California returns 2 paintings Nazis stole, Hearst bought

California park officials say publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst had no inkling of the hellish circumstances of the Oppenheimer family in Germany when he bought three paintings for his San Simeon castle in 1935.

He didn't know the Nazis had looted the works from Jakob and Rosa Oppenheimer's fine-art shop, Galerie van Diemen, in Berlin. Or that Jakob and Rosa had fled to France. Or that their grown children escaped to the United States and Argentina when the Gestapo came looking for them as the paintings were being auctioned, resold and shipped to California.

On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state park officials returned two of the paintings to Oppenheimer family heirs.

They also accepted the family's gift of the third painting. It will be displayed at the mansion at the Hearst San Simeon State Monument as a remembrance of the Oppenheimer family and a Holocaust-era injustice.

The long journey of the paintings back into the family's hands came far too late for Rosa and Jakob Oppenheimer. Jakob died in poverty in France in 1941. Rosa was arrested by German occupiers and put to death two years later at Auschwitz.

Friday, in a ceremony at the Leland Stanford Mansion in Sacramento, Schwarzenegger declared he was closing the book on a "sorrowful story" by returning the artworks.

Oppenheimer grandson Peter Bloch of Boyton Beach, Fla., and granddaughter Inge Blackshear of Buenos Aires accepted two paintings: a 1518-1594 Venetian work from the Jacopo Tintoretto school and a 16th century painting by an unknown Venetian artist.

A third painting, "Venus and Cupid," from the 1500-1571 Venetian school of Paris Bordon, will be returned to Hearst Castle to tell the story of its journey. It will be displayed with reproductions of the other two works.

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