US WW II vet returns stolen French picture

11th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

SPICHEREN, France, May 11 (AFP) - More than 60 years after making off with a watercolour painting from a house in north-eastern France, an American World War II veteran returned to the scene Wednesday to hand back his booty to the family of the artist.

SPICHEREN, France, May 11 (AFP) - More than 60 years after making off with a watercolour painting from a house in north-eastern France, an American World War II veteran returned to the scene Wednesday to hand back his booty to the family of the artist.  

Frank Ellis, an 89 year-old retired doctor from the south-western US state of Arizona, found the picture in a dressing-station in the town of Stiring-Wendel while fighting in the Battle of the Bulge during the last winter of the war.  

"I remember taking the painting because it had these beautiful spring colours. It was such a contrast with the bleakness outside. It was hell, with the snow, the cold and the mud," said Ellis, who served as a medic with the 70th Infantry Division.  

Ellis took the opportunity of this month's ceremonies marking the end of World War II in Europe to travel to France and return his trophy to the family of Jean Egloff, an amateur artist who died in 1998.  

"It is a symbolic gesture and a noble gesture which we all think is extraordinary after all these years," the artist's 65-year-old son Jean-Marie Egloff said.  

The unframed painting - which shows a village street with a church, trees and flowers - followed Ellis back to the United States with the rest of his baggage six months after the end of the war.  

"Every time we moved house I would find it again. And then I would put it away in a drawer or a cupboard. Every time it made me think of the futility of war," Ellis said.  

Eventually he made up his mind to return the picture to its rightful owners and asked for the help of a British man living in Spicheren who he had met at an earlier commemoration ceremony.  

"He had this 'loan' - or this 'theft' - on his conscience and wanted to give back the picture, which someone perhaps was still missing. All the more so because this is probably his last trip to France," said Steve Newton.  

The Egloff family came forward after seeing the story in a local newspaper.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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