A group of coins stolen during World War II is now being returned to Austria.
The American Numismatic Society on May 26 repatriated 94 medieval coins that had been stolen from the Museum Carolino-Augusteum of Salzburg in 1945.
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The coins were recovered more than 20 years ago with the help of one of America’s leading names in the hobby, Chester Krause, but only recently were confirmed as among those stolen during the war.
The recovery and repatriation were possible, according to the ANS, because of the digitization of ANS records in recent years.
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Many of the coins in the Salzburg museum came from the “greatest collection of Salzburg numismatics” at the time, collected by Karl Roll, author of much of the literature on the topic, according to the ANS 1996 annual report.
As the annual report notes: “At the end of the war, in May 1945, most of this collection was packed in chests and hidden in a salt mine outside of the city. The chests were removed from the mine a month later by the occupying American forces.”
The following January, the Americans returned about 1,400 of the coins to the museum. But that still left 2,600 coins that were unaccounted for. About 100 of those coins were recovered during the intervening decade, but as of 1955, some 2,500 pieces remained missing.
Writing in the 1996 report, the ANS notes that “Information has recently been released which indicates that not only were Austrian and American individuals responsible for the dispersion of coins and other art objects, but that the commander-in-chief of the American forces in Austria in the period allowed the transport of wagon loads of treasures out of the area.”
Returning the treasure
The ANS welcomed the director and CEO of the Salzburg Museum, Martin Hochleitner, and Peter Lechenauer, an attorney representing the Salzburg Museum, to New York City for the repatriation.
The coins were turned over to Hochleitner and Lechenauer by Kenneth L. Edlow, chairman of the board of trustees of the ANS, and Ute Wartenberg Kagan, executive director of the ANS.
This group of coins came to the ANS in 1995 after Krause, now deceased, brought them to the attention of the curators.