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German church sues for return of art treasures

June
18
1990

On this day in 1990, a civil action was filed in United States District Court in Dallas on behalf of a German church seeking the return of a number of medieval objets d'art that had disappeared at the end of World War II. During the war, the Lutheran Church of St. Servatius in Quedlinburg, Germany, had placed the objects in a mineshaft for safekeeping, but reported their loss in June 1945. After one of the objects appeared on the market in Europe in 1987, a German investigator traced the remaining pieces to Whitewright, Texas, where a former U.S. Army lieutenant named Joe Meador had settled. In 1945 Meador had served in the occupation of Quedlinburg. Fellow soldiers reported seeing him carrying mysterious bundles out of the mine. Meador was discharged from the army in 1946; after his death in 1980, his brother and sister began trying to sell the objects. The suit was settled in 1991, when the Germans announced that they would pay the Meador family $2.75 million for the return of the treasures. In 1998, however, the Internal Revenue Service announced it was seeking more than $50 million in federal taxes, penalties, and interest from the estate. The Meadors settled the case two years later by agreeing to pay $135,000.

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