East German officials systematically stole from the country's art collectors and sold their possessions to raise hard currency. Families have sought for years to reclaim the treasures or to obtain compensation.
It is a particularly ugly chapter in the history of communist East Germany (GDR). Political functionaries from the Communist Party, the SED, seized the property of collectors [...] to sell their possessions. The more desperately the country needed hard Western currency, the more often officials targeted East German art aficionados. Numerous spies combed the country looking for possible treasures, such as Baroque furniture, paintings, porcelain and silver. Then, the GDR's most important procurer of hard currency, Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski, would hawk the confiscated wares to rich clients in the West via the state-owned company Kunst & Antiquitäten GmbH (Art & Antiques).Funnily enough, though, they did not find the "Leutwitz" Apollo allegedly standing right out in the open in the garden of a country estate just outside Dresden... One wonders how this was possible.
Rainer Erices, Nicola Kuhrt and Peter Wensierski, 'East Germany's Blood Art: No Justice for Victims of Regime's Treasure Hunt', Spiegel July 24, 2014.