By Jeremy Lovell
LONDON, July 1 (Reuters) - Three ancient medallions looted by the Nazis in World War Two and missing for more than 60 years are being returned to the heirs of the former owner, the Commission for Looted Art in Europe said on Tuesday.
The three gold-glass relics from the 4th century AD are decorated with some of the earliest known depictions of Jewish symbols from the Second Temple period.
Found in the Rome catacombs in the 17th century, they were part of the collection in Poland of Countess Isabella Dzialynska.
Hidden for safekeeping at the outbreak of war, they were found and taken by the Nazis in 1941 and sent to Austria on the orders of Adolf Hitler where they were once again looted by locals at the end of the war.
The three medallions were acquired in the 1960s by the Israel Museum Jerusalem which, under the deal with Dzialynska’s heirs, is keeping two of them bearing the ancient Jewish symbols.
"We are very happy with the outcome," said Count Adam Zamoyski, speaking in London on behalf of the heirs.
"Although our purpose is to recover as many looted items as possible with a view to one day recreating the Dzialynska Collection in Poland, we fully recognize the importance of the two glasses to the Jewish people, and respect the wishes of the Israel Museum to keep them in Jerusalem."
One, with crouching lions of Judah and menorahs, has been purchased by the museum. The other, with three torah scrolls clearly visible, has been bought by a patron and given back to the museum on long-term loan.
The third, depicting a fruit basket and what is thought to be a duck, is being returned to the family.
"We are delighted to have agreed this restitution and to have facilitated the retention by the Israel Museum of the two gold-glasses with their significant Jewish motifs," said David Lewis and Anne Webber, of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe which represents the heirs and negotiated the deal.
"Many works of art from this renowned collection are still missing and we hope that the news of this restitution may contribute to their location and recovery in the future."
The return of the objects follows the restitution to the family two months ago of a 13th century Limoges enamel cross that was looted at the same time.
Set up in 1999, the commission has been instrumental in achieving the restitution of more than 3,000 Nazi looted objects. (Editing by Janet Lawrence)