FBI Returns Stolen Artifacts To Polish Museum

The artifacts, valued at $4-5 million, have been missing since the 1970s and 1980s

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Some of the items began turning up last fall at a Chicago coin shop, being peddled by a group who said they were found in a house they were renting. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.

    Important artifacts, missing for decades from the Polish Museum of America in Chicago, were finally returned to their original home Wednesday. 

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    More than 120 stolen artifacts, collectively valued at approximately $4 or $5 million, disappeared sometime in the 1970s and 1980s from The Polish Museum of America according to the FBI, but have now been recovered.

    "I couldn't breathe," PMA President Maria Cizsla said of being overcome by the artifacts' return. "We were hoping against hope that someday they would all show up."

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    After a group of people brought some of the artifacts into Harlen Berk's rare coin dealership on North Clark last October, Berk and the PMA began to work together to repurchase the items. They then brought the FBI in when the group threatened to auction the artifacts off.

    "They were asked and agreed to turn over all remaining items in their possession, which included Polish military medals, World War II memorabilia, rare prints, letters and maps," officials said.

    Berk told reporters that the individuals said the artifacts came from a house they were renting, but called the people selling the items "cagey," and said they initially refused to show ID.

    Federal officials found the stolen items in a Northwest Side home owned by the mother of a former PMA curator. Among the stolen items were rare 18th and 19th century documents and correspondence, including letters from Napolean, rare prints and sketches, military medals, and World War II-Era Nazi propaganda.
    No one will face criminal prosecution in the matter, as the statute of limitations has now passed.