Never too late? Nazi's son returns looted artwork

His father established the ghetto in Krakow. Plundered artwork was missing since 1939.

Hillel Fendel ,

Holocaust survivor
Holocaust survivor
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

The elderly son of a Nazi official returned three artworks his family looted during World War II, in a ceremony in Krakow, Poland, on Sunday.

AP reports that the man, Horst von Waechter of Austria, sought to "mend some of his father’s wrongdoings." Polish officials said they hoped the gesture would inspire other Nazi descendants to do the same.

In the ceremony, von Waechter returned an 18th century map of Poland built into a small table, as well as two historic drawings that his mother, Charlotte von Waechter, appropriated in late 1939. This was shortly after her husband, Baron Otto Gustav von Waechter, became governor in Krakow, a southern Polish city occupied by German and Austrian Nazis.

As governor, Von Waechter ordered the establishment of the Krakow ghetto in 1941.

After the war, he evaded Allied authorities for four years. In 1949, he took refuge with pro-Nazi Austrian bishop Alois Hudal in the Vatican, where he died soon afterwards in unexplained circumstances at age 48.

The ceremony, at the office of the Krakow provincial governor, was the result of efforts by Polish historian and politician Magdalena Ogorek and the National Museum in Krakow. Ogorek told AP that she had spotted some Poland-related objects at the son's castle in Austria while she was researching his father's death. The father died while waiting in the Vatican to be smuggled to Argentina to avoid facing justice.

Ogorek said von Waechter returned the objects for no compensation, and that "he gave a good example to others." She said she is sure that "various artworks from Poland can be found in private homes in Germany and in Austria."

Poland was severely damaged during World War II. Its palaces, museums and libraries were bombed and then plundered by the Nazis and by Soviet Red Army soldiers from 1939-45. The Polish government continues trying to retrieve looted artworks, and the Culture Museum has posted a list of many of them. Some of them occasionally surface at auctions around the globe.