Faculty of Law of Charles University in Prague.

Some contain obvious signs of Nazi propaganda, the author said.

During the occupation, it is believed that the 16 works were part of Hitler’s collection of more than 70 pieces of contemporary German art that the Third Reich stored at a monastery in the southern Czech town of Vyssi Brod, together with larger collections of valuable paintings stolen from Jewish families in Europe.

Christian Fuhrmeister of the German institute said Vyssi Brod was one of the depots where such seized art works were relocated to prevent damage caused by Allied air forces.

After the war, valuable paintings possessed by the Nazis were confiscated by the U.S. Army and taken to the Munich Central Collection Point in an effort to return them to their original owners. Many less valuable works were left behind after the 1945 liberation of Czechoslovakia and ended up scattered across the country.

Fourteen of the 16 works that Kuchar has identified as former Hitler possessions are now owned by the Czech National Institute for the Protection and Conservation of Monuments and Sites, and it doesn’t plan to sell them or put them on public display.

“They will remain in the depositary,” said Ivana Chovancova, an official at the institute.

Kuchar discovered the 16 works after investigating leads from the book “Hitler’s Salon” by Swiss author Ines Schlenker, which listed Hitler’s art purchases at the art exhibitions in Munich during the war.

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