Rare German book to be returned to owners

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The adventures of the 16th century book of etchings began in 1945 when a US Army captain saved the volume from being burned by other troops.

New York -- A rare book looted from Germany by a US officer in the dying days of World War II must be returned to its owners, a US court ordered.

A US federal court in New York announced the decision Monday after a tortuous legal battle between collector Rod Shene and the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, which is now "the legal owner of the book."

The adventures of the 16th century book of etchings began in 1945 when US Army captain John Doty saved the volume from being burned by other troops in Waldenburg, Germany, court papers show.

Shene bought the book, called "Augsburger Geschlechterbuch," in 2001 for a mere 3,800 dollars from Doty's family and was intending to resell at a Sotheby's auction, where he was told he could make 600,000 dollars.

However, Sotheby's noticed a German museum's stamp in the book and started to investigate, triggering the ownership battle with Shene.

"Although Doty's motives may have been admirable, this evidence nonetheless establishes that he took the book without the permission of the German owner. Shene has failed to produce any evidence to the contrary," the court ruled.

Because Baden-Wurrtemberg owns the museum, the state is now also owner of the book, the court said.

AFP/Expatica

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