Two sought-after oil paintings that depict Adolf Hitler’s parents, Klara and Alois, have surfaced in Orange County, Calif.
According to Craig Gottlieb Auctions, an online auction house based in Solana Beach, a French veteran “liberated” the paintings from Berghof, Hitler’s mountain retreat in Bavaria, after World War II. The portraits have remained with the veteran’s family, who moved to the United States in the 1980s, ever since. For reasons still unknown, the family approached the auction house to sell the works earlier this year. “These portraits are not rare—they are one of kind. They’re the only two that exist,” Craig Gottlieb told Fox’s Los Angeles affiliate KTLA . “So when it’s the collector’s one opportunity or the museum’s one opportunity, sky is the limit.”
After receiving a phone call from the family, Gottlieb set to validating the authenticity of the portaits. He came across 1930s photos from Berghof that show the paintings hanging on the wall. “They matched brush stroke for brush stroke,” Gottlieb said. “They are authentic. I would stake my entire reputation on it.” And, speaking to ARTINFO, he explained that the portraits appear in a list of artwork owned by Hitler, which can now be seen on the Library of Congress web site.
Gottlieb, who is Jewish, understands that controversy almost always accompanies the sell of Nazi-era artifacts. But he says he would never knowingly sell these paintings—or any other work—to a Nazi sympathizer. He sees the set of portraits as “an interesting historical jumping-off point” and hopes a museum will snap them up for educational purposes. According to the auction site, commentators described Klara Hitler as having “Medusa” eyes as a direct result of this painting.
The auction takes place from September 1 until September 17. Experts suggest the paintings, which will be sold as a pair, could fetch $100,000.
(PHOTOS: Hitler Exhibition Opens in Germany)
William Lee Adams is a staff writer at the London bureau of TIME. Find him on Twitter at @willyleeadams or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.