Mystery of Hitler’s Missing Horse Statues Solved

Thorak’s “Walking Horses” — standing 16 feet high and 33 feet long — once guarded Hitler’s New Reich Chancellery in Berlin

Model of the Reich Chancellery building, designed by Albert Speer: The bronze statue of “Trabenes Pferd,” or “Trotting Horse,” is by sculptor Josef Thorak. (Heinrich Hoffmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Model of the Reich Chancellery building, designed by Albert Speer: The bronze statue of “Trabenes Pferd,” or “Trotting Horse,” is by sculptor Josef Thorak. (Heinrich Hoffmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Struggling artists often crave official recognition. A grant from the National Endowment for the Arts or designation as a poet laureate doesn’t just help financially — government support can help creative types build a career and burnish a reputation.

Unless that government is the Third Reich, and the patron is notorious Nazi Albert Speer, who took a shine to the work of a sculptor named Josef Thorak in Germany before the outbreak of World War II.

“Thorak worked on statues intended to represent the folk-life of Germany under Nazi coordination; these works tended to be heroic in scale, up to 65 feet,” according to Holland’s German Art Gallery. “… Albert Speer referred to Thorak as ‘more or less my sculptor.’”

Now, one of Thorak’s works has been unearthed in a black-market raid. German police discovered two massive bronze Thorak sculptures, dubbed “Walking Horses,” during an investigation targeting eight suspects in an illegal art trafficking ring, Berlin police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf told the Associated Press. The dealers wanted some $5.6 million for the statues, according to Bild newspaper.

Thorak’s “Walking Horses” — standing 16 feet high and 33 feet long — once guarded Hitler’s New Reich Chancellery in Berlin, planted on either side of the stairs to the building. During World War II, they were relocated and, in the 1950s, popped up on a Red Army barracks’ sports grounds in Eberswalde, a town northeast of Berlin in the communist German Democratic Republic, according to Agence France-Presse. The sculptures showed signs of the battle they had been through, painted gold to mask their bullet holes.

Then when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the horses went missing. Some speculated they were sold by the GDR. Police recently started investigating when they learned someone was attempting to sell them on the black market.

Police raided homes in Berlin, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein, seizing several other pieces of Nazi-era art, including a massive granite relief by German sculptor Arno Breker depicting muscled, shirtless fighters wielding swords in what police called “typical Nazi style,” according to BBC News…(CONTINUED)

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