Czech Museum to Return Original Beethoven Score to Family

A Jewish family is getting a handwritten score by composer Ludwig van Beethoven back from a Czech museum. Their relatives had to flee the country to escape the Holocaust and left the valuable item behind.

The museum in the Czech city of Brno has had the original manuscript for the fourth movement of one of Beethoven's string quartets in its collection for more than 80 years. But actually, the score belongs to the Petschek family, the richest family in pre-World War II Czechoslovakia.

In August, the Czech museum signed the agreement to transfer the manuscript to the heirs of the Petschek family. This week, the sheet music was put on display for the first time in anticipation of the transfer. According to the museum, it is one of the most precious pieces in the collection.

A law on property stolen by German Nazis during World War II allows for its return. The museum managed to keep the sheet music at the time because a Czech expert at the museum had lied about the authenticity of the manuscript. As a result, the sheet music was allowed to remain in the museum.

Other possessions taken from Jewish families in the Czech Republic by German Nazis have yet to be returned. To make that possible, a declaration was signed in Prague last month. The declaration urges the government to initiate the return of property stolen during World War II.