TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A crime perpetrated by Nazis in 1941 led federal agents to a Tallahassee museum on Friday. They presented a warrant and seized a 16th century painting of Christ carrying the cross.
The painting belongs to members of a Jewish family who fled Paris to escape German soldiers. They made it out, but their entire art collection was seized by the Nazis.
The painting ended up in a museum in Italy after World War II. It was loaned to the Mary Brogan Museum in Tallahassee earlier this year, where federal agents tracked it down.
"This painting has an incredibly interesting history," said Pamela Marsh, a U.S. attorney.
Marsh asked a federal judge for a seizure warrant Friday to start the process of returning the painting to the family.
"Our pleadings make it very plain that we believe the heirs of Federico Gentile are the rightful owners," said Marsh.
The curator of the museum where the painting was seized calls the case an educational opportunity.
"This is a tremendous opportunity to make Holocaust education come alive," said Chucha Barber, the curator of the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science.
The painting was insured for $2.3 million dollars, but its value is expected to be much higher. It will be stored in an undisclosed location until the legal proceedings are over. Five grandchildren of the rightful owner are still living. One of them has been talking with the museum's curator and tells her, he was three years old when the family fled Paris and remembers the day they left it all behind.