3 Hearst Castle paintings to be returned to heirs of Nazi era owners

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SAN SIMEON, Calif. -- Three 16th century oil paintings that have been hanging in William Randolph Hearst's famous castle at San Simeon belonged to a Jewish couple who were forced to give them up during the Nazi reign in Germany, authorities said Tuesday.

Two of the three paintings, visible to guests and millions of tourists at Hearst Castle since 1935, will be returned Friday to the heirs of the rightful owners, both of whom died during the war, one in the death camp at Auschwitz.

The shocking discovery, made after a lawyer for the heirs filed a claim with the California State Parks, is yet another reminder of the scope of Jewish persecution during World War II.

"Never in a million years did I think anything like this would cross my desk," said Brad Torgan, the former general counsel for the state parks who led the investigation. "It is one of the most interesting things I've ever worked on and, given the outcome, one of the most rewarding things I've worked on at state parks."

Two paintings - "Portrait of Alvise Vendramin," attributed to Jacopo Tintoretto, and a painting known as "Portrait of a Bearded Gentleman," credited to Giovanni Cariani - will be returned Friday to Peter Bloch of Boynton Beach, Fla., and Inge Blackshear of Buenos Aires.

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