Shalom Life | April 23, 2014

Restitution

A family's fight for their heritage lost in the Holocaust.

By: Helen Hatzis

Published: April 5th, 2010 in Culture » Books » Reviews

Restitution

Restitution is the true story of a Czech-Canadian family who faced down Nazis, Communists, and corruption to recover their four paintings.

Kathy Kacer's lastest book Restitution begins in a small town near Prague on the eve of the Nazi invasion. The Reeser family are Jewish and know that they must flee Czechoslovakia, but before leaving they deliver four valuable oil paintings into the hands of a business partner for safekeeping. Led by the intrepid matriach of the family, Marie Reeser, they make their escape under the nose of the occupying Nazis, arriving in Canada just days before the start of World War II.

Marie and her family could never forget the paintings they'd left behind. Marie risked her safety to return to Czechoslovakia after the war to try and recover them, only to be forced to abandon her cause when the Communists seized power. Years later, in 1989, a letter arrived at the Toronto home of Marie's son, Karl Reeser, saying that the paintings could be found in a private home in Prague. This ignited the final stage of the saga, as Karl set out to fulfill his mother's dream of returning the paintings to their familly.

Karl would help find with his mission from two unlikely sources - a mid-level diplomat at the Canadian embassy in Prague, and a daring Czech art smuggler. Both men were touched by the Reesers' decades-long search to restore what was rightfully theirs. From sneaking the paintings into the Canadian embassy in the dead of night to rolling them up and shipping them past the Communist authorities, all three men went to great lengths, and some risk, to help bring the paintings home.

In Restitution, author Kathy Kacer tells this true story of a family's quest in compelling detail, the story fleshed out with the Reeser family's pictures and documents. Karl Reeser, now in his 80s still lives in Toronto where he proudly displays two of the paintings, while the other two are in the Toronto home of his sister, Hana. The paintings are a reminder of what was lost in the Holocaust, but also what endured - the strength and determination of their family.

Stay tuned for our one-on-one interview with author Kathy Kacer.

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