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Italy reportedly refuses ancient Roman statue return to Germany

MILAN (AP) — Italy’s culture minister is reportedly refusing a request by the German State Antiquities Collection in Munich to return an ancient Roman statue that embodied Hitler’s Aryan aesthetic, calling it a national treasure.

The Discobolus Palombara is a 2nd Century Roman copy of a long-lost Greek bronze original. Hitler had bought the Roman copy from its private Italian owner in 1938 under pressure from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and against the wishes of the education minister and cultural officials. The statue, unearthed at a Roman villa in 1781, was returned to Italy in 1948 as part of works illegally obtained by the Nazis.

The dispute arose when the director of the National Roman Museum requested the statue’s 17th Century marble base be returned from the Antikensammlungen state antiquities collection. The German museum instead asked for the return of the Discobolus Palombara, saying it had been illegally transported to Italy in 1948, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported Friday.

Italy’s culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano, expressed doubts that the German culture minister, Claudia Roth, was aware of the Bavarian request.

“Over my dead body. The work absolutely must remain in Italy because it is a national treasure,” Sangiuliano was quoted by Corriere as saying, adding that he hoped that the base would be returned.

The culture ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.