Image: Medieval cross
K.josch  /  AFP - Getty Images
This cross was found by a woman rooting through the discarded belongings of a deceased man in western Austria in 2004.
updated 8/22/2007 9:55:05 PM ET 2007-08-23T01:55:05

A Polish count laid claim Wednesday to a medieval cross fished out of a trash container in Austria, saying it had been stolen from his family by the Nazis.

Count Adam Zamoyski, the chairman of a Warsaw museum, said photographic and archival evidence left no doubt that the cross was the one held by his ancestors at the Goluchow Castle in Poland before World War II.

The item was found by a woman rooting through the discarded belongings of a deceased hotel owner in western Austria in 2004, but it was not until last month that it was taken to an Austrian museum for valuation and safekeeping.

Experts estimated that the medieval French cross could be worth $500,000. But Zamoyski told The Associated Press neither he nor the other heirs to the treasure would sell it, saying his ancestors wanted the cross on public display.

“Ultimately we intend to take it back to Poland and place it on show, because that was the aim of the collection,” he said.

He said the cross was acquired by his relatives, the Czartoryski family, in the 19th century, but was among the thousands of pieces of art plundered by the Nazis during World War II. Zamoyski, who now serves as chairman of the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow, where the family’s collection is kept, has spent years tracking the missing artwork across Europe and the United States.

Zamoyski said he didn’t know how long it would take to retrieve the cross. The Commission for Looted Art in Europe, which the count said was handling the effort to have the cross returned, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

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