Courts & Crime

Family learns its art collection was stolen in World War II

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A cache of art that was stolen at the end of World War II is finally back where it belongs after a 65-year odyssey featuring a transatlantic smuggling, a secret hideaway and — in the end — a little browsing on the Internet.

It was last possessed by Beth Ann McFadden of Cornelius, N.C. who, while growing up in New Jersey, heard about the war booty her great uncle kept hidden behind a false wall panel in his basement.

"It was kind of a family secret," said McFadden, 45, a legal assistant. "We weren't supposed to talk about it."

After her great uncle, Harry Gursky, died in 1988, the 11 paintings _ limp canvases removed from their frames _ went to McFadden's parents. Her mother kept them in a closet, unaware of whether they had any value.

And after they died, the artwork went to McFadden's sister in West Windsor, N.J., who kept them in her basement. In November, when the sister was moving, the paintings came to McFadden.

She didn't know whether they were important. A family friend, Barry Pedersen, and his partner in their Mooresville, N.C. architectural millwork company, Gary Dunne, both of Davidson, N.C., offered to help find out.

After hours of research on the Internet, they found the paintings were important : they'd been missing for more than six decades, and the FBI and Customs had been searching for them for years.

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