Looted WWII zoo collection, including chimpanzee skin and a crocodile, returned to Poland after 83 years
A collection of exhibits stolen from Warsaw’s Zoological Museum during WWII has been brought back to Poland from a museum in Austria.
Including a chimpanzee skin, 17 stuffed birds, two hunting trophies and 47 books, the collection had been housed at the Haus der Natur in Salzberg before it’s outgoing director decided to have a clear out of ‘all stolen objects’.
Making his announcement in 2014 on the Haus der Natur’s 90th anniversary, then director Norbert Winding said there should be "nothing in the house that doesn't belong to us".
During the course of inventorying and digitizing the museum’s entire collection of close to one million objects, staff came across numerous piece of ‘dubious origin’, including the objects now returned to Poland.
Following Hitler’s invasion of Poland and the outbreak of WWII, Austrian zoologist and Nazi party member Eduard Paul Tratz, the founder of the Haus der Natur, was sent to Poland to help plunder the country's museums.
His main port of call was the State Zoological Museum in Warsaw, where his haul included 147 rare birds, three wisents, two wildcats, a Nile crocodile, numerous skeletons and prehistoric skeleton parts and twelve rare reference books, all sent to the Haus der Natur in Salzburg.
Unveiled at a ceremony in Warsaw’s Royal Castle on Wednesday in the presence of Culture Minister Piotr Gliński, the tomes and artefacts will now go to the collection of the Polish Academy of Sciences.