Visitors to the Museum of Jewish Heritage–A Living  Memorial to the Holocaust had the rare opportunity to view Deux femmes dans un jardin, a painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, through Thursday, September 20, 2018.

In a restitution ceremony at the Museum, the painting was returned to its rightful owner— decades after it was stolen from her grandfather by the Nazis. Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney Office for the Southern District of New York , and William F. Sweeny Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the FBI, presented Sylvie Sulitzer with the painting on September 12, 2018.

About the Painting
During World War II, the Nazis created a division known as the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (the “ERR”) in order to “study” Jewish life and culture as part of the Nazis’ propagandist mission against the Jews. Principally, the ERR confiscated artworks and other cultural holdings of the enemies of the Reich on a massive scale, and meticulously registered and identified those artworks – even photographing them – thereby leaving behind a detailed record of the works that they stole.

In December 1941, during the Nazi occupation of Paris, the ERR seized the Renoir, along with numerous other works, from a bank vault where Alfred Weinberger had stored his collection when he fled Paris at the outset of the war. In the decades that followed, Mr. Weinberger sought to recover his property, registering his claim to the Renoir with the French restitution authorities in 1947 and the German restitution authorities in 1958.

The Renoir resurfaced after the war at an art sale in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1975. It subsequently found its way to London, where it was sold again in 1977, and then appeared at a sale in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1999. Ultimately, the Renoir found its way to Christie’s Gallery in New York, where it was put up for auction by a private collector in 2013. It was then that Ms. Sulitzer learned of the pending sale and made a claim to the work as part of her grandfather’s collection. Christie’s alerted the FBI, and ultimately the purported owner of the work voluntarily agreed to relinquish its claim. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI are now returning the painting to Ms. Sulitzer.