German aristocrats scoop millions for seized treasures

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An ancient aristocratic German family Thursday clinched a lucrative deal with state authorities to compensate them for 300 porcelain pieces seized by East German communists after World War II.

The House of Wettin, a dynasty of princes and kings in Saxony that is one of the oldest in Germany, will receive 4.2 million euros (5.8 million dollars) for the treasures, said Stephan Goessl, spokesman for the state's finance ministry.

The deal allows the Dresden City Museum in Saxony to keep the items, which the family proved were originally theirs by means of old photos and documents.

The collection is of "immense cultural significance," said Martin Roth, the museum's director.

In the 1990s, the family and the state inked a similar deal to return several porcelain pieces that were later sold at auction by Christie's in London for more than four million euros.

And the two parties are required to strike another bargain by the end of next year concerning several hundred pieces of furniture, books and antique paintings, Goessl said.

At the end of the war, the family hid some of their treasures behind a secret wall in a cellar in Moritzburg Castle, near Dresden, but the trove was uncovered by authorities in 1947.

© 2011 AFP

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